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SAT mystery a novel study method

Preparing for SATs often includes many timed practice tests, late night studying and reading over text books to further enhance knowledge. To many, these preparations are boring and time consuming.

Yet SAT studying now has a practical solution and perhaps an entertaining alternative.

The book Tooth and Nail, a Novel approach to the SATs by Charles Harrington Elster and Joseph Elliot, offers an opportunity to study for the SATs without stressing over textbooks and preparatory tests. The book is not only a mystery story, but it also uses SAT vocabulary words in context.

The vocabulary words are highlighted to catch the reader’s attention. These words can be looked up for reference in a glossary at the back of the novel.

Along with the highlighted words, Elster and Elliot also include “extra credit words.” These challenging words have been included in the novel for the extra-serious student to discover on his/her own. Unlike the regular SAT words, these are not in bold type, compelling the reader to search for them within the context.

Aside from vocabulary, the book also includes an exercise section at the back of the novel for further terminology practice. Analogies, sentence completions and reading comprehension drills are incorporated to help strengthen vocabulary comprehension.

The novel opens introducing two, college freshman, Caitlin Ciccone and Phil McKnight, as they begin their first quarter at Holyfield College in Holyfield, Iowa. Both must now become accustomed to their new lives with roommates, professors, and uncover the mystery behind the obscure, secret society called Tooth and Nail.

The book tends to concentrate on one character but transitions into a second character several times per chapter, providing interest to keep the reader enticed.

Along with the looming mystery, a romance also breaks out between Caitlin and Phil. Paths continually cross at random as well as mutual connections that evolve between the two freshmen. Over time, a casual relationship turns more than simply nonchalant.

Bill Berkowitz, the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, the Holyfield Herald, becomes acquainted with Caitlin and gives the aspiring journalist a job as a reporter. When Caitlin goes to interview the executives at the campus radio station, she meets up again with Phil, who had received a job as board operator.

Similar spontaneous meetings gradually draw the two freshmen closer to where their casual acquaintance becomes a formal friendship.

Phil’s freshman counselor, Leo Kabnis, was a good friend of the late Professor Prospero, a major collector of ancient manuscripts and classic books. After his death, Prospero appointed Leo as a student executive for his rare library, much to the jealous dismay of Prospero’s spoiled grandson, Teddy.

To seek revenge for his grandfather’s will, Teddy produces a lawsuit against the executive committee, causing animosity between the two students.

The various elements used in the story may cause readers forget they are preparing themselves for the SATs. This book contains many devices that entice readers of all genres: mystery, romance and education.

For more information on Tooth and Nail, students can go online to The novel came out in paperback in 1994 and is available for $11.70. His second novel, Test of Time: A Novel Approach to the SAT and the ACT will be available in mid May 2004 and lists for $12.60 on the Barnes and Noble web site.

SATs will be held on June 5 across the country and students can sign-up online at

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  • H

    Holly SavageAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Cheer clinic was such fun with the elementary girls. They have so much talent and spirit. I can’t wait to see them in high school.

  • K

    KORY THOMPSONAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am