David Guhl, 2280, Dec 2009, Poolesville/SMAC

Curing My Ailment by, David Guhl

The youngest diplomat in Beijing Embassy.

Maudlin. “M”. “A”. “U”. “D”. Standing up in front of the class, beads of sweat forming across my forehead, my brain raced to find the spelling of the “M” word I had just studied among the fifty other words the night before.  When my twenty seconds were exhausted, Dr. Thomson sounded a deep draconian “Time is up.” As I took my seat in embarrassment, I was determined to study harder for next week’s vocabulary test. The weekly vocabulary quizzes are an integral part of the Dr. Li’s SAT program and definitely helped bolster my arsenal of college-level vocabulary. The spelling bee type format that Dr. Thomson uses to execute the weekly vocabulary quizzes pushes students to study harder to avoid embarrassment and also trains students’ public speaking skills. The plethora of words I had garnered from Dr. Li’s program not only helped me tremendously on the critical reading and writing sections of SAT, but also in my AP English classes.

As intimidating as Dr. Thomson may seem, I must admit he has been one of my best teachers. His teaching style is very personal, as he has students bring in writing samples from school so that he can analyze and provide criticism on their writing. His thorough critique of the practice SAT essays administered every week truly helped me improve my writing ability. Over the weeks, I went from receiving 7s and 8s to 10s and 11s. On test day, with Dr. Thomson’s writing advice and a brain full of worldly and literary examples, I clinched a perfect 12 on the essay.

Dr. Thomson’s degree from Princeton is well backed---the strategies and advice he teaches students to defeat the critical reading and writing sections of the SAT cannot be found in just any old test prep book from your local bookstore; with his thorough background in education, Dr. Thomson has developed strategy packets and handouts that are guaranteed to yield success on the SAT. In addition to SAT strategies, Dr. Thomson provides students with helpful advice for high school, college, and life in general.  I still have one of Dr. Thomson’s many aphorisms posted on my bedroom door: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Although I did not reach my full potential on the math section of the SAT, Dr. Li’s sneaky shortcuts helped me nonetheless on the SAT Math II subject test.  With a PhD in mathematics, Dr. Li taught my classmates and me to think like the test makers. Instead of approaching the math problems as most students would, I learned to eliminate obviously incorrect answer choices and intelligently narrow down the remaining answer choices to the correct one. Dr. Li also taught me how to rely less on my calculator and more on my brains ---in many instances the calculator just complicated the problem and slowed me down. In addition, over the length of the course, I was able to improve my math speed, not because I necessarily improved my knowledge of math, but because Dr. Li taught me unconventional yet efficient ways to approach each type of math problem. Permutations, Rates, or Sequences---I approached the SAT and SAT II with tricks for all of them. Without Dr. Li’s inventive math tricks, I would not have been able to get an 800 on the Math II subject test.

Even if you are a busy student, there is a way for you to create time to study for the SAT. I play Varsity Lacrosse, am treasurer of my county student government, and am in the Math, Science, and Computer Science magnet program at Poolesville High School. Either with Dr. Li’s summer intensive SAT camp or his year-round SAT classes on weekend mornings, I am sure that you can find time to prepare. Although I had to make some sacrifices in my schedule and activities, the time I spent preparing was well worth it.

Dr. Li’s SAT preparation program has helped me improve my score dramatically---I felt much more comfortable applying to top colleges with a 2280 than a 2110. Although the SAT is not the only part of an application that a college admissions team evaluates, it is a critical component that can make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection. The good news is that unlike grades or activities, the SAT is a test that is in your immediate realm of change. The SAT is like a game that can be defeated with the right strategies and tools. Dr. Li’s SAT intensive preparation program will equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to conquer the SAT.

If the SAT is your ailment, seek out the doctor: Dr. Li.