There are few tasks in life that require as much concentrated, uninterrupted, and intense focus as the SAT. In its current format, the test lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes. Even with the brief breaks during the exam, it can feel like a mental marathon. Like top endurance runners, you can use certain strategies to improve your performance and prevent your focus from wavering at any point during the test.
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The SAT essay is daunting for many reasons: the time limit, the fact that prompts aren’t revealed until the test begins, and the significance of the SAT Writing score. While it’s important to address all of these obstacles (and to remember not to stress too much about them!) it is equally important not to forget about the core element of the essay itself: writing well. Here are a few SAT-customized tips to keep in mind.
Once you’re familiar with the Passage-Based Reading section of the SAT, it’s usually easy to eliminate three out of five answer choices, even on difficult questions. Selecting the right answer from the remaining two, however, can be considerably more challenging. Many test-takers simply guess, resigning themselves to a 50% chance of picking the right answer. Fortunately, there is a better way to tackle this problem.
The SAT, like so much in this big beautiful world, is a complex assemblage of pieces. It is, therefore, a complex task to improve one’s score on the SAT as it involves an understanding of the different parts of the test. There are, however, a few simple steps that can help start the process of improving one’s score that many people may not even realize are necessary. Here are three simple changes that can help to significantly improve your score and can, with the aid of other strategies, help you to rock the SAT.
The 25 minute limit on the SAT essay is understandably intimidating. After all, 25 minutes is about the time it would take to watch a single episode of How I Met Your Mother. The first time I took the SAT, I was barely able to complete two paragraphs. Nearly every student I’ve taught has cited this time limit as the primary obstacle in the SAT Writing section.
When approaching a reading passage on the SAT, it can feel overwhelming to go through all of the information in the passage and extract the little tidbits that are truly useful in answering questions. While it is wonderful to read in a more lackadaisical way when sitting at the beach with a tale of vampire love affairs, this method of reading is more about following plot and big picture than about gleaning important details. If you feel like you have trouble wading through the information and finding what is important, fear not! There are a few strategies that may help you to navigate the reading section more effectively.
Introduction, body paragraph, body paragraph, body paragraph, conclusion. Once you’ve mastered the basic five-paragraph format for short essays, it quickly begins to feel tiresome and overly basic. Fortunately, though the main themes of the five-paragraph essay are important to nearly all levels of academic or professional writing beyond high school. The five-paragraph essay itself becomes less and less relevant to school and work after graduation. However, there are plenty of things you can do to make simple five-paragraph essays (like the one assigned by the SAT) more impressive, interesting, and intricate. Here are a few.
In Spring 2016, College Board will yet again roll out a revised version of the SAT Test. It is reported to mirror the coursework a student would encounter in high school and will return to a 1600 scale and an optional essay. The test has been redesigned, revised, and reworked continuously for decades. Let’s explore the history of the SAT and pose the question, “What was the first SAT like?”
One of the biggest differences between the SAT and other non-multiple choice tests is that for nearly every question on the SAT, the correct answer is right in front of you! Given that the answer is right there, the real trick is figuring out how to use this to your advantage. Let’s look at an example to show us how we can use these answer choices to our advantage.
Memorizing vocabulary words is a basic component of SAT test preparation. Knowing advanced vocabulary is useful in Sentence Completion questions, passage comprehension, and essay writing. Advanced vocabulary is also handy beyond standardized tests; it can be applied to both academic and professional reading and writing, and builds cultural capital. Unfortunately, many students who spend hours memorizing vocabulary words do not retain them long-term. Others gain only a patchy understanding of each definition and end up capable only of recognizing the words in context, not actually employing them in writing.
For those of us who grew up speaking English, we rarely find a personal benefit from translating English into another language. One big exception to this is in the math world. We may find ourselves able to understand the most erudite texts with ease, but figuring out how to interpret mathematical terms can be difficult without a little translating. Here is a quick and easy guide to help translate our language of communication into a language of computation.
Some of the most difficult kinds of problems in the math section of the SAT are the problems where there doesn’t seem to be enough information present to solve. Fear not brave test-taker! Often times, a problem that seems to be lacking simply has information hidden somewhere in the question. But like the great detectives of the past, it is possible to use our wits to find this information. The first step is to know the common shapes hidden in SAT math questions.
As a high school student, you’ve got plenty on your plate. You’re likely consumed by classwork and social activities, and are preparing emotionally for one of the biggest transitions of your life. In addition to all that, however, there’s the SAT, which plays a major role in your ability to get into a good college. All too often, teenagers let the SAT take a back seat in favor of more immediate, day-to-day responsibilities, and one of the biggest reasons is that they simply don’t know how to attack such a daunting exam. Here are six general study habits that can help improve your SAT score.
