Reading is a four-dimensional problem

Reading is a four-dimensional problem

When I first got interested in the problems involved in teaching reading, I quickly discovered that researchers considered reading a “three-dimensional problem” because it does not develop linearly and involves such a complex interplay of skills. That struck me as an accurate metaphor, and until recently, I never thought to question it. Recently, however, I’ve begun to think that turning children into good readers isn’t as complicated as it’s been made out to be—it’s worse. (more…)

A question for readers regarding the revised AP English Lang/Comp exam

A question for readers regarding the revised AP English Lang/Comp exam

Just wondering if anyone out there might know the answer to this.

From what I can glean from documentsl released by the College Board as well as various online discussions, the 2020 AP Lang/Comp test will be removing two kinds of multiple-choice questions: vocabulary in context, and something referred to as “identification.”

I cannot, however, seem to find out precisely what “identification” refers to.

My best guess is that it involves identification of rhetorical devices, but I can’t exactly remove a chapter from my AP Lang/Comp book unless I’m totally sure that the material is no longer tested!

Any AP English teachers out there (or people who know AP English teachers) who might be able to shed some light on this? I’d like to get the updated book out sooner rather than later.


Explanations to old-edition SAT/ACT grammar books are now available

Explanations to old-edition SAT/ACT grammar books are now available

Complete explanations for the end-of-chapter exercises in The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, Fifth Edition and The Complete Guide to ACT English, Third Edition, are now available online via the Books page for $4.95 each.

Click here to purchase explanations for the SAT book.

Click here to purchase explanations for the ACT book.

Please note that to access the explanations, you must return to the main item page and follow the link provided.

If you purchased one of the new editions (SAT grammar, 5th ed., ACT English, 4th ed.), this does NOT apply to you; explanations are included in the books themselves.

Some thoughts on the 2019 NAEP reading-score decline

Some thoughts on the 2019 NAEP reading-score decline

2019 NAEP scores have been released, and the results in reading… aren’t good. As the New York Times reports:

Two out of three children did not meet the standards for reading proficiency set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the Education Department.

The dismal results reflected the performance of about 600,000 students in reading and math, whose scores made up what is called the “nation’s report card.” The average eighth-grade reading score declined in more than half of the states compared with 2017, the last time the test was given. The average score in fourth-grade reading declined in 17 states. Math scores remained relatively flat in most states.

Only 35 percent of fourth graders were proficient in reading in 2019, down from 37 percent in 2017; 34 percent of eighth graders were proficient in reading, down from 36 percent. Overall student progress in reading has stalled in the last decade, with the highest performers stagnating and the lowest-achieving students falling further behind.

Despite attempts to pin the blame on poverty and other social ills, the fact that math scores have not declined to anywhere near as much as reading scores suggests that the problem lies in the schools—in considerable part, at least. Intuitively, at least, it does not make sense to suggests that socio-economic factors could suddenly have such an outsized impact on one area of the curriculum while having almost no effect on another. In fact, math scores actually improved in some states. (more…)

Regarding the 2020 AP English Lang/Comp test (yes, I will be updating my book)

Regarding the 2020 AP English Lang/Comp test (yes, I will be updating my book)

I’ve received a couple of inquiries about the updated AP English Lang/Comp exam, so I’m putting this out there now: yes, I am aware that the test is being updated for 2020, and yes, I will be revising my guide for that exam. I’m aiming to get it out by around February 2020.

In the meantime, if you are self-studying for the exam and absolutely cannot live without a book now, you can use a combination of the current AP Lang/Comp book and either The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, fourth or fifth edition OR The Complete Guide to ACT English.

The major change to the AP exam involves the introduction of SAT/ACT-style writing passages, and from the document released by the College Board, it appears that there will be a heavy focus on “is this sentence relevant?” questions. These are discussed in great detail in the grammar books. 

For practice, you can do SAT/ACT Writing passages, with a focus on the rhetoric questions. If you’re already comfortable with them, you probably won’t need to do too much more to prep.

If that’s not enough for you, I would also recommend getting the old (pre-2016) SAT official guide and doing the Fixing Paragraphs questions; since the AP exam (unlike the current SAT) will presumably continue to be written by ETS, it’s reasonable to assume the content will be extremely similar.

Although the essay-scoring rubric will be changed, the essays themselves will remain the same. If you’re a sold writer, you don’t need to worry.

The bottom line is that there’s plenty of material out there that will be directly relevant to the updated exam, even if it doesn’t have “AP English Language and Composition, 2020” stamped on it.

And finally, I feel obligated to point out that if anything, the new version of the test will if anything be easier than the old. The reading passages will be shorter and have fewer questions, and the writing passages will be written at a considerably lower level than any of the multiple-choice passages on the current exam. If the College Board wants to continue to “expand access” to the AP program—and collect even more of those $94/exam fees it’s now insisting that students pony up in October—it needs to ensure that pass rates don’t dip too low.

Follow the money, baby. Follow the money.

Update: new SAT books are now available

Update: new SAT books are now available

Announcement: the new editions of The Critical Reader (4th ed.) and The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar (5th ed.) are now available. Please note that orders placed through will have longer-than-usual shipping times (expect approximately 5-7 days for delivery) for the next couple of weeks, until the new editions are stocked at our storage/shipping facility.

If you need the books urgently in the meantime, please order from Amazon: the reading book can be found here, and the grammar book here. (As of 9/20, the books do not appear to be consistently appearing at the top of Amazon searches even when the exact titles are entered, so we recommend that you use the links provided here to navigate to them.)

The ACT English book is now projected to be released by the end of next week (by 9/27). Unfortunately, there have been some delays involving the cover and proof shipping, and the book cannot be released until physical proofs have been checked.

To reiterate: if you are a student or parent who has recently purchased the current editions, you do not need to purchase the new ones as well. Tutors/companies may find it helpful to keep the updated editions on hand, however.