Thursday, February 16, 2012

SAT and College Prep Course for the Christian Student

As we are getting closer to spring, teens and their parents are probably thinking about college applications. Many colleges require scores on either the SAT or ACT exams. James P. Stobaugh believes home school students and students from smaller, private schools need to score well on the SAT test, as their transcript grades may seem more subjective to college admission boards. To help students realize their potential, Stobaugh has written a comprehensive SAT and College Preparation Course for the Christian Student.

Stobaugh begins by laying out a three-year, two-year, and one-year plan for using the study guide. He recommends the three-year plan, where students complete one lesson per week, but students may choose to move more quickly, completing up to a lesson per day in the one-year plan. Each of the 150 lessons begins with a Bible verse, a suggested Bible reading, a commentary on the biblical passage, and a point to consider during the scheduled "Devotional Journal" time. After devotions, students complete a vocabulary exercise, math problems, and a critical reading/comprehension activity, or a critical thinking/essay activity.

Answers and sample critical thinking essays are given in the back of the book. There are also reproducible forms for a reading journal and a thirty-minute devotional exercise. Also included in the back of the book are a book list summarizing suggested classics college-bound students should read, a list of target Scriptures for memorization and fifty sample college admissions essays. The essays are preceded by a commentary by Stobaugh entitled, "The Rise of the Secular University: How to Thrive in Babylon Without Becoming Babylonian."

What I Like: I like Stobaugh's focus on Scripture and living for God. He constantly reminds students to pray for God's leading about where to attend college, as well as relationships with family, goals and aspirations and worldview.

I also like the "SAT Tips" found in the sidebars of most pages. Stobaugh has thought of everything! Students will learn useful information, such as how to study, whether it is better to leave questions blank or guess, and what type of snack to bring on exam day.

Stobaugh has chosen high quality critical reading passages in order to challenge students and give them a feel for the types of passages and corresponding questions they will find on the test.

What I Dislike: I would not use the fifty sample college admissions essays as models of excellent writing. Stobaugh stresses content, saying, "Your audience is not your English teacher. . . The admission committee wishes to ascertain if you are going to be a successful college student, not whether you are a perfect grammarian." However, the essays contain multiple mechanical errors and struggle in particular with sentence fragments and lack of transitions between ideas and paragraphs. Many of the essays do not directly answer the question asked, do not use transitions or a unifying theme, and lack any type of conclusion to remind readers of the thesis. As an English teacher, I am probably biased but the errors in many of the essays are significant enough to be distracting. Even if real students write this way, a college preparation guide should provide examples students can aspire to, instead of examples in need of correction.

Overall Rating: The SAT guide is good, but the sample essays are ho-hum.

Age Appeal: 13 and up

Publisher Info: Master Books, 2011; ISBN: 978-0-89051-624-9; Paperback,425 pages, $29.99

Buy it Now at for $19.49

OR Buy it at for $19.79.

SPECIAL NOTE: The book list contains summaries of each book, but Stobaugh does not mention controversial content (such as the rape accusations in To Kill a Mockingbird, use of offensive language in Of Mice and Men, etc. . . ).

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