Game Plan for Chemistry SAT II Test Prep


The homeschool high school parent grapevine says the hardest SAT II test to take is chemistry.

The wise homeschool parents say to take any and all SAT II tests while the subject is fresh on your mind.

I am making my older son take his first SAT II test: chemistry, in June.  Why? Am I nuts, given that we just found out last month of his five learning disabilities?

I realize he probably will not score in the 700s let alone get an 800. I do not mean to sound dismal, I am a realist. Adding on to my suspicions, our chem tutor (see here and here) said after working in that chem text (A Beka) with my son that the text WILL NOT enable my son to pass the test well. In her opinion the College Board's chem test is Pre-AP Chem level, it is NOT at a leveled chem class, which is what my son took. She advised that I purchase a text that is used for Pre-AP in the Houston school district: Chemistry Addison-Wesley published by Prentice Hall.

(Here is where I could start ranting and raving that a leveled chemistry standardized test should be based on a level chem class not on a pre-AP chem class. Why is the College Board setting students up for failure? But I will withhold my tongue for now.)

I asked the chem tutor to work with my son to go over the entire year's content and to see where my son's gaps were.

I also worry about the general standardized test format and the time constraints with my son's learning disabilities, slow processing speed and slow reading speed. We are still waiting to hear from the College Board to see if they grant accommodations.

So why am I making him take this hard test? Because any college above the mediocre level wants to see SAT II test scores for all students or just for homeschooled students for STEM majors. I realize he may not do well but this is a learning process. If he does poorly he can spend more time studying this summer and re-take the test in the fall. One way to help a person get better at taking tests is to actually take the tests. He might as well take his first SAT II test now, in tenth grade, and get it over with; learn what he needs to learn about the general process now rather than have this learning curve at the end of grade eleven courses, which college seem to look to the most to gauge the student anyway. (Some say colleges don't care so much what scores the students get in grade nine or ten, they look to grade eleven and twelve.)

More of the game plan:

I suggested that my son do two practice tests a week. He told me I was nuts. Keep in mind he only has 3.5 weeks between the final test and the SAT II test, so we are cramming here. We consulted the tutor and she said she also was going to ask that he take two practice tests a week. So now my son agreed to go along with that plan. It was not just his "crazy" mother suggesting that ambitious of a plan.

So: I purchased the College Board SAT Subject Test Prep book. Before the studying began, he took the practice test and I graded it. This is the baseline measurement. Both the tutor and I are curious to see how he scores just before the real test, when he retakes this test after being more familiar with the test method and after re-learning and studying all the content.

The tutor spent a half hour giving study tips for the test and explaining the format. She then spent 3.5 hours going over every question on the test to explain his errors. (This was split over two sessions spread over four calendar days.) She assessed what content areas he has gaps or complete misunderstanding about. Two major problem areas were found that were early in the course. She said if he can learn those his score will improve greatly on those questions plus they are foundational so topics further along will be corrected also, adding even more points.

To have multiple copies of sample tests, I purchased the Barron's prep book and the Kaplan prep book. I chose those books. The tutor said later that Barron's is her favorite. She used to work for Kaplan and was skeptical but read the book over and said it was quite similar to Barron's and acceptable, especially when used just for the sample tests.

In the two hour session three one of the major topics was taught and discussed. His homework is to read the chapter in the Addison-Wesley book and in his A Beka book to review. The tutor said those are better writings to study from than the test prep books.

The fourth two hour session will address the last major topic. Then he will repeat what I said in the last paragraph.

The tutor also advised using (the free website) chemmybear to study from. She recommended I buy this set of Exam Busters Chemistry SAT II test prep flash cards and I opted for the Kindle edition which is less expensive and can be used on his Kindle or on his iPhone5.

The study plan is to study every single day of the week for at least one hour, preferably two, especially on days when he is not meeting with the chem tutor to review material.

In this 3.5 week period he is also keeping up with his math lessons, online driving lessons, and English literature. He also still has 15-20 hours of sport practice a week and has some end of year celebrations and special occasions for his FIRST Robotics team who won the world championship last month.

I appreciate the wisdom and advice from the tutor because most of the time the mother - teenage son dynamic is tricky. As part of the attempt at living independently, my son wants to doubt everything I say, question my authority, accuse me of having wrong notions, saying I am too strict or that my expectations are too high or that I am making unreasonable requests. When you have a tutor who is more experienced than mom say the same exact thing, or one who sets the bar even higher, it takes the tension off the mother/son relationship. The student tends to believe the other adult and will actually do what they say to do, which gets the student further along on the right path toward realizing the teen's own goals.
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