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A straight-from-the-trenches consumer report on the SAT and test prep that works

The Perfect Score Project by Debbie Stier is a rare hybrid—as entertaining as it is informative

A straight-from-the-trenches consumer report on the SAT and test prep that works

The Perfect Score Project

Debbie Stier
  • Imprint: Harmony Books
  • On sale: February 25, 2014
  • Price: $25.00
  • Pages: 304
  • ISBN: 9780307956675
Contact: Ellen Folan

 “I loved this book. Debbie Stier’s story of her year-long project answers every question about the SAT—and somehow turns this information into a lively and engaging adventure.”

—Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling

author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home

 “The Perfect Score Project is the perfect book for parenting in the age of anxiety. What begins with a mother’s worry about her teenage son quickly shifts to the moving story of a woman discovering the roots of her own imperfections. By year’s end, you’re cheering Debbie on as she and her son sit side-by-side, helping each other score higher. She has scripted the unimaginable: SAT—The Love Story.”

—Bruce Feiler, New York Times columnist and bestselling author of The Secrets of Happy Families 

NEW YORK—January 27, 2014

Each year 3 million students take the SAT. And, as night follows day, each year the College Board issues its perennial warning regarding the futility of test prep. SAT courses, we’re told, have “minimal impact” on scores, delivering a mere 10 to 20 points in math, a minuscule 5 to 10 points in reading. For students still not getting the message, the College Board also posts the odds of high school juniors actually lowering their scores should they retake the test senior year: 35% can expect to do worse the second time around. (10% will score no better.)

Debbie Stier set out to prove them wrong, a journey chronicled in her new book, The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT (Harmony Books, February 25, 2014).

By the end of her son Ethan’s sophomore year in high school, Debbie had a child with a B average in non-Honors courses whose extracurriculars were average, too, at least compared to the champion swimmers and musical prodigies selective colleges seem to prize. Like most parents, no doubt, she felt sure his numbers understated his potential. There had been a few broken bones along the way, three minor concussions, a protracted case of mononucleosis, a diagnosis of ADD, and assorted family issues . . . In short, he’d had to jump a lot of hurdles, and he had the grades to prove it. Scoring well on the SAT was her son’s last chance to become competitive at colleges he hoped to attend.

That was the genesis of Debbie Stier’s quest: an effort to decipher the mind-boggling array of test-prep options and sample as many as she could to create the perfect SAT test-prep recipe for her son.

Ultimately, Debbie took the SAT herself—seven times in one year—and managed to superscore her way into the 97th percentile: a 330-point score gain. Her son raised his score by 590 points from his sophomore PSAT, hundreds of points beyond College Board projections.

The Perfect Score Project follows the journey as Debbie wrestles with Kaplan, enrolls in Kumon, navigates the Khan Academy, takes a battery of intelligence tests, and works with some of the most prestigious SAT tutors in the world—and ultimately we learn what worked, what didn’t, and why.

“When do we start?”

“How do we pick a tutor?”

“Should we enroll in the local brand-name test-prep course?”

Debbie shares her answers to the questions that plague every parent.

She shares the more important lessons she learned about raising a teenager as well. Debbie never anticipated how sweet the best part of the project would be. During the family’s Year of the SAT, Ethan morphed from a happy-go-lucky tadpole in need of frequent “re-focusing” into a hardworking young man who would be accepted by eight of the ten colleges he applied to, including two of his top three choices. And Debbie grew as a mother, ultimately discovering that the real gift of the project was the strengthened relationship with her son, which deepened with the time they spent together studying for the test, his last big milestone before he left home for college.

The Perfect Score Project is a treasure-trove of insight and an honest look at one mom’s concern for her son’s future.

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About the Author:

Debbie Stier is the author of The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT. A veteran of the book publishing industry, she was responsible for publicizing dozens of iconic books ranging from The Notebook to Marley and Me. Frequently covered by the media, including MediaBistro, New York Observer and New York magazine, Debbie regularly speaks on topics pertaining to social media and technology as well as, most recently, standardized testing. She lives with her son and daughter in New York City, but you can find her writing daily advice about education and SAT test prep at


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