By helping talented students develop their skills, Arvin Vohra Education’s Advanced SAT Seminars have set a higher standard for SAT classes. This year’s seminars feature several additions and refinements, including the incorporation of Rapid Analytical Reading into the Critical Reading Seminar.
The Math Seminar
- Rigorous, effective, and rapid methods are taught. No “plug-in”, “backsolve”, or other inefficient methods.
- Problems include the toughest SAT problems, as well as challenging problems designed specifically for the seminar.
Most SAT and PSAT classes are designed for average students, rather than for ambitious students with strong math skills. Thus, these classes teach students to compensate for their academic shortcomings by using tricks like “plug-in”, “backsolve”, and process of elimination as a substitute for efficient problem solving techniques.
While these methods may be useful for average students, their value to more capable students is questionable. High-achieving students, because of their strong academic foundations and critical reasoning skills, are more than able to solve basic problems without resorting to such inefficient techniques.
Because Arvin Vohra Education’s Advanced SAT Seminars are targeted at ambitious and skilled students, they take a radically different approach. The Math Seminar spends no time teaching students how they might avoid using basic algebra to solve easy problems. Instead, students learn to rapidly solve the most difficult math problems by effectively and intelligently applying fundamental techniques, such as substitution, factoring, and combinatorics.
The Critical Reading Seminar
- Students train with LSAT and GRE passages in addition to challenging SAT Passages.
- Students learn the fundamentals of Rapid Analytical Reading, the speed-reading method designed by AVE to help students rapidly analyze complex language.
The Critical Reading Seminar develops student’s ability to quickly read and analyze the most difficult SAT passages. Rather than focusing on easier fact-based questions, the seminars focus on the more challenging inference based questions, and those that examine attitude and tone.
Students train not only with the toughest SAT passages, but also with passages from the GRE and LSAT. By training with these tougher passages, students become thoroughly prepared to handle any SAT passage.
As part of the process, the students learn the basics of Rapid Analytical Reading, which was developed by AVE to help students rapidly analyze complex written information. The core of the method is a type of hierarchical language processing, in which the grammatical framework of the sentence is used to rapidly extract the relevant information. Rather than analyzing sentences left to right, students quickly determine the core structure of the sentence, and use this structure to sort the information contained in the sentence. (A similar process is used in sentence diagramming, and in the translation of highly grammatical languages such as Latin.)
The Writing Seminar
- Students learn advanced methods of rhetoric as they learn to write essays tailored to the SAT rubric.
- The seminar focuses on the most challenging grammar concepts and questions.
The Writing section of the SAT contains grammar questions and an essay. The grammar portion of Writing Seminar builds student’s understanding of key grammar principles. This understanding is refined as students train with challenging grammar questions. In addition to learning basic principles, students learn how to detect cleverly concealed grammatical mistakes in SAT grammar questions.
The New SAT also requires students to produce a written essay. The Writing Seminar helps students develop their writing skills and to write essays tailored to the College Board’s highly specific rubric. Students will also learn rhetorical methods relevant to the process.
How To Register:
In order to register for the Advanced SAT Seminar, students must first take a short entrance test, to ensure that they have the necessary skills to do well in the course. The test examines fundamentals only; students who are ready for the course will not find any of the problems difficult.
Once a student has passed the test, a $200 deposit is required to confirm registration. The balance is due by the start of the second week of classes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are practice tests given as part of the course?
Weekly SAT practice tests are assigned as part of the homework for the course.
Is there a course like this for less advanced students?
As of now, AVE does not offer such a course, although there are tutoring options that may be appropriate.
Is there an admissions test for the course?
There is no formal admissions process; any student who wishes to enroll may do so. However, it is important to note that the pacing and content of the course are preset and maintained at a level above that of the most talented students. For example, no student has yet received a score of 70% or higher on any vocabulary quiz, and the classes have consisted primarily of top students from the most competitive schools. Students who are not already unusually talented and disciplined may find much of the coursework overwhelming.
Is there an age cutoff?
There is no age cutoff; if an 8 year old is already studying calculus, for example, he or she may find the course beneficial. However, talented juniors from the most competitive schools find this course challenging, and younger students will generally be completely overwhelmed. This course is significantly more difficult than most mass-market SAT courses.
How much homework are students expected to do?
Every week, students must do a full practice SAT, learn a section of Vocabulary Synapse, and complete one or two shorter math and verbal assignments.
My child is really struggling with the SAT. Is this the right course?
In most cases students who are struggling with the SAT would find the course overwhelming, but in certain cases the course may be a good match. If a student is on a rigorous academic track and is succeeding in school, this course may help the student learn to apply his or her skills to the SAT. However, such circumstances are rare.
