I recently reviewed (and loved) Debbie Stier’s The Perfect Score Project, a book about her year spent studying for and taking the SAT seven times. Debbie graciously agreed to do a Q&A on EDIWTB. Here it is:
A: I started poking around the SAT in the summer of 2010 and was instantly hooked. It took a few weeks before I declared on my blog that wanted to try for a perfect score. At the time, I was thinking I’d take one SAT!
But then a publisher called and said, “that’s a book,” at which point I came up with a “book structure” i.e. taking every test every time it was offered in 2011 (7 times) at different test locations (5, because I had to repeat a few), and trying out 12 different methods of test prep (i.e. 1 per month).
I was going to write a “consumer report” on the SAT and test prep.
Then, my kids rebelled halfway through and an unanticipated layer was added to the story: how to motivate a teenager to care about the SAT.
Q: This must have been a difficult book to organize, considering that you had so many concurrent efforts going at once. How did you keep everything straight so that you could divide up the topics so neatly into chapters?
A: An author told me to have the structure down before starting to write, which I took seriously and spent months figuring out. The story part of the book is written chronologically, which was easy; trying to figure out the point of each chapter took months of sorting through notes.
After the first draft, I pulled out the “hard [SAT] info” and put it into boxes within the narrative, which freed me up and I was able to tell the story more easily.
Q: Was it difficult to isolate the distinct impact that each study method had on your test-taking ability?
A: Yes, though I always knew the project was an anecdotal experiment, not scientific.
Q: Has your audience been mostly parents, students, or educators/test industry professionals?
A: I wrote the book with parents in mind and have been surprised that many have given it to their kids to read after finishing. I probably wouldn’t have shared all my “secrets,” had I known there would be teenagers reading!
I also get a lot of email and calls from educators and test industry professionals, which is gratifying. From the reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, the audience seems to be evenly divided between parents, students, educators and test industry professionals.
Q: Did you take time off from your publishing job to do The Perfect Score Project?
A: Yes! There is no way I could have written a book and held a job at the same time. I couldn’t even look at the Internet while writing. It took total and utter focus.
Q: You love the SAT, but for most kids it is a dreaded experience that they are happy to put behind them. Given your perspective on the test, do you think it is a useful barometer for colleges to evaluate achievement, ability, and the likelihood of success?
A: I think the SAT is an accurate barometer one’s mastery of the skills tested: reading, writing and math – at one moment in time. I’m living proof that you can improve significantly, so it’s definitely a test of ability, which is why I don’t think it’s an accurate predictor of “success in life.”
I read one study that said your high school’s SAT average is a better predictor of success in life than your personal SAT score. That seems more accurate to me.
Q: Any more books on the horizon or are you back to your day job?
A: Not sure!
I’m in the midst of writing another book about educating my daughter Daisy (now home schooled), and, she is writing a novel that I’m in the midst of editing.
My guess is that her book and proposal will be finished before mine.
Q: Did you enjoy recording the audio of The Perfect Score Project?
A: I loved it! I’d do it again in a heartbeat, though I wish I’d taken diction lessons before I recorded it!