Inside Pulse 12

Review: My SAT Coach (Nintendo DS)

My SAT Coach
Genre: Edutainment
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: 09/23/2008

When I was in high school, the SAT was the focal point of my life, as it was for pretty much everybody I knew. At the time, I thought it was the most important test I’d ever take. That’s how it’s presented to high school students – if you bomb the SAT, your life is over. Turns out it’s not such a dire situation. In fact, I can’t even recall a single instance where my score even mattered. All that worry, and for absolutely nothing.

Having said all that, My SAT Coach is the kind of game I’d have killed for in high school. It’s a game for the person who wants to improve their score, but doesn’t want to be stuck going through some boring book or shelling out hundreds (thousands?) for a big-name prep school. In fact, it’s such a good tool that My SAT Coach is endorsed by none other than The Princeton Review.

Let’s be clear about one thing – My SAT Coach is not a graphical masterpiece, nor is it a groundbreaking game in terms of sound. It’s not supposed to be. A lot of the My Coach series take on a more lighthearted approach. This game is not one of them. My SAT Coach is a bit more serious-minded than the other games in this series, which is appropriate due to the subject matter. If a student feels his or her future is riding on the SAT, he or she isn’t likely to want jokes and stupid animations at every turn. Instead, My SAT Coach keeps things pretty simple and encouraging without descending into cheesiness.

Most of us know that the SAT is broken out into different segments. Many of us geezers remember these segments as Math and Verbal. Not anymore. These days, the test is actually called the “SAT Reasoning Test” and there are now three segments: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. Critical Reading takes the place of the old Verbal section, while Writing, added in 2005, consists of a combination of multiple choice questions and an essay. Obviously, an essay isn’t exactly feasible in a video game, so My SAT Coach consists entirely of multiple choice and true-false questions.

My SAT Coach has a variety of modes which meet just about every skill set, desired area of improvement, and level of time commitment. For those who want to just dive in, a full SAT exam is offered. As the exam is nearly four hours long,save points are available and needed. The middle tier of involvement contains a series of ten sample SAT questions. The questions are divided into the three main SAT segments, but with sub-divisions so that students can specify the areas they want to focus on. The Writing section features questions regarding sentence errors, improving sentences, and improving paragraphs. For Math, the questions deal mainly with arithmetic, basic algebra, and geometry. Critical Reading sub-divisions include sentence completion and passage-based questions. These three sections are the core of the game and are probably the sections most desirable to students, as they feature real SAT questions and don’t take too much time. The game grades on questions answered correctly as well as the time it takes to answer them. The final area of My SAT Coach is a group of mini-games geared toward quick thinking. These games help teach little things such as random words while giving students the confidence to go with their first answer.

My SAT Coach would be a failure if the game focused strictly on academics. Thankfully, that’s not the case. My SAT Coach is just as much about the actual SAT itself as it is about the knowledge one needs to take the test. The game is full of information about the methodology used to create the test, common mistakes students make, easy ways to answer questions quickly, and much more. In fact, one of the mini-games is dedicated solely to the process of elimination, an important tool one can use on the SAT if he or she is stuck. My SAT Coach goes into depth when giving back the answers to questions, showing why each of the wrong answers is wrong and even why those specific options appear. Usually, it’s to trick the student. My SAT Coach picks up on a lot of these tricks and does its best to help students to not let the test beat them.

As you could probably imagine, a standardized test doesn’t perfectly translate to the Nintendo DS. There are some problems with longer and more complex questions. Questions about reading passages are particularly difficult. Not only does the passage take up the entire top screen, but each of the answers are so long that you have to actually click on each choice just to read them. By the time you’re up to D or E, you’ve forgotten what A was. This happens on sentence completions as well, but it’s not as big of a hassle. Probably the toughest problems in My SAT Coach are the math problems, especially anything that asks you to refer to a graph. Much like the reading passages, graphs take up the top screen, meaning that once you figure out the graph, you’ve forgotten what the question is asking you. Then, once you get the question down, you have to go back to that graph while trying to keep that question memorized and… it’s a mess. It’s also tough to figure out algebra equations or anything that requires scrap paper, as the writing space the game provides takes up the space of the answers. Same for the calculator and formula sheet. To be honest, they probably couldn’t have laid these options out any better than they did, but they’re still clumsy and make the test-taking harder than it has to be.

In the end, though, the shortcomings of My SAT Coach are overshadowed by the fact that such a game exists. It’s a Nintendo DS game that lets you work on your SAT preparation! It’s hard to beat that. You’ll have a little fun and actually learn something. What a concept!

The Scores
Story/Modes: Above Average
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Control/Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Who ever thought one could prepare for a huge standardized test on their Nintendo DS? My SAT Coach provides such an opportunity. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a quick and easy way to get students into preparing for the SAT without much effort on their part. It’s not going to replace Kaplan courses or anything, but it’s not supposed to. My SAT Coach is a fun alternative to dry review books, injecting interactivity to the many lonely hours of studying for the SAT.