"The student and I began by working on 4 reading comprehension sections. The strategy that I introduced with Reading Comprehension was for him to first read the questions provided for a given passage but NOT the answer choices, and then read the passage itself before going on to select between the answers. I find that reading the answer choices in addition to the questions before reading the passage can not only waste time (because 4 out of 5 of those answers are incorrect so you won't need to be dealing with or understanding them in-depth anyway) but can even trip up even the best test-takers. This is because oftentimes the test makers include overly difficult vocab words, high-level concepts, or puzzling extraneous information in the *wrong* answers to throw kids off the trail of the right one. For instance if the passage is about sea turtles but the student read in one of the wrong answers something about jazz music, he will likely read the text searching for a random musical reference (missing the details that are actually vital in the process) or become flustered when he doesn't find anything to do with jazz.
The second strategy I introduced for all sections was that if he can confidently eliminate 2 of the 5 answer choices, he should answer, and not skip, that question. From now on we're only going to skip if he can eliminate 1 or fewer of the answers. Sure enough, out of the 7 questions over the course of our session that he said he would have skipped if this had been the real test, he answered 5 correctly using this strategy with no input from me. Boom! Another 10 percentile points right there at least!!
Among the other things we discussed with reading comprehension:
-Test-makers are very conservative with the language they use in the correct answer choice so as to eliminate any room for argument or debate that it is, in fact, the right answer. Therefore whenever he sees strong language such as superlatives (best, strongest, tallest), hard and fast comparisons (better than, more significant than, more important than), or other "passionate" language (perfect, without a doubt, almost always), he should be wary. This probably won't be the right answer.
-The test is very specific in its instructions that for the verbal, students should choose the BEST answer, not the only answer that could possibly be correct. Therefore he should be prepared to see more than one answer choice that looks like it may work, and deliberate between them from there to determine which is the best. We discussed metrics and strategies for doing so.
We had time to take a quick pass at vocab towards the end. With the "choose a synonym" section I imparted the following strategy. The page will have between 10 and 12 questions on it, with the prompt words (the words for which you need to choose a synonym) in all caps. The first thing he'll do when he sees pages like this are look at the prompt words, and circle all of the questions where he's heard of the word before. We will definitely answer all of these. We will look at the ones he didn't circle at the end just in case, but we will likely skip them. My main strategy for the synonym questions is for him to think of where he's heard the prompt word used before, and try to use it in a sentence. Then substitute in each of the possible answer choices for the prompt word in that sentence, and use this to eliminate any that don't make sense. The main point here, however, is that from now on when he studies SSAT vocab, he *won't* use the traditional method with a word on one side of a flashcard and the full definition on the back. This is far more information than he needs for the purposes of this test. We're looking for *one word definitions* or *synonyms*.
Overall what you have here is an extremely bright young man who just needs some inside help get into the mindset of the test-makers and unpacking what it is they're trying to glean from his understanding of this material, and what is extraneous. In addition a lot of what I think this tutoring will provide him comes in the way of increased confidence dealing with these kinds of subjective questions: confidence on the level he already has with math. It was a delight meeting him and I look forward to making some real progress together."