For those of us who grew up speaking English as our native language, grammar can be somewhat of an afterthought. We take for granted that the linguistic constructions that we use when we are arguing with our parents or flirting with a prospective prom date employ a regimented structure that we may not realize we are using. Basic understanding of piecing a sentence together is necessary for really taking that grammar score to the next level. Let’s take a look at some of the basic grammatical elements that make up our language.
Preparing for the SAT is a lot like working out. In order to maximize results, it’s best to put in a little bit of work everyday. If you are trying to bench-press 300 pounds, you won’t get there in one work out (if you do, you probably have a career in professional weightlifting ahead of you). Similarly, if you are trying to score at the highest level on the SAT, it’s best to prepare with at least a little work each day. Here is a sample five day, thirty minute a day, brain work out plan that will leave you ready for brain swimsuit season (OK, that’s not a thing, but it will leave you ready to attack the SAT).
Anyone who really wishes to achieve success on the SAT should not only be able to identify what makes up a correct answer, but also what makes an incorrect answer. The anatomy of an incorrect answer choice is not as complex as one might expect and gives students an important tool in selecting the correct answer choice: the power to eliminate all the other, less deserving options. The most common characteristic of an incorrect answer choice is the fact that it cannot possibly be correct given the context of the problem.
One of the worst feelings in many student’s young test taking lives is furiously working away at some standardized test, and really feeling that they are NAILING IT, only to look up at the clock and realize they have five minutes to complete the next fifteen problems. Time management can be extremely tricky on the SAT, but there are a number of things that can be done before the test to insure that time is used effectively.
Of the errors on the SAT, the idiomatic error can seem to be the most difficult to spot. Though these kinds of errors are particularly tricky, there are some clear steps that can be taken to help prepare for the dreaded error of idiom.
What is an idiomatic error?
Essentially, an error of idiom is a mistake in the word or words, often prepositions, that are used in association with other words, often verbs. An example would be the previous phrase, “used in association with”. It would be incorrect to say “used for association with” or “used in association to”. There are literally thousands of idiomatic phrases in English. For this reason, it can be very difficult to strengthen this particular skill, though there are ways to increase one’s ability to spot an idiomatic error.
Considering how ubiquitous a piece of punctuation the comma is, it is surprisingly misunderstood. The comma has a number of uses that are described quite thoroughly here, but the most common comma errors on the SAT are comma splices, omission of commas when used with a conjunction to combine two independent clauses, and misuse of commas with the word ‘which’.
A lot of students, after they have gotten their first score, feel unsure whether or not they should take the SAT again. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to endeavor to conquer the four hour test after it has already been battled, but here are a few things to consider when deciding what to do.
One of the biggest tricks the SAT uses is to confuse students is putting a question in theoretical terms instead of in practical terms. This simply means the questions on the SAT will sometimes reference a general term, for example an even integer, rather than giving a concrete number that fits that description, such as two or four.
When students, even those who consider themselves strong in math, get to the final two problems of the SAT, many begin to sweat like they are about to embark on some epic journey from which they may never return. The hard probability problem makes students very uncomfortable, but in reality most harder math problems simply require one or two more steps than less difficult problems. Probability questions are actually some of the simplest to solve.
In most high schools in the United States, juniors and seniors naturally tend towards either the ACT or the SAT, depending on the region. In the Bay Area, for instance, far more college-bound students take the SAT than the ACT, for no apparent reason besides the fact that most of their peers are taking the SAT. In Southern states, the ACT is more dominant. Region, however, should not be the determining factor in choosing between these two tests; their subject matter, style, and requirements differ in important ways that many students don’t consider.
As coincidence would have it, within a couple weeks after the College Board announced major changes to the SAT (coming in 2016), I was already planning on taking the SAT at Lower Merion High School (which, as Kobe Bryant likes to point out, is the high school he and I went to…). Sure, I am 44-years old, but I take the SAT often to stay up on trends and changes to the test and to show students and parents that their tutor is capable of a 99th%-ile score in any of the three sections.
The essay begins the SAT and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a five paragraph essay in 25 minutes, but there are a few steps that can make the essay a piece of cake!
1. Make An Essay Template
The time spent figuring out how to structure an essay on the SAT is time wasted. This may sound counter intuitive as structure is a big part of what the SAT graders are evaluating, but it is this reason exactly that makes the structure of the essay the first thing that can be systematized and recycled. The essential make up of a five paragraph essay is simple. There is an introduction which presents the topic, states the thesis, acknowledges the opposition, and lays out how the essay will argue its point, three body paragraphs which use examples to support the thesis, and a conclusion which restates the thesis and briefly reminds the reader what it has just read.
In 2016 the SAT will undergo major changes for the first time in over a decade. Test takers can expect a less obscure vocabulary, more focused math sections, and a shorter test overall. Our own Shaan Patel was quoted in an article from U.S. News: “My opinion is this test will be easier than the current SAT and the College Board is betting on more students taking the SAT because of that.”
