SAT Tip of the