Ivy L, Centennial HS, 2340, Nov 2015

Name: Ivy L
School: Centennial HS
Grade: Junior
SAT: 2340 (Nov 2015)
Essay: 11 (out of 12)

           Like many other teenagers, I have an independent, “I-can-do-it-all-by-myself”, attitude that I thought would apply to the SAT just like it applied to my everyday school curriculum. I argued vehemently with my parents that I would take on every stereotypical SAT prep book under the sun, and achieve a “good” score on my own.  Needless to say, one summer passed, and I had completed an insignificant amount of work—the prep books still sported spotless and unwritten on interiors. With this in mind, my parents immediately registered me for Dr. Li’s SAT prep summer camp, which I was familiar with, since I had been to his camps when I was younger. Still, I wasn’t entirely convinced of how useful it could be. What could it teach me that I didn’t already know? That I simply need to practice more to do well on the SAT?

            As it happens, the teachers and the camp as a whole opened my eyes to what the SAT was truly like. I thought I already knew everything about the SAT, as it was just another standardized test, but Dr. Li and Dr. Thomson understand this particular standardized test like no one else. Dr. Li, unlike any math teacher I’ve ever had, approached problems in unique and efficient ways: simplifying what appeared to be a complex question by showing us methods that would save us time. The typical Dr. Li math question was designed in such a way as to help the student develop the mindset of a smart test taker. Each question helped me to think creatively, to come up with a shorter/faster method to reach the answer, and to dust off all/any of my math skills that had been slumbering away, untouched and unused. Through Dr. Li’s guidance and instruction, his inspirational love for math, and his great desire to help every student reach his/her mathematical potential, I was able to achieve an 800 on the math section of the SAT, a feat that I had never thought was possible.

            However, math is not the only section on the SAT that proved challenging. For the longest time, I thought of critical reading as an insurmountable barrier to my success—a wall of reading passages and analysis that I would never get through. Under Dr. Thomson’s tutelage, in just two weeks, my critical reading score rose. Dr. Thomson knows the SAT like the back of his hand. His vast array of knowledge from history to science and his immeasurable life experience, are displayed through his wise lectures, and humorous anecdotes. His advice as well as his tips and tricks, all gathered over years and years of teaching the SAT, can truly be found nowhere else. I can honestly say that without his instruction, I would not have been able to reach a score of 740 on the critical reading section, or more importantly, an 800 on the writing section and a score of 11 on the essay, for his greatest impact on me was through his writing. I have never, in my life, read writing as elegant and as beautiful as Dr. Thomson’s, and with this inspiration, I have become a more fluid writer myself. Writing, in general, is no easy feat. Writing well, on a 25-minute essay section in which you are unaware of the prompt until you begin, is even harder. Over the span of the summer camp, and under Dr. Thomson’s red-penned guidance, I grew from a fairly decent writer (score of 9 or 10), to a writer who was capable of a score of 12.

            To this day, I remember what Dr. Thomson has taught me regarding writing as a whole. He emphasized the use of strong and powerful verbs to carry out the message, and taught me the importance of sentence fluency and word choice, aspects that I now excel at in my essays for school. Simply put, this is what Dr. Li’s camp can give you: polished skills that will be used long after the SAT. I achieved a score of 2340 on my first attempt at taking the SAT, and I owe it all to Dr. Li, and Dr. Thomson, two experienced and inspirational teachers. Although my story is not one of rags to riches, without these teachers and this camp, I wouldn’t have seen the improvement to, what I thought was an impossible score, an 800 (especially in the writing section). As Dr. Li would say, the SAT is simply a game, one that, with his help, can be beaten.