Wilson’s redesigned SAT prep class


Courtesy of Bluestocking

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Madelyn Shapiro

The SAT is everywhere, from the emails flooding your inbox to the College Board ads popping up on Snapchat. It has even made its way into the Wilson curriculum, in the form of a semester-long SAT Preparation class. The course objectives are to help students understand the test and learn strategies that will help them both perform better and gain confidence.

“I tell the students on day one that any standardized test like the SAT is a game. If you understand what the test is looking for, then you’re going to do much better than if you simply go into it blindly,” SAT Prep and English teacher Marc Minsker said.

Before this school year, the SAT Prep class was taught with a curriculum created by the teacher or done entirely through the online program Edgenuity. However, for the first eight weeks of the semester this year, instructors from Kaplan test prep (paid for by a new DCPS grant) came in to teach their SAT prep course. 

Minsker said that this method “could be effective… [but] there’s often a disconnect.” He explained that the Kaplan instructors are accustomed to students and parents signing up for an $800 course that is taken outside of school. This leaves Kaplan instructors “under the impression that parents expect a certain increase in scores” and missing the fact that not every student signed up for this elective class at Wilson. Thus, the instructors often assigned large amounts of practice problems for homework, which some students viewed as excessive and were unlikely to prioritize since it is an elective class.

Junior Leila Warner felt that the Kaplan curriculum was very beneficial for someone who is “really trying to get something out of the class and improve their scores.” Even though she took the ACT instead of the SAT, she said that there were “some strategies I had learned that translated over and helped me out.”

Minsker said that there were several resources made available outside of class through the partnership with Kaplan, such as access to different practice books and sample tests. Warner emphasized that the access to practice tests was one of the most “helpful… opportunities” that the class provides. 

Once the Kaplan instructor left, Minsker was back to running the class based off of the curriculum that he had created. Since he is an English teacher—and students in the class are at varying math levels—he runs the class primarily based on strategies for the reading comprehension and grammar sections of the SAT. Throughout the first advisory, the focus is on identifying and understanding the different types of questions. 

For the two math sections, Minsker teaches different “plug in” strategies that the students can use. The final exam is comprised of an essay based on one of three previous SAT prompts, which goes through two rounds of revisions before being turned in. 

Minsker explained that in addition to the different strategies and time management skills that are taught, one of the main benefits of taking the class is reduced anxiety on test day. Students who take the class are “much more comfortable” when taking the SAT due to their frequent exposure to the format and types of questions, helping to relieve the stress of taking the exam. “If you’re feeling good as you’re taking the test, then you’re going to do better,” Minsker said.