The Lasting Benefits of Skills-Based Prep

by | Dec 31, 2020

Written By: Amir Rezvani

When I walked into the first day of my SAT prep class the summer before my junior year of high school, I expected that I would learn how to perform well on the SAT. And thanks to my dedicated instructors and the hours I put in, that was certainly the case – my score improved considerably in eight weeks. But as the summer went on, I started to notice that the skills I was building in my test prep could be useful beyond the SAT.

For instance, rarely in school had I been given formal grammar lessons; my English teachers expected that we would pick up grammar by reading and writing in class and by doing homework. But due to the by-the-book, almost formulaic manner in which the SAT and ACT assess students’ grammar abilities, in test prep, my classmates and I had to learn formal grammar rules in order to score well on the writing section. 

Instead of inferring grammar conventions by reading books, as I had done for my entire academic life up to this point, by studying for the SAT I formed a strong understanding of formal grammar for the first time. Even now, six years later, when I sometimes unintentionally write a sentence with a dangling modifier or a misplaced apostrophe, my SAT writing instructor’s words come to mind and I quickly correct my mistake. 

The skills I built while preparing for the SAT essay also proved to be valuable after my SAT journey ended. When I was in college at Yale, almost all of my exams consisted of free-response essays completed in a short time period, similar to the essay portion of the SAT and ACT. The argumentation and analysis skills that I sharpened in my preparation for the SAT essay served me well on these exams, as well as during discussions and when writing papers for my courses.

The critical reading abilities that I improved through test prep have continued to pay dividends as well. As an aspiring law student, I will be doing a great deal of critical reading in my studies and work every day. And as a history major in college, I was reading hundreds of pages each week. But strong reading and writing skills are not only important for humanities folks like me; communication skills are essential in any field. And in any case, students who plan to study in a STEM-related major will also need to take reading- and writing-intensive courses as part of their general education requirements. 

Those breadth requirements meant that even a non-STEM student like me had to take math in college. In my math classes, I drew upon the fundamental skills I had strengthened during SAT prep, especially how to think critically to solve problems under time pressure.

And when I began preparing for the law school entrance exam (the LSAT) last year, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was starting on a good footing already because of my SAT prep, given that four of the five sections on the LSAT evaluate critical reading and writing skills similarly to how the SAT does. The reading skills I honed while studying for the SAT also help me in everyday life when I read the news or read for pleasure, enabling me to more effectively and efficiently digest the author’s point.

Skills-based test prep has proved to have enduring value for me, as my reading, writing, and math abilities improved and served me well in high school, college, and my professional life so far. As a former student and now a tutor at Hamilton, I have seen Hamilton Education’s rigorous curriculum from both sides of the coin and know the lasting impact it has on students.