That is the question that Debbie Stier, a mother of two from Irvington, New York, set out to answer. When her eldest son was a sophomore in high school, Stier decided that, in order to motivate him to begin studying for the SAT, she would study for it herself. Her task became a year-long project that she chronicled in a new book, The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT.
Stier tried various methods of test preparation and took the SAT each of the seven times it was offered during a year. Like many students who embark on the test prep and testing journey, she became increasingly anxious about the test and her scores on it. While she did not succeed in getting a perfect score on all three sections of the SAT, she did get a perfect score on one of them — the writing section — and also made considerable improvement on the critical reading and math sections. Interestingly, she earned all of her highest scores the fifth time she took the test; her scores actually dropped the sixth and seventh times.
In a recent article in The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about Stier’s project and resulting book. Kolbert also described her own experience with taking the SAT as an adult, which Stier inspired her to do. In what is perhaps the most interesting part of the article, Kolbert explained the history of the SAT and noted how its current purpose is drastically different from what it originally was created to do. She also discussed the development of the billion dollar test prep industry. The article is a fascinating read, and I’m sure the book is as well.