In grammar, as in life, agreement can be tricky. Subjects and verbs have to agree, verb tenses have to agree, sentence structures have to agree, and pronouns have to agree. Much agreement is necessary for a sentence to function properly, but one of the trickiest of the many agreement issues that can pop up on an SAT is the hidden agreement issue between some non-pronoun and its referent. This can be particularly tricky to spot, but with a little practice it will be easier than buying a pie (making a pie is actually pretty tough to do well).
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do on an SAT question is to see something that isn’t there. The SAT provides test takers with enough information to solve the questions, but sometimes the information is not stated explicitly. The easiest way for the makers of the SAT to disguise information is to give written description rather than a picture. Luckily, it doesn’t require Picasso’s eye for line to translate words into pictures. Here is an example:
Studying for the SAT is a fantastic idea and really the only way to ensure that you will succeed on the SAT, but not all studying is created equal. I have encountered a number of mistakes students make while studying from watching “Sex In The City” because they think it is a good place to look for essay ideas, to studying non-Euclidean geometry to study for the math.
In my tenure as an SAT teacher I have heard all explanations imaginable as to why the reading on the SAT is the most boring and awful reading in the known universe. Students tell me the reading is too dense, too dry, too descriptive, too hard.
There is no arguing with the fact that some of the passages on the SAT are less than thrilling, but in order to score at the highest level on the SAT, students must find a way to stay present and actively consume the material. There are a couple of techniques that can help with this process and allow students to answer questions about the passage effectively.
As trembling hands turn the first page of the SAT, the heart of students drops like a rock. This first problem is a WORD problem and word problems are IMPOSSIBLE! The student drops his or her head. How can the test begin with such a hard problem? Be of good cheer young test taker, not all word problems are created equal.
By the time you’ve taken your last SAT, you may be ready to defenestrate the nearest standardized test. I’m here to advise you to resist throwing either an SAT test or the habits you picked up while studying under Veritas Prep – such as learning new vocabulary – out the window. In all seriousness, you really have learned valuable habits through the Veritas Prep SAT course that I personally regret not employing during my freshman year of college.
The SAT’s upcoming redesign has some interesting elements – the return to the 1600 scale, the elimination of obscure-for-obscure’s-sake vocabulary, etc. – but perhaps the most noteworthy facet of the announcement is its continuation of a positive trend in standardized tests: a push for more “authentic” material.
So much time and energy is spent in preparing for the SAT. Many consider it the gate keeper to their college acceptence. It is a way to distinguish oneself on a level playing field from all others who are attempting to gain admission to college, but what is the SAT really? Is it an IQ test? Is it a college prep test? Does one really have to succeed on the SAT to do well in college?
One of the most common (and frustrating) questions SAT instructors hear from their enthusiastic but sometimes misguided students is this: is there a secret to dominating the SAT? As nice as it would be if there were some long guarded secret word or ritual that a student could invoke to dominate this test, there simply is no single secret. The SAT is a skills test and requires students to practice the skills it values. There are, however, a few tools that are useful on all tests which take the form of the SAT and use it to gain advantage. Here are 11 tips to help you on test day.
Today the College Board, the organization behind the SAT, announced sweeping changes to the standardized exam that will launch in the spring of 2016. As College Board president David Coleman promised last year when he announced that a new SAT was coming, the changes are meant to make the SAT less “coachable” and to make it more relevant to what is taught in high school classrooms. The changes also make the SAT much more like the ACT (the SAT’s chief competitor), although you won’t see any mention of that in the College Board’s publicity announcements for the new SAT.
Hey all you Juniors! June 7th, 2014 is probably the best time for you to take SAT Subject Tests on the subjects you are taking this school year. Why wait until the fall, when you will have had all summer to forget the chemistry, biology, US History, or whatever other classes you are taking right now?
Ever since I saw their first concert freshman year, I wanted to join my high school jazz band. I loved the sound and the energy the band had on stage; they looked like they were having a great time. However, I was a classic AP track student with a packed schedule; I managed to squeeze in marching/concert band first period, but for my first two years I just had to watch them play from the balcony where the concert band sat.
Picture in your mind the kind of person that gets a 2200 or above score on the SAT. You are probably picturing some Harvard bound wunderkind who attended the finest prep schools and excelled at all of them, or perhaps a bookish recluse whose entire life has been spent pursuing academia.
Friends, I am not those people, but I still managed to score in the 99th percentile on the SAT. I’m not a genius (ask the neighbors whose mailbox I destroyed because I was in reverse when I thought I was in drive), and I had a relatively normal upbringing in the public schools of North Carolina. I also did not do particularly well on the PSAT, which is generally an indicator of strength on the SAT.