Is there a registration deadline?
There is no registration deadline. Once a course is filled, interested parties are invited to place their name on a waiting list.
Should we purchase the texts?
Students will need their own copies of the College Board's Official Study Guide for the New SAT. Other texts are used in class, and students may borrow them. Many students prefer to buy the texts so that they can take notes and write answers directly in them.
Additional Information for Education Professionals
The SAT stresses logical understanding of mathematical principles, rather than application of formulas. This has informed the manner of presentation of several key areas, some of which are noted here. This list is in no way exhaustive, and only highlights a few significant areas.
Students are taught to solve combinatorics problems by using basic multiplicative principles, rather than by using permutation and combination formulas. Series are analyzed by looking at patterns, and pairs of series are analyzed using methods of termwise comparison. This contrasts with traditional classroom approaches which often heavily utilize summation formulas for geometric and arithmetic series.
Horizontal and vertical translation of functions is covered. Basic graphing techniques are assumed. Graphing calculators do not play a significant role in any part of the process. The zero product property's role in determining x-intercepts and solutions to equations of order greater than one is examined.
Most basic word problems are analyzed using direct language to math conversion. This particularly applies to percent problems, in which a statement like "what percent of 20 is 5" is rewritten as (x/100)*20=5. This contrasts with the somewhat popular ratio method, in which such a problem may be mathematically written as x/100=5/20. The statements in this case are mathematically equivalent; however, the direct conversion method has wider application to SAT word problems (and word problems in general), and is thus preferred.
Other word problems are analyzed by carefully defining variables, and setting up accurate equations. Methods that use charts and other artifices are introduced, but their use is deemphasized. The use of carefully defined variables and equations has wider application to SAT problems (and word problems in general), and is thus preferred.
Principles of substitution are heavily emphasized, in ways emphasized in both traditional high-school classes and undergraduate mathematics classes. The former may be a situation in which a single variable is replaced by a more complex expression (e.g. y is replaced by 3x+5 to solve a system of equations). The latter may include a situation in which a complex expression is replaced by a single variable or constant (e.g. x+y is replaced by 5 to solve a specific system of equations.)
The course does not cover every math topic on the SAT, nor does it intend to. A high level of mathematical achievement is assumed for any student enrolling. Students should either be enrolled in competitive private schools, or honors/magnet/IB programs in public schools. With occasional exception, students should be on a track in which they will take precalculus or calculus in their junior year. Students taking algebra II in their junior year may find the course overwhelming, but may nonetheless benefit.
Students who meet these criteria generally find the course extremely beneficial, because it targets the areas of math generally not part of traditional classroom courses. The course builds on known information (as is the case with principles of functions or exponents) while introducing new methods (as may be the case with combinatorics, substitution principles, and series, depending on the nature of the student's prior preparation.)
Students who have strong reading skills generally find the class material and pacing to be appropriate and helpful. Reading passages are chosen from the SAT, the GRE and the LSAT. Additionally, students examine the short passages from the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT.
Direct analysis and support with textual evidence is preferred to process of elimination. Use of this method requires strong reading skills, an important prerequisite for the course.
Direct analysis relies heavily logical analysis, which is developed through the use of the LSAT practice problems. Students who have taken an honors geometry course are generally at an advantage in this area. Basic logical rules and fallacies are introduced, and their application to SAT questions is analyzed.
The SAT contains two types of inference questions. The first type consists of purely logical inference questions, and required skills are developed primarily using passages from the LSAT and GRE. The second type of inference question requires an intuitive understanding of the situation, and required skills are developed primarily using close reading of fiction passages in the SAT.
Students are also expected to support answers to tone and attitude questions using direct textual evidence. Understanding connotations of words are emphasized, as is understanding the kinds of subtle humor and sarcasm that often evade highly mathematical thinkers.
The essay portion of the Writing Section is graded based on a fairly straightforward rubric, and students with strong writing skills can generally learn to adapt their writing to this rubric. The course emphasizes the use of one supporting example to multiple examples in most cases. This allows insightful writing that probes the subtlety of the topic (and gains a higher score, based on the rubric).
The grammar portion of the Writing Seminar is similar to the Math Seminar in that it assumes a fairly high degree of comfort with basic grammar principles. The focus is on subtle areas in which even talented students often have difficulties. Topics include comparisons, locations of modifying phrases, subjunctive verbs, gerunds, parallelism, and agreement.
In working through the improving sentences and improving paragraphs sections, students are encouraged to isolate errors in the original and seek options that fix these errors. This contrasts with methods that encourage comparative elimination as the sole method of determining the best option. AVE's method requires a stronger understanding of grammar, but offers a significant advantage in terms of speed and accuracy.