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College Prep Genius (textbook, workbook, and DVD)

By Jean Burk
Maven of Memory Publishing

PO Box 398
Hurst, TX 76053

College Prep Genius is an SAT and PSAT/NMSQT prep course and more. Students will learn test-taking skills and tricks specific to these vital pre-college exams. In addition to sections corresponding to the three areas of the SAT, there is information on how to practice and how to take the real test. The quest for scholarships is also covered. The intent of these materials is to significantly raise test scores. Author Jean Burk is a homeschool mom who has successfully seen her two children to college with the strategies she has learned, and she shares those strategies in this course. It is important to note that these materials are designed ideally for the high school freshman, but they can be used by older high school students as well. The earlier the better!

The textbook can be used alone or with the DVD course. The first step is taking a practice test to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Then you work through the text, section by section and practice those section skills in College Board materials (such as The Official SAT Study Guide ), then two or three sections, until you can complete full tests. It is suggested that you use page protectors and wipe-off pens so that you can reuse the test pages.

A thorough discussion of the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT makes up the first part of the book. This is not to be skipped, as it not only explains these tests but also contains general techniques to be used throughout the exams.

The layout of the textbook is clear and organized. Important points are bolded in the sidebars. When you read Jean Burk's tips, you gain confidence immediately. She has a way of making it seem simple by telling you exactly what you need to know and how to go about taking the test. Winning strategies "hidden" in the included acronyms and test question examples that clearly illustrate points in the text make this book a gem. The acronyms are not completely intuitive. For example, the math acronym includes " Y ou should eliminate answer choices that you know are wrong," when an E word for eliminate might have been more useful. However, the acronym phrases do pertain to the test sections and should stick in students' minds.

The critical reading section covers passage-based reading and sentence completion. A hallmark of College Prep Genius is breaking down the overwhelming SAT into doable problems. Example test questions are given with clear explanations on how to determine the correct answers and avoid common traps.

The math section is demystifying since the author proposes it is really a test of critical thinking skills and logic rather than actual mathematics. Basic strategies, shortcuts, hidden patterns, specific rules, and the student response section are covered. Again, I was blown away by the suggestions in this section of the book.

The writing section of College Prep Genius spends time on the essay, with plenty of concise information on how to write a good essay and lots of practice essay topics. The sentence error chapter again contains a wealth of information for the student. Improving sentences is the last section covered.

At the end of the book is a section devoted to journaling your SAT practice and experience with reproducible template pages. Three appendices wrap up the text: charts of prefixes, root words, and suffixes; a math terms glossary; and My Motivation Test. This is a personality profile which determines which of eight categories best describes the student. Included are corresponding attack plans for reaching exam prep and execution goals.

I also received the four-disc Master the SAT Class DVD set, a ten-hour course taught by the author. There are 12 lessons (45-60 minutes each) which closely follow the reading, math, and writing sections of the textbook. The DVD set is versatile and can be used by individuals, classrooms, or co-ops and by homeschool, private school, or public school students. Students will need the textbook, workbook, pencils, and downloadable DVD homework to use this course. I wish the 12 DVD lessons corresponded to the 19 chapters in the book or that the book table of contents referenced the DVD chapters/episodes by number as well.

In the workbook, the "How to Use this Book" intro has two pages of straightforward step-by-step instruction for the student. Also needed is The Official SAT Study Guide by The College Board (first or second edition).

As we are embarking on the high school to college adventure, I'm looking forward to using College Prep Genius with our son. I'm excited about the possibilities and opportunities it offers! If you have a high schooler who is headed for college, I strongly recommend you investigate College Prep Genius.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, November 2010

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