How to get a good score in SAT/PSAT: a Journey from ELD to SAT 1580

It has been 2 months since the official SAT/PSAT score is published. I have two kids in high school.  Both two kids got wonderful result for their first SAT and first PSAT. I am wondering how it happens and would like to introspect so that it may help parents to prepare for it.

  1. Let’s view the score result first.

My elder grader got 1580 in SAT on the test of November, 2018, and 1500 in PSAT at October 2018.

My younger grader took PSAT only and got 1480.

  1. The background

My two kids were ELD (English Language Development) students at their 5th grade when they moved to USA from China. The elder took 7 months to pass the ELD (left diagram below), while the younger took 1 years (right diagram below).  CELDT stands for California ELD test. The test seems hold one time per year. If you pass the test, you are ready to reclassify as fluent English proficient (RFEP).


It is amazing to be a RFEP for such a short term. Some of their ELD classmates may take 3 years, or more to achieve it.

  1. The Home Teaching Journey in China

From an ELD student to be a top SAT/PSAT scorer, it is worth to write something about the journey. I do think the reason behind of that is the two kids’ English teaching/guider at home by parents.  They did get a ~3 month learning at outside in a one-to-30 teaching group in Chinese. However, I did think it does not contribute any for the score.  One group teacher told me that my younger kid was a good English listener because she did not look at blackboard and did not join any activity during the class. I felt a little bit sarcasms. I knew that my younger kid is always not like to study. When she does not look at blackboard and do look outside, she listened and got nothing in the class.

At the age of 5 year old, they watched some English Disney movies and drama, such as Aladdin and the magic lamp. When they grew up at school ages, I started to teach them with the famous drama version of Family Album USA. We watch the drama one episode by another episode. For each episode screen, I ask them to follow the dialog voice to pronounce and teach the meaning for each sentence of the subtitle. They need to speak out the dialog one sentence by one sentence. In each episode, they need to tell me the story with 3 to 5 minutes speech. Also, they play the roles (such as Robert and Alexander) during the study. It makes a lot of fun.  The Family Album USA is very good for Chinese kids to study English. But parents need to be patient to teach them one by one.

Also, I guide the elder kid to read the English version of novel “My Memories of Old Beijing”, and how to understand the part of speech.  So that, he can understand the meaning of some long sentences. I teach them to technical of “trim the fat from pork” to get the backbone of the sentence. It seems work for him. But I am not sure whether it helps the elder kid a lot for his future reading.

Now, sometimes, when they hear some blue sad music, they will say that is the Grandpa mood of “I didn’t want to be alone anymore!  “.  The younger kid is sometime kidding, “Richard! Richard! You left your bag”. I do think they never forget what they learn from the Family Album USA in their lives.

The most amazing performance is that the elder kid got the first position in an English speech competition in summer in China when he was a 5th grader. The competition was held by an external English tutoring school in a famous public book store of my living city. There are 2 Chinese and one American as judge. Most kids in the competition are just singing an English song or tell a simple English story. However, I choose one of the speech of 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign for my elder kid. It is astonished for the American judge as the speech is so long and many of the vocabularies are hard for an elementary Chinese grader. My younger 3rd grader kid also joined the competition. She was too nervous and only told an English story which is not so attractive. She did not won the first prize.

  1. The Home Movie and Kindle Journey in USA before High School

The elder kid came to USA is half year earlier than the younger kid. I started to guide them to read more books after school. In their first Christmas in USA, I gave each of them one Kindle. Also, I stored many English e-books inside of the Kindle, for example, the famous Harry Potter. Sometime, they downloaded some e-book from websites by themselves. They read lots of Kindle book during the Elementary and Middle school. I do think it may have ~200 e-books. The brought the Kindle every day in the school, so that they can read during free time.

Besides the reading, I invited them to watch English movies at home during weekend. It almost lasts for 4 years, from 5th grader to 8th grader. Almost every famous family movies are watched during the period, such as Frozen, the Pirate, Inside Out, The Ring, etc.

During these period, I did not teach them English any more, as it is enough to let the professional English school teachers to teach them. Those teachers did a great job to improve my kids English a lot. Thanks.

Also, I push them to attend the Summer Class which is held by De Anza College for element, middle and high school students. From 5th grader to 10th grader, they only join the summer English class, such as Reading, Writing, Speech, etc.

  1. The Home Teaching SAT Journey in USA during High School

When they go to high school, I start to plan for PSAT and SAT. At the beginning of summer of 9th grade, I held a simulated test for the two kids, the result is not good. The elder got ~1300 and the younger got ~1200.  The math score is perfect for elder, but the younger is too careless (that is her characteristics.) and got a normal math score. It makes me a little bit nervous about the reading and writing. I start to think how to improve it.  The math is so easy for them because I taught them math from Algebra, Calculus, Statistics to AMC at home in each weekend from 5th grader to 9th grader.

First, I need to teach them the English Grammar and the critical thinking. I downloaded a SAT Full Grammar List PPT (~150 pages) from a SAT preparation website in China. I teach them grammar one by one with examples. In the same time, I used a college reading text book to let them to do the reading analysis to improve critical thinking.

After that, I make a plan to finish each official sample test each week. Totally, there is 8 sample tests. So, it is ok to finish them in summer. For each sample test, I separate it into 4 parts: 3 parts of reading and 1 part of writing. For each test, we will review the answer one by one, no matter their answer are correct or not. Both of them need to tell me why each options of answers is correct or wrong.

Also, I push them to install the Khan Academic SAT App in their phone and desktop. They can do one problem daily. Before two months of the SAT test, I push the elder kid to go to library in the weekend to do the sample test in the new version of SAT official guide.

  1. Summary

That is the whole journey for my kids to study English, and do well in SAT. My kids did not attend any SAT Tutor outside. The most important to achieve that is the parents’ plan and guide. As a parent, we need to pinpoint the weakness of our kids early, and use Google to get the preparation information and make a good plan for your kids to study. . Of course, the middle school teachers and high school teachers contribute a lot during the journey. Thanks for those teachers’ help in the classroom.

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