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Why I Love Teaching the SAT and ACT: Part 1

February 13, 2017
Stephanie Jolly

Learn why Stephanie Jolly loves teaching Reading Comprehension for the SAT and ACT.

Learn to love the Reading Comprehension section on the SAT and ACT.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and we at Kaplan are passionate about one thing: test prep! We interviewed elite SAT/ACT Kaplan instructor Stephanie Jolly to find out what subject she just loves to teach and what topics her students simply love to review.

Stephanie, you enthusiastically teach all components of the SAT and ACT, but is there one topic you especially love teaching?

It’s surprising actually! If you had asked me years ago what section of the tests I assumed I’d love, I would have definitely said math—I’ve always been a mathlete at heart. I still unquestionably enjoy teaching math, but it turns out my real love is teaching Reading Comprehension.

My high-school self probably wouldn’t believe it as reading comp was the section I struggled with as a test-taker. Honestly, that’s probably why I feel so driven to provide students with an effective process and systematic approach to the reading passages—I know first hand how frustrating it can be to feel like there’s nothing you can do to prepare for questions that feel subjective or passages that seem luck-of-the-draw, and I love being able to say, “This section has order. This section has a pattern. This section is standardized just like all the other sections and we can show you how to master it.”

That’s amazing! What’s one piece of advice you’d give to students who find themselves in the same place you were as a teen?

Reading Comprehension is not about reading fast, it’s about reading effectively. Pacing is easily the number one concern we hear from students about the Reading Comprehension section, but it doesn’t matter how fast you’re reading the words if you’re not focusing on the right aspects of the passage. I love to show students how they’re able to quickly break-down the important elements of a passage by focusing on specific types of signal words – transitions, opinions, emotions—words that convey the author’s point of view and main purpose. If you understand that, you don’t need to expend the time slogging through all the details.

So is reading for Test Day an entirely different process than general reading, such as for school or pleasure?

Not entirely. In fact, learning how to pick up on signal words will make you a more effective reader in general, which will be particularly useful in college since you’re often asked to read dense texts that might not be entirely familiar. I mean, the passages on the SAT and ACT are taken from “real world” pieces, so it’s not as though the way sentences are structured or the way authors use English suddenly changes the moment you see it on Test Day.

However, when you’re reading for school—in high-school and even at the undergraduate level—you’re more likely to be reading for content knowledge in addition to understand the author’s argument, whereas when you’re reading for the SAT and ACT, you’re singularly focused on reading the passage to answer questions about it. So in that regard, it’s a very different task.

For access to some of the best instructors in the country, like Stephanie, check out Kaplan’s exclusive SAT Channel. (ACT Channel coming soon!)



Stephanie Jolly Bio: Stephanie Jolly is an alumna of NYU, and earned a perfect 800 on SAT Math. She loves to identify patterns and to break down Reading passages using the same analytical approach. She tutors, teaches, and writes content for Kaplan SAT, ACT, and AP programs in her home base of Kentucky—internationally and for Live Online.


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