The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Stier (Advance Copy)

Rating: 3.5/5 (Advance Copy)

Who knew preparing for the SAT could be so…interesting?

In an attempt to make up for her son’s less-than-ideal grades and extracurriculars, Debbie Stier has made it her mission to find the best preparation methods for the SAT to maximize her son’s score.  Her discovery method? Taking the SAT herself. 7 times. In one year. Using a different test prep method each month. Fun!

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly excited to start reading this book. As a high schooler who hadn’t taken the official SATs yet, I had heard enough of the hype surrounding the high-stakes test and its importance in college admissions. (In Stier’s words, “No one forgets an SAT score–ever.”) Both standardized testing and test-prep are multi-million dollar industries, and I thought this was just the story of another helicopter parent trying way too hard to game the system.

As I started reading The Perfect Score Project though, I began having a greater appreciation for this personal project.  Her motives for finding the perfect score formula are straightforward enough. Higher SAT score for her son= better college= more $ in scholarships = less student debt = chance at a better job. Although maybe, maybe,  just a bit, she also wants a second chance after her own miserable high school SAT experience to see how much she can improve her own scores.

Over the course of a year, we experience Stier’s journey, from the mental shutdown after SAT #1 to the pleasant surprises of the October SAT, to the outrage at that essay score that never seems to improve. Her victories and failures are easily quantified through her scores, and it’s a year of ups and down, showing the volatility of the test.

This is not just a book of numbers though. In between each test, Stier intensely searches for new test prep methods. Apparently there’s more to preparing for the SAT than expensive classes. Stier consults the Internet (Hello College Board website.), various connections she’s made through blogging, memory training experts, anything that shows hope of improving her scores, and she reports back on what works, and what doesn’t.

Aside from the SAT itself, Stier includes some of her personal struggles, including but not limited to: 1) convincing her kids to prepare for the test alongside her, 2)  trying to relearn the math she never learned in school, and 3) avoiding errors on those darn answer sheets. (Why put 40 bubbles in each section when there’s only going to be 35 questions maximum? That’s just asking for trouble.)

The Perfect Score Project is not a manual on how to get a perfect score on the SAT. Neither Stier nor her son was expecting a perfect score on the test, and she set 2400 as an ideal, not the goal she must reach. However, the book provided a interesting adult perspective and more than thorough explanation on test prep that was actually readable. Not that I’m any more excited to start preparing for the SATs.

Cross-posted on Goodreads.


2 thoughts on “The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Stier (Advance Copy)

  1. Kissing the SAT goodbye was one of my biggest highlights after leaving high school, but this book actually looks like something I would read. The dynamics and flaws behind the test still intrigue me – I hope that people walk away knowing that standardized testing really does not measure the more important facets of life, even if society makes it seem like it does.


    • Yes, exactly. I feel like the book just proves that standardized test scores are just a measure of the quality and quantity of preparation, not some metaphysical quality.


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