Memorization seems to be pretty strongly predictive of later success ---- !Eric, btw, has written a book on the SAT critical reading section --- I can't wait to read.
That's because you can't do anything without it! If you don't have the factual knowledge at your fingertips, you have no way of putting things together. I learned all my grammar from years of rote work in foreign language class: the reason I can spout off about tenses, to take one example, is that I covered them all in French, then in Italian (adding the imperfect subjunctive), and German (adding yet another form of subjunctive for indirect speech). Worksheet after worksheet after worksheet, looking up every word I didn't know. No one even tried to make it fun. It was simply understood that there was no other way to learn a language.
I have no idea what people are expecting when they ask me how to learn vocab: umm... read a whole lot and look up every single unfamiliar word. Everyone wants there to be a shortcut (so they can get to the fun "critical thinking" part), but sometimes there just isn't.
....[A strict] emphasis on rote learning does have some huge benefits, but it also has some real shortcomings. [I've discussed this with parents] who ... want their kids to be able to sit down and do x,y,z that'll guarantee a score increase, but the reality is that a kid who's basically just learned to memorize things, doesn't read or discuss books on a regular basis, and has very little cultural/contextual knowledge for what they're reading on the SAT is probably not going to be able to pull their score into the 750+ range, no matter how much stuff they memorize. They 1) don't really get the big picture, and 2) miss too many of the nuances....
I need all the advice I can get on teaching academic reading.