The College Panda Math book is great. It has questions from REAL SAT practice tests, topics grouped into sequential chapters, practice questions, answer explanations, etc. While many other books have the same, College Panda stands out. For the most part, the questions are from the same subjects found on the SAT and the same difficulty level. This seems fairly basic. It is not.
Most SAT math prep books have questions of topics often not covered on tests. Also, their questions are far more difficult. These are the major flaws of SAT prep books in general. Once you try enough by yourself, you’ll understand. The combination of more difficult questions and questions from obscure topics not often covered on the test is problematic.
Having worked for big box test prep companies, I can only see it as a marketing device. They have more difficult questions and questions from obscure topics. Also, let’s imagine you’d score a 1200 on the real SAT if you took it today. You take the company’s practice tests or practice problems and you do poorly. Perhaps your benchmark score is a 1050 on their test. Then you start to believe you’re behind. Your friends of the same academic caliber scored 1150-1250. You start to think, “What’s wrong with me?”
Next, their salespeople start preying upon your academic insecurities. You need our 50-100 hour program. Since you’re so behind, you need to start today. Shouldn’t you be ashamed of yourself? Can you even read words? Where is your credit card?
Don’t believe me. Read this articles for yourself: Wall Street Journal article regarding test prep companies.
Setting Your Baseline Score
First, know that you want to use the College Panda in conjunction with taking real practice tests. These are the tests available from College Board, either on their site, or from here. Your first step is taking one of their practice tests. Do this at one sitting, following testing day protocol. For you, this means taking it in a quiet place, undisturbed, when you are fresh. You can take a break after the first and third sections.
The score on your practice test is your baseline score. You want to know where you are now. That way, you can set goals. Your first goal might be to increase your math score by 50 points.
|Take Real Practice SAT|
|Score Practice Test|
|Set Score Goal|
|Review Practice Test (questions wrong & questions you had questions on)|
How Often Do I Work In College Panda?
Using the College Panda (CP), you can do this. You’ll want to work through 3-7 chapters weekly. Three is the minimum target. This applies to you if you’re in the middle of your school year, very busy, or don’t have much free time, especially free cognitive time. If you’re doing a lot academically/intellectually, you don’t want a cognitive overload.
|Week 2||Cover 3-7 Chapters in CP||Review questions from CP|
|Week 3||Cover 3-7 Chapters in CP||Review questions from CP|
|Week 4||Cover 3-7 Chapters in CP||Review questions from CP|
|Week 5||Take Real Practice SAT||Review questions from test|
Basically, you want to work at a sustainable pace. Working 1-2 hours during the weekdays at 30-60 minutes per sitting is fine. You can make up time on the weekends.
Keep in mind that working on the SAT is analogous to learning a musical instrument, practicing a sport, or learning a language. Unless you have an unstable coach, you wouldn’t practice a sport one day/week for 3-7 hours. No! You’d practice more often, in shorter time increments. Same for learning a musical instrument. Same for learning a language.
In any case, find the amount of hours you can dedicate weekly. Then, stick with it. Using the time limit is easier than setting chapter goals. Some chapters take much longer than others. Especially the first chapter. You have permission to use a bookmark to mark where you stopped for the day. That’s OKAY!
How Should I Proceed?
Carefully. Take care. Be careful.
The SAT has some tricky questions. Sometimes they don’t ask for x. Instead, they ask for x+2. Or, they ask for 2x. On some occasions, they ask what x cannot be. By practicing from the College Panda, you become familiar with the types of questions on the SAT. And, the way they are asked.
So, as you progress through the book, take your time. Slowly review the rules they show. For example, the laws of exponents. Those definitely show up on the test. Take your time to understand them.
Look at their examples. Resist the urge to gloss over. You may think to yourself that you know the laws of exponents. Keep your ego in check. Your ego is not your friend when it comes to the SAT. Pride is definitely a sin in this landscape.
Let me explain. Imagine you’re excited by a dance crew that has sick moves and choreography. You’re so excited, you want to share it with your grandma. But, she doesn’t want to watch it. She’s watched Lawrence Welk her whole life and thinks she’s seen all the dancing there is to see.
You might love your grandma dearly. And she may be a wonderful person. But, if she hasn’t seen THIS, she doesn’t know what she’s missing.
Same for the question types on the SAT. Take your time to see how simple rules are applied to SAT math questions. Unless you have a stark raving mad math teacher, there are some types of questions on the SAT you’ve not seen before.
How To Be Careful
First, devote at least 30 minutes to each session you have. That will allow you time to focus and engage with the material. A minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of one hour per session is a good sweet spot.
If you’re ambitious, you can work for more than 60 minutes. Please take a break at the 60 minute mark. Walk away from the book for at least 3-5 minutes and breathe.
As you read through the examples, pay close attention to how the basic rules are applied. Even work through the work shown by writing in the margins. Though this sounds silly, it helps. Going through the motions of the work shown helps you to learn it.
Next, work through the chapter exercises at the end of the chapter. Don’t time yourself for this practice. Your goal is to work through them and take your time.
If you notice yourself frustrated from getting stumped by 2 or more problems in a row, stop. Mark these. These questions are the ones you want guidance on.
After you complete a set of chapter exercises, check them. It’s the ones you missed along with the ones that stumped you (even if you guessed correctly) that you want to review.
How Often Do I Take Practice Tests?
This depends on your timetable. If you have a longer time horizon, about every 2-4 weeks at first. Then, every 1-2 weeks.
Generally, you’ll want to take a practice test once you’ve completed about 7-10 chapters. By taking a practice test, you can see your progress. You can break up the monotony of College Panda work by taking a practice test. And, vice-versa.
Your score will fluctuate, especially within your first few practice tests. It might take you until your third or fourth practice test until you see a general increase in your score. That is normal.
After You’ve Completed the College Panda
After you’ve completed College Panda, there are other resources you’ll want to use to work on your SAT math.
First is Khan Academy. Not the videos. Instead, you’ll link your KA account to your College Board account. Then you’ll take a diagnostic test of theirs. Once you’ve done so, they’ll offer topics for you to work on. The advantage is that you can work 5-15 questions on a specific topic. The drawback is that once you’ve completed a lot of the basic questions, the questions can be more difficult and from topics rarely seen on the test (similar to the problem with big box test prep companies).
Second is more practice tests. If you’re feeling burned out of taking SAT practice tests, you can take them at 2 sittings, one for math and one for verbal. Keep in mind that fatigue is a factor, so breaking it up will give you an artificial boost in your composite score. But, some practice is better than none.
Third is College Panda 10 SAT math tests. By the time you get to this, you’ll have completed 6-8 real practice tests, College Panda Advanced Math SAT guide, and in the neighborhood of 10-20 topics on KA. This other College Panda Guide does have questions more difficult than the test. So, please be kind to your ego and not take mistakes personally with this guide.
Don’t share your practice test scores with anyone other than your parents. When you perform below expectations and share your scores with your peers, you’ll compare yourself. Then you might dislike yourself for this and beat yourself up.
If you perform above expectations and share your scores, it might be seen as bragging or a competition. Your friends might dislike you for this.
Either way, please keep your scores to yourself!
And good luck! Feel free to adjust this plan as needed. If you’re on a shorter time frame, stick to College Panda and practice tests. Do what you can!