Review: The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT

The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT
The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Stier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let’s start with the bottom line: you’ll save yourself time, money, and frustration in preparing for the SAT by reading this book.

By design, this book is akin to THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, where the author narrates her journey in pursuit of an end goal. Both books appeal to a large audience and both books deliver satisfying results to those audiences. However, there are two main issues to consider. One, both books assume a baseline audience. In THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, it is assumed you have a certain income level. If the bottom needs of Maslow’s pyramid have not yet been met, then the book is incredibly frustrating to read (getting angry about an issue of THE ECONOMIST being thrown away? really?). In THE PERFECT SCORE PROJECT, the baseline assumption is that SAT preparers are at least competent in the fundamentals and are able to spend at least some money in test preparation materials (though the author does offer some affordable suggestions). Second, both books cater to an emotionally led, gut-feeling type approach. These books are not for those whom prefer a more scientific, hypothesis-driven, footnoted-galore narrative.

That second point above describes me. I like footnotes—lots of them. It’s a disgusting fetish of mine. One recent book I read had over two-hundred of them, along with a special website allowing me to click each note and read the source material. Is that such a bad thing? But really, it would have come in handy. For instance, this book’s author, Debbie Stier, cites the same study Malcom Gladwell referred to in OUTLIERS about the violinists practicing ten years (aka 10,000 hours) to become experts. You know what Stier and Gladwell both didn’t mention about that study? Sleep. The new book ESSENTIALISM highlighted the fact that those same violinists slept 8.5 hours every night. You know what THE PERFECT SCORE PROJECT never addresses? You can guess it.

A scientific approach would have also answered my question about actual improvement (test subjects, control groups, direct comparison of methods). Instead, the author leans toward personal preference and cross-pollinated learning. With over twenty years in the publication business, her writing hops off the page in a delightful conversational tone. That book experience transitioned well into her verbal scores, being in the upper 90th percentile. As for math, the author started in the 50th percentile, and after seven tests over her year-long project, she was still in the 50th percentile. Were lessons learned? Yeah. Was knowledge conveyed? Sure.

What I really love are the gray boxes the author includes: bulleted-point summaries offering direct advice. I would have liked some end-of-book summary lists (like HAPPINESS PROJECT did), but there is an excellent index to quickly look up anything you are curious about. The advice ranges from testing centers to tutors, from online programs to prep books. The author spent thousands (at least $600 in testing fees alone) in investigating a bevy of SAT options. I’m especially proud that she included sections addressing accessibility issues. Kudos, indeed.

I can go on for a while about this book, but let’s wrap back to the bottom line: this book will inspire you to do better and will cut down the costs and time needed to help achieve your goal. Isn’t that worth the admission price? There are a ton—a ton!—of other books suggested here, but to me, these books stood out as the author’s recommendations: the College Board’s Blue Book, NEW MATH SAT GAME PLAN by Philip Keller, OUTSMARTING THE SAT by Elizabeth King, and ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SAT GRAMMAR by Erica Meltzer. Trust me on this though: if you are serious about improving your SAT score, do not pass over this book. You’ll be glad to have taken the journey.

Thanks to Harmony Books for sending me this book to review. I’m now more than tempted to begin my own SAT project.

Be sure to view this book on Amazon, along with its other great reviews: The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT


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