We could talk about how to crash the SAT in 5 days, but the chances of that being successful are slim. (Sorry! Some can do it, but most of us can’t) Let’s be honest, it takes hard work to prepare for tests. Extra tips could help you study and boost your score. The SAT changed in the Spring of 2016 and so far, student reviews have been positive. However, there are some key details students should be aware of before taking the test.
A Quick Overview of the New SAT
What is the highest possible score? 1600
Math 800 English* 800
The average SAT score is 1000. Whenever you are interpreting your results, keep this in the back of your mind. Students aiming for a top school, select scholarships, or programs, will need an above average score. This varies so be sure to research before taking the test.
How long is the SAT?
The SAT is 180 minutes long, but that does not include breaks or the optional essay. If you have signed up for the essay portion, you will have 50 minutes to finish.
How is the test divided? Reading, Writing* and Math
*Optional essay is separate from these scores
#1 Know your Strengths
Some of us are lucky to know what our strengths are, but do you know how those translate to the SAT? Are you a solid math student or is it easier to complete assignments in your English class? Everyone has strengths and your goal is to figure those out. This will build your confidence and motivate you to push through the harder sections. Incredibly important if the exam is only a few days away.
How do I know what my strengths are?
Check your previous scores or current school grades. If your previous scores are average or above, consider it a strength. Be proud! Otherwise, ask your school’s counselor. Sometimes they will provide students with extra feedback and reports to help identify SAT strengths.
How will knowing my strengths help me for the test?
Let’s say your strength is Math. If you are taking the exam and are fairly comfortable, the chances of test anxiety and fear are lower. Those are the common reasons why students change answers on an exam. Less fear and anxiety equals confidence. A great equation for a higher section score. This will help balance out the areas that are more of a struggle.
#2 Know you Weaknesses
Ouch! Realizing your weaknesses can sometimes be a painful process, BUT it is so important to improve your SAT scores. For the test, it is crucial to understand WHY you are getting questions wrong. We all make mistakes! There is a tremendous amount of knowledge that can be gained from seeing where we went wrong. The more you understand WHY something is a challenge for you, the better. Then, you can fix it!
How do I know what my weaknesses are?
In the section above, we talked about knowing your strengths. We can usually figure out our weaknesses in the same ways. Did you score below average on any SAT section? It probably is not your strong suit. What are your current grades in those subjects? Most of the time we know our weaknesses, but they are harder to admit to.
How to overcome them before the test?
Practice the SAT sections that give you trouble and carefully review every problem. Note any patterns you see. Do you give up after a certain amount of time? See if you can eliminate options that do not make sense. Did you second guess yourself and change your answer? If you are aware of patterns then it is easier to overcome them.
#3 Know the level of Math
The SAT has some challenging math questions. Some seem to short stories and yet we have to set-up and solve the problem in a minute. A tough task, but not impossible. Remember, the SAT math section will have a calculator and no calculator portion. There will be 58 questions and you have 80 minutes to complete it all.
What tip do you have about the math sections?
The SAT questions are designed to trick and trap students. However, the concepts in the math section can only go through Intermediate Algebra. This is so important. Regardless of the question, you know it is only going to use concepts from Geometry or up to Intermediate Algebra. So if it seems like they are asking you about physics and calculus derivatives, this is only in your head. True, these questions are not easy, but knowing that it only goes to a certain point may help.
#4 The Wording is Deceptive
The SAT creators are sneaky and design the test questions to purposely create doubt within test takers. Why? You might think this is pointless. Wouldn’t it be better to make a test that does not playing mind games? Remember that these tests need to be able to give a college a decent picture of a student. Tests may or may not be the best way to accomplish that, but this is the reality.
How are the questions written?
You can expect to see long questions and answers. Sometimes students simply skip the question or look for key words. The SAT creators are trying to find the students that pay attention to details and reward them for their efforts. So be careful. Go slow and steady. If it helps cover the answers up and gather your thoughts before looking at the options.
What tips can help me?
Remember the whole test is multiple choice. That means that with every question one of the options is the correct answer. Try eliminating answers that really do not make sense. In most cases, you will be able to cross out at least one. There is no penalty for guessing, so you just raised your chance of getting it correct!
#5 Rest and Stick to a Routine
The SAT is just a test. It does not define you as a person or ruin your possibilities in the future. Students that are hoping to go to Harvard or another top school may have extra pressure to perform. Yes, we all have been told that college is the way to success, but it is not the only way. Plenty of people have been accepted to college with average SAT scores. What matters is to remember there are many ways to get into the school you want. So relax a little!
What should I do before the test?
You need to be at your best. Hard to do sometimes at 7am if you are up until 2am every night. So try and adjust your sleep schedule this week. To think clearly our brains need rest. Also, find time to exercise and relax. With only a few days before the test, there really is very little studying that you can do to improve your score 300 points. Yes, sometimes it happens, but it is not the norm. Rest up and good luck!