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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
The Reading Section is often considered the most difficult section of the SAT. Here’s a game-changing tip from a SAT 2400 tutor that’s guaranteed to boost your score.
Often, students find the Reading Section to be the trickiest section of the SAT because of the sheer amount of information they have to remember. In an earlier blog post, I discussed how making targeted summaries can help students process the information in a passage. Although this strategy is a lifesaver for many, questions that reference specific details from the passages can still throw students off. These include questions that ask what the author of one passage would think of a quoted line from the other passage, such as the one below:
“NOT READING!” I can hear the cries of thousands of young SAT test takers as they get to this section of their SAT. “This section is impossible! And subjective! And you can’t study for it!” Dear student, you are wrong on all accounts! Not only is this section as objective as any other section of the SAT, but it can also be dominated like the other sections by taking into advisement a few simple steps:
Last week, we talked about 5 ways to score higher in math, and this week we’ll take a look at how to do that in the writing section. It’s actually easier than it sounds! I used to personally loathe (hate) this section of the SAT. I would have anxiety dreams about it: a giant semicolon would be trying to eat me and my children (I don’t have children). As time went by, however, I found that there is no need to fear as there are concrete steps that you can take to ace this section of the SAT. Here are 5 tips to help you succeed on the writing section of the SAT:
The SAT, one of the most loathed and feared tests for high school students, can feel impossible to conquer. For many ambitious young people, above 700 on math is the holy grail of scores: you hear that it can be achieved but actually reaching it seems impossible. Dear friend: fear not! The grail has been found and there are concrete steps that can be taken to help you achieve above a 700 on the math portion of SAT.
The Reading Section is often considered the most difficult section of the SAT. Here’s a game-changing tip from a Veritas Prep SAT 2400 tutor that’s guaranteed to boost your score.
At Veritas Prep, we’ve made it our mission to teach students how to simplify their approach to the Reading Section. In particular, students struggle with the passage-based questions because of the sheer amount of information they have to process, as well as the difficulty they face in choosing the most ‘logical ‘answer choice. After all, a passage-based question isn’t like a math question with only one possible answer, right?
You’ve always been a person who trusts your gut. You’ve got good instincts, everyone says so. It’s why you were such an early adopter on Instagramming pictures of your dog dressed as different fruits and why you knew not to eat the “cold noodles” at the sketchy Chinese food place on the corner that sent your friends into an abdominal abyss for days, so it’s no wonder you’re so good at tests. You just pick the answer that feels right, and most of the time, your feeling is right! Great, right? WRONG!
Once again there are two answer choices that seem equally alluring and dangerous. You know your stuff: the answer is always in the passage, but as you look at the two choices with growing unease you remember both statements being discussed. Which one is it? Which one is supreme!
This is a common situation that many students face during the reading comprehension section of the SAT. The first and golden rule of the SAT reading section is that the answer is always in the passage. If the passage doesn’t mention it, or accomplish the task that the question indicates, it is NOT the correct answer. However, our understanding cannot stop here! It is not just mentioning something in the passage that makes an answer choice correct, it is the presence of evidence to support that the answer choice is 100% true in the section being referenced.
Before getting into test prep, I was a classical music composer. I worked pretty long hours composing pieces for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and symphony orchestras. Sometimes I would run into writer’s blocks at very specific places in a composition. I couldn’t decide which motive the oboe should play, or whether or not to double the counterpoint on the harp. How I found my way out of such binds is also how I later found my way out of tough questions on standardized tests like the SAT.
Twenty-five minutes to complete the essay portion of the SAT seems like an impossible feat, but with the right preparation you can tackle this task with ease. Writing an essay usually requires a great deal of time, information gathering, planning, and drafting, but you can still pull off a well-written essay that will give you the score you are yearning for.
Many times, our talented and accomplished students report that they know all of the math concepts on the SAT and are fully capable of solving all of the problems. However, they frequently complain that they make “dumb” or “careless” mistakes on the SAT and lose points. While some of these mistakes seem silly in hindsight, many of the questions on the SAT are designed to lure students into tricks and traps or force errors if the students are not paying close attention to the wording.
The SAT is a standardized test, which means that it aims to be an objective measure of performance for test-takers regardless of whether the test is taken in October or May and regardless of which version of the test is taken. The actual questions on the test might change, but the SAT needs to allow college admissions officer to confidently compare the score of a student who took the October SAT to the score of a student who takes the May SAT even though the two students will see different questions on the tests.
If you’ve been reading our articles, you already know that there are only so many techniques and tricks that the SAT can use to make questions difficult. On the writing multiple-choice section, there about only a dozen grammar and style rules that you need to know in order to get a perfect Writing score. On the SAT, it is particularly important to pay attention to one specific punctuation mark: the comma.
Next time you’re doing a practice SAT math problem, you might just find that it could be helpful to channel a little Missy Elliott from her classic hit song “Work It” and ask yourself “Is it worth it? Let me work it. I put my thing down flip it and reverse it.” Let’s explain.
The SAT is primarily a reasoning test as opposed to a test you might see in high school. On the math section, although the SAT tests some math, it primarily tests reasoning skills and students abilities to think critically with math as the common language. SAT math questions will rarely be the straightforward type that you see on high school math tests.
Once again you find yourself staring at an “Identifying Sentence Error” problem. You are prepared! You have in your arsenal all the common errors that occur on the SAT. You know to avoid the common indicators of awkward phrasing and you can identify a subject and verb disagreement with both eyes closed and two hands and a foot tied behind your back.
It’s easy to jump an extra point on the SAT essay when you’ve got specific, relevant examples. Good logical reasoning can definitely help you get a better score, but if you can combine your solid logic with powerful, concrete, real-world examples, you’ll be well on your way to a 12!
To do this, create an “Example Chart” like the one pictured below, and add at least 3-5 items to each category. Choose things that you are an expert in, not ones that necessarily sound the most scholarly.