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A Better Way to Take the SAT?

Tuesday, 2 Oct 2012 | 1:45 PM ET

It's fall, the time high school seniors and their parents double down on Alka-Seltzer as they apply for college and take the SAT.

Everyone wants an edge, one reason the SAT prep business could be worth as much as $4 billion. People spend hundreds of dollars to score well enough to get accepted into an expensive school which will require them to take on six figures of college loan debt.

You know what I always hated the most in the SAT? Analogies:

TENET : THEOLOGIAN ::

A. predecessor : heir
B. hypothesis : biologist
C. recluse : rivalry
D. arrogance : persecution
E. guitarist : rock band

I'll tell you the answer later, but I’m already having a stressed out flashback.

There's gotta be a better way.

A test prep company called Catalyst Prep thinks it can help students perform better the on SAT by coaching them in a language they know: pop culture and humor.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company told Time it expects September revenues to reach $1 million, double what sales were a year ago, and it hopes to get to $10 million in two years.

How does Catalyst prepare students through its $165 bootcamps? For example, it has some fun with the dreaded vocabulary segment by using 20 common SAT vocab words and then asking which word fits into each of 20 pop culture questions. The words include: incredulous, debaucherous, comely, lupine, despondent, audacious, swoon, intrepid, pulchritudinous. The questions include:

"An SAT word that could be used to describe Snooki’s stature (and possibly her brain) is___________."

"You may think Johnny Knoxville’s stunts are insane or imbecilic, but anyone willing to get in a cage with live alligators has to be, above all, _____________."

Hint: Neither answer is pulchritudinous.

Catalyst also mocks the essay part of the SAT by “exposing the test for what it really is — a big, easy-to-crack game,” helping students overcome their trepidation by turning the essay into one big Mad Lib:

"Throughout history, individuals have questioned whether (re-state the question the SAT asked you using a nice big vocab word). Those who contend that (acknowledge an alternate point-of-view), may cite such examples as (example), arguing that (how example supports opinion). However, examples from such diverse fields as literature and history prove that this notion is not necessarily valid. (Shakespeare, Hemingway, Twain or some other author likely to impress your grader) and (women’s suffrage, World War II, or some other historical event likely to impress your grader) illustrate that (insert your thesis)."

However, my favorite part about Catalyst's snarky approach to the MOST IMPORTANT TEST YOU WILL EVER TAKE is the "6 Math Questions We'd Love to See on the SAT".

Here are my top three from their list:

1. John made $153,000 this year as a software analyst for Globocom, a conglomerate that is planning to lay John off in six weeks and outsource his job to Bangladesh. Assuming John occasionally watches Suze Orman on CNBC, does not claim residency on the Cayman Islands, and has a CPA who doesn’t get too creative with write-offs, approximately how much money does he owe the IRS?

A. $23,00
B. $36,912
C. $36,913
D. $64,815
E. $153,409

2. Mortimer made $19,730,618 this year as CEO of Globocom, a conglomerate that posted fourth-quarter losses of 3.2 billion dollars. Assuming Mortimer is on his third marriage, splits his time between Darien, Conn., and Jupiter, Fla., and does not have the same CPA as John, approximately how much money does he owe the IRS?

A. $0
B. $.19
C. $.73
D. $1.14
E. $29.17

And last but not least...

3. It’s 1966. Little Timmy, whose last name may or may not be Geithner, is in kindergarten, presiding over the worst financial crisis to hit Room 109 since the milk n’ cookies deficit preceding yesterday’s nap time. Mikey, who was heavily involved in the peanut butter n’ jelly default swaps that precipitated the current fiscal crisis, is demanding that Timmy dip into the classroom’s snack shelf to bail him out. What should Little Timmy do?

A. Bail Mikey out
B. Tattle on Mikey to Mrs. Sherman
C. Stick out his tongue and tell Mikey “Nuh-uh”
D. Convince a kindergarten class in China to buy up Mikey’s bad debt
E. Wet his pants

By the way, the answer to the Tenet-Theologian analogy question I asked earlier is B, hypothesis-biologist. I'd prefer a Timmy-Mikey analogy. The answer might be Snooki-Globocom.

—By CNBC's Jane Wells
@janewells

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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