Motivation & The Perfect Score Study (Part 1)

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We’ve been talking at great length about Motivation over the past severl blog posts, and I finished off the last one by talking about the relationship between those children who did NOT eat the marshmallow and high SAT scores. Speaking of high SAT scores, I’d like to relay a little of my own experience in tandem with a study done by Tom Fischgrund, PhD.

While browsing a local bookstore a couple of years ago, I came across a book, entitled SAT Perfect Score: 7 Secrets to Raise Your Score. What interested me about this book was the fact that the author, with the blessing of the SAT Board, did a study of 160 college-bound high school seniors who had achieved perfect 800s on both the verbal and the math portions of the SAT in the year 2000.

His goal? Find out what makes these kids tick. What do they have in common? Who are they? How do they think? What do they aspire to? What are their academic habits? He also did a study of average-scoring kids, and this group served as a control group. No study like this had been done before.

Since I have a perfect SAT scorer and a near-perfect SAT scorer in my home, I was more than a little interested to see what this study revealed and how my sons, Nick and Taylor, compared to the kids Dr. Fischgrund interviewed for his book. Unfortunately, SAT Perfect Score is out of print, but you can find copies on Amazon and other used book outlets. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a student of motivational theory. You’ll see why as I share some juicy tidbits of information that relate to motivation from my well-worn copy of the 7 Secrets.

First, here is what the author says about his work:

“I have to admit that I was surprised by many of the findings of the Perfect Score Study. As a professional educator and a high-level recruiter, I have studied the best and the brightest for twenty years. When I looked at the information I had gathered in the Perfect Score Study and shared the results with knowledgeable professionals in the education field, we all agreed that we were amazed by the common trends that exist among perfect score students.

The brightest of the bright students have common personality traits and lifestyle habits that made it possible for them to score a 1600. I call these the 7 Secrets of Perfect Score Students.”[1]

Keep in mind that this particular study involved the interview of one-hundred-sixty high school seniors, plus about fifty average students from a control group. Parents of the perfect score students were also contacted in order to corroborate what their kids said, as well as provide input on how self-motivated they thought their students were. I will not reveal the seven secrets here because I think everyone should get the book and read it for themselves, but I will share a few surprising statistics from the study. Here we go.

Who do you think studied more, the perfect score students or the control group of students? Surprisingly, they both averaged ten hours a week of study time. About 80 percent of perfect score students attended public high schools, and there was not a higher incidence of perfect scorers from private schools with smaller class sizes. The average class size was twenty-three students, which is close to the national average.

“Only 1 percent of perfect score students are homeschooled, which is even less than the national average.” And only one perfect score student in the study was home educated. In fact, Dr. Fischgrund states, “The 7 Secrets will reveal that homeschooling doesn’t offer an advantage—and may even be a disadvantage when it comes to doing well on the SAT.”[2] We will definitely take a closer look at home education and scoring well on the SAT.

Here is a startling statistic:

“Ninety percent of perfect score students come from intact as opposed to divorced families, compared with 66 percent of all U.S. high school students who come from intact families.”[3]

Just so you truly get this, let me put it this way: The vast majority of perfect SAT scorers came from public schools and from homes that had been untouched by divorce. Fascinating, don’t you think? It makes sense that homes where there is relative peace will spawn children who can be more single-minded in their pursuits.

One other statistic I am compelled to share:

“Perfect score students are just as athletic as other high school students.”[4]

Some people may find that surprising. I do not because my kids are very athletic. But they don’t get it from me!

Are Perfect Scorers Weird?     

What does a perfect scorer look like? First of all, it is important to know that perfect SAT scorers from this study saw their scores as simply a means to an end and not as the end itself. They had a well-rounded view of life in addition to a core set of values. They were always looking for a challenge, and they were multi-faceted individuals. Most were avid readers who read for enjoyment and learned for enjoyment. They were not motivated by external rewards; they possessed an intrinsic motivation system that drove them to do their best and to be self-motivated.

And believe it or not, these kids were not classified as geeks.

They were very likeable kids who were not likely to broadcast their perfect scores because they were quite humble about their achievements.[5] That pretty much sums up my sons, Nick and Taylor. They don’t discuss their test scores because they are not defined by a test score. They are both humble, athletic, fun-loving guys who throw themselves into every project they undertake.

Alas, my other six children are oddly motivated to succeed as well. They all have a desire to excel at whatever they undertake. While my kids may not all have perfect SAT scores, they all sport the same drive and determination to succeed. They each have one or two core passions that drive them, and they have parents, siblings, and friends who support them in their daily lives. I don’t care whether or not any of my kids ever score perfectly on any test. What is important is that they possess attitudes that fuel their motivation about learning and that they pursue their passions.

References:
[1] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, SAT Perfect Score; 7 Secrets to Raise Your Score, p. 53; hereafter cited as 7 Secrets.
[2] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 44.
[3] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 19.
[4] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 49.
[5] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 163

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

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