Harriet is well known in the Washington DC area for significantly boosting students test scores. Ultimately, students are provided with the best opportunity to get into the college of their choice. Nominated/Recipient of : Area’s #1 Test Prep Tutorial Program. Read more below as Harriet Broder, the visionary of BreakThrough Test Prep™, shares her background and empowers students with successful testing strategies as seen in The Washington Times.
Interview with Harriet
Who is Harriet Broder, Principal of BreakThrough Test Prep?
Harriet Broder has been involved with standardized test preparation since 1978. She has been the co-founder and founder of three test prep companies, the most recent being Breakthrough Test PrepTM. Through the years, she and her instructors have literally worked with thousands of students from the Ivy-League bound former President’s daughter to the struggling student challenged by her critical reading and math skills. Harriet is not only the go-to person for helping students improve their scores, she has also created the programs and curriculum and even serves as a trusted advisor/confidante to the parents of her students.
How did you come to be an expert in test preparation?
To answer this question, I’m going to put it right out there. I was not a born test-taker – far from it! In fact, I did NOT test well when I took the SAT in high school, though I got excellent grades. Why the dichotomy? I knew I was intelligent, but my test scores said I wasn’t. Clearly there was something I was not getting about myself. Finally, I came to realize that it was about understanding what the test was truly testing and how I got in my own way.
That’s what attracted me to test preparation. When I had figured it out for myself, I knew I had to share this wisdom with others. Once I had broken the tests down – the level of language and skill sets tested, the types of passages presented, as well as the repetitive patterns and themes – strategies evolved and techniques came into fruition. The foundation of it all was when I created the mindset to success. This all evolved into the BreakThrough Test Prep SystemTM.
How long have you been doing test preparation and what is your history?
My degree is in special education, but I began doing test preparation as director of a private one-on-one academy in Houston, TX in 1974. It was there I developed a system for teaching students how to learn and remember vocabulary which would become an essential part of my verbal test prep program. (At that time antonyms as well as analogies were on the SAT – much more vocabulary based than now.)
Upon coming back to the DC area in 1978, I got the position as director of the reading and study skills program for a local company. Test prep was very new and they were wanting to hire someone that not only could teach reading and study skills – reflective of my prior teaching positions – but could get their burgeoning SAT program (and speed reading programs) off the ground. And that I did.
In 1982, a colleague and I formed a test prep company in Bethesda which held its first classes in my parents’ basement. The business grew exponentially – primarily through referrals. I eventually sold that company to my partner and formed Harriet Broder & Associates, in 1994.
I have been focusing on one-on-one PSAT/SAT, ACT and SSAT prep, since 1994. The SAT has gone through about five iterations since I began in the business – the antonyms and analogies have gone, the TSWE – grammar section – left but has returned as the Writing section. The reading passages now constitute more than 70% of the test, whereas when I first started they were less than 30%.
When the antonyms were removed in 1994, I began to merge the basics of what I was teaching in my speed reading classes into my all of my test prep programs. In fact, no one was or is teaching students those techniques to improve standardized test scores.
The results were amazing. I became known as the ‘go-to’ person to teach students how to improve their scores on the reading comprehension passages. And why did it work so well? Not only did I teach my students about how to read more efficiently, but I also gave them a very accessible strategy – the Post-It Note Technique – as to how to approach the passages.
Recently, I have incorporated what I have learned in holistic health training and have added anxiety reducing techniques into the programs as well as an understanding of foods and supplements that can aid in attention and focus.
All of the above have come together to form the BreakThrough Test Prep System™ – the system that teaches students not only breakthrough strategies but how to breakthrough subliminal barriers to successful test-taking.
As the years have gone on, I have made a commitment keep on doing what I love – helping my students develop the requisite skills and mindset to succeed on standardized tests. The bonus is that these are life skills and carry over into their being stronger students overall. Thousands of students later, it’s still working! (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I am a much better test taker as well!)
How are your BreakThrough Test Prep techniques and strategies different from those of other programs?
Unlike many of the test prep offerings out there, what Breakthrough Test PrepTM offers are step-by-step breakthrough strategies in critical reading, problem-solving, vocabulary development as well as the requisite mindset transformation.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results”? Unfortunately, most programs whether group or even on-on-one are primarily about rote memorization of words and taking practice test after practice test without teaching the mandatory FOUNDATION SKILLS: how to learn and remember vocabulary and how to read more efficiently and analytically.
Also not typically addressed are understanding how an author has developed his point, the steps to improve analytical thinking and problem-solving, and most importantly how to get into the confidence mindset of being the successful test-taker. Once this is all imparted then the essential strategies are taught – ie, the Post-it Note and Reframing techniques for the critical reading, plugging in for the both the math and sentence completions, the Synonym Elimination technique on the sentence completions, learning what the (ACT) science is truly testing, and when to skip based on a student’s score goal – just to name a few.
Yes. Rote, random memorization of vocabulary helps minimally and practice testing is essential as pacing is key on these exams – but if new ways of thinking and approach are not also taught, even minimal improvement is not likely to occur for too many students.
SUSAN FELDMAN has been an instructor in test preparation for over fifteen years and with BreakThrough Test Prep for over 10 years. She has been trained specifically to work with students who have learning differences running the gamut from gifted LD to those students who tend to perform modestly in school. She is especially talented in working with students whose primary need involves a so-called ‘tweaking’ of their critical reading skills. Susan has a very nurturing demeanor, yet at the same time is quite skilled at demanding the absolute best from her students.
CHARLES UPTON has been involved with standardized test preparation for over eight years prior to coming on board with BreakThrough Test Prep. When we made the decision to expand into prepping for the math and science sections of the SAT and ACT, Charles fit the bill perfectly. He had the right demeanor, creativity, intelligence and most importantly the ability to create rapport with every kind of student. He is able to craft individualized study programs for students with widely varying goals and challenges. I am so thrilled to have him as a integral addition to of our team.
We are pleased to welcome Kelly Casten as part of our team so we are better able to serve our students by not only providing premier one-one-one test preparation but also expert and compassionate guidance through the college application process.
Kelly began her career in secondary education as a teacher, team leader, and staff trainer in Montgomery County Public Schools. With a deep commitment and passion for helping students thrive, Kelly has spent her career working with students inside and outside of the classroom. In 2002, she started College Consults, where she began putting her experience as an educator to work, helping students and their parents navigate the challenging and overwhelming college admissions process. Since then, she has assisted numerous families with identifying, applying, and getting accepted to some of the country’s best schools. Ultimately, Kelly’s goal is to help students and their families find the right college fit and assist in developing the best possible college application while helping to relieve the tremendous stress around the process. Kelly holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching, Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and Teaching Certificate in Secondary Education in Social Studies.
LOUISA JAGGAR is a director of Education in Action; a company focused on helping students with issues reach their potential. As a former Montessori teacher, she has worked with students with Learning Issues for the past 30 years. She also served as lead writer on over fifteen national science curriculum guides for the Smithsonian, PBS, Chicago’s Field Museum, the United States Navy, and others. Louisa Jaggar won the 1994 Smithsonian award for Best in School Programs for her part in creating the Smithsonian Institution’s community-based educational program Learning is a Family Experience. She has served as a teacher instructor at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. She is also the creator and coauthor of the Smithsonian’s Saving Stuff (Fireside 2005). Saving Stuff received national attention and was featured in Parade Magazine as a Parade Picks, The Washington Post, Real Simple, Country Living, on NPR’s All Things Considered, as well as many other venues.