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Helping students improve their vocabulary for college entrances exams can be difficult when the means is tedious. College Prep Genius, which publishes a fantastic college entrance test preparation program that I love and have reviewed here before, has developed a series of books to really help students read more and learn more advanced vocabulary while they read. The CaféVocab series contains some very interesting stories that intertwine 300 words captivating students while demonstrating the proper use of difficult vocabulary.

The stories are all about the lives and activities of normal teens. There are stories in several different genres to help most teens find one that will grab their attention. The advanced vocabulary is properly used and sprinkled throughout the story. At the bottom of the page, the words used on that page are listed with a pronunciation guide, part of speech used, and a clear definition. A listing of the chapter’s used words is at the end of each chapter to aid in review. There is a glossary at the end with all the words, definitions, part of speech, and pronunciation guide, too.

The vocabulary used is in total for all four books in the series well over three hundred. Each book uses about three hundred, but there is some overlap. The books also use some of the words in different parts of speech and with slightly different content meaning to help the student really see how the words can function and make them a part of their own vocabulary to some extent. The use of the vocabulary in these stories, though, can really help them be better prepared for the advanced vocabulary found on the college entrance exams.

One of the students I gave these books to for reading assignments, Ryan S., was impressed enough with just the first few chapters that he is writing his own review on The $ummer of $aint Nick (dollar signs are intentional and part of the title). I will put an excerpt here, but if Ryan grants permission, I will post his full review when he has finished the book and review:

“I have read 9 chapters so far in my book. I love the book.  The vocabulary words I have not ever heard before like the word  Besmirch that means discolor. The book does show how to say word and meaning. but I will not be using these words in my writing. The book was interesting.  I liked the book because the boy who found $300,000 gave to those who needed money and was not selfish with the money he found. He gave money to people in community who needed help. He gave anonymously because he did not want the attention and praise.”

Even with his honesty of not wishing to actually use the words in his own writing due to their complexities and awkwardness, Ryan admits that he is learning to recognize and understand these new words. Along with his interest in the story leading him to read more, this new knowledge really shows the CaféVocab series is successfully completing its mission.

As far as accessibility, the pronunciation guide and definition are good for all students including those with slight reading delays. It would be more beneficial if audio and electronic text versions could be found on-line to help more who are print disabled, blind, or deafblind. Hopefully, this could be something added to the series in the future if the publishers really want to help more students while expanding their market.

There are currently four books in the series: Operation High School, The $ummer of $aint Nick, Planet Exile, and I. M. for Murder. Each book costs $12.95 and can be purchased Maven of Memory Publishing at

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

You can feel like a genius no matter how smart you are if you know the right stuff. Where can you get the right stuff? College Prep Genius: Master the SAT Success from Maven of Memory Publishing.

College Prep Genius makes bold claims for their college entrance test preparation program. “Cut your reading time in half.” “Answer math problems without ever touching your calculator.” “Write a high scoring essay in fifteen minutes.” It probably sounds impossible, but the program complete with a four DVD presentation, guide book, and workbook is right on target. The author, Jean Burke, explains that the PSAT/SAT/ACT are not knowledge checking tests. They are actually logic tests. Using logic, you can find the answer to those tough questions. This isn’t about learning little tricks to guess at the answers. It is about understanding the true nature of these tests and the purpose behind them. Once a student has a basic understanding of math and grammar, they should be learning the methods, patterns, and logic of these college entrance tests including the PSAT. The premise taught with College Prep Genius is that the tests are Standardized, and therefore, the question and answer patterns stay the same.

The program is divided into four main parts: overview of the tests, critical reading, math, and essay with additional sections on scholarship search and comparison of the SAT and ACT. The DVD’s follow the same basic organization with a DVD devoted to the four main parts above. The guide book is thorough and very clear. It provides numerous examples that walk you through each of the kinds of problem types depicting the ways to work them through correctly and how to work them through using the logic and hidden patterns and strategies of the test. These methods help you to answer the questions faster and being more accurate than falling for irrelevant information, not understanding important vocabulary, working math problems completely or using a calculator. The DVD’s highlight and further emphasize the key points of the guide book using the workbook to give sample questions to practice the guide book materials. The DVD’s go over each of the questions in the workbook detailing the method used to quickly answer the questions.

Using the methods in College Prep Genius: Master the SAT Class, your students can really improve their thinking skills as well as their achievement test scores. The cost is $79.00 for the entire package, and my readers can get free shipping and handling from now until November 15, 2009 just use the special code, HSBlog09. If you need help improving your child’s chances for college, check out

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