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SAT Subject Tests: English

  1. If you have a test on a book or some other reading, make sure that you have understood it. Read it carefully and go through the parts that you think are important and would make the best essay topics. Try to understand all there is to understand about a book so that you will be in a better position to answer questions about it. Have at least two essay topics prepared before you take a test. Even if you don't have to write an essay, the topics that you have chosen are most likely topics that your teacher wants to test your understanding of. Make sure that you are really comfortable with the topics that you have chosen and can give at least two examples from the book that back up your assertion. For example, you might be asked to write an essay on any character that you thought acted as a dramatic catalyst in the play Macbeth. If you followed the advice above, all the hard work would have been done before you even put a pencil to the test. You would have already picked out your two or three characters from the book to focus in on, and most likely, at least one of them acted as a catalyst in some way. You could pick the Three Witches, Lady Macbeth, even King Duncan himself-as long as you have some proof to back it up. (Always read the instructions carefully on a test because your teacher might just want you to discuss major characters, in which case your beautiful essay on Banquo's son being a catalyst would not count.) Give examples like:

    "An example of how Lady Macbeth is a catalyst in the play is when she convinces Macbeth to kill the king. When she says "_________" she is convincing him to do the deed...(give more details, and if you don't have exact quotes, just summarize what she said and then explain it). Another example of how Lady Macbeth is a catalyst is... Another example is..."

    I like to give about three examples from a book to solidify my assertion. Make sure that you use proper essay form-an introduction with a thesis or introductory paragraph, then a body and finally a conclusion. For more on writing essays, check out the monthly feature.


  2. If you have vocabulary to learn, make sure that you start early. If you have a lot of words to learn and a good amount of time to learn them, then I recommend that you use the method I recommend for learning SAT words. If on the other hand you have not too many words to learn in a short amount of time I recommend the following:
    #1-Get out a sheet of paper and fold it in vertically two.
    #2-Write the words you need to learn on the left with about four or five spaces between each word.
    #3-Write the definition on the right.
    Now you have a vocabulary list that you can study from and quiz yourself with by folding back the side with the definitions. Start off by identifying which words you know perfectly. Then for all the other words that you are not sure of, read over the definitions carefully. Once you have done this you can quiz yourself. Do this over and over again during the day until you no longer have any difficult words. If you're really having trouble with a word, make up a rhyme that goes with the definition. The more outlandish the better, so think up something strange.


  3. If you're studying literary devices, then learn their definitions and qualifications but also get practice identifying them. Look at a favorite book and try to pick out as many literary devices as you can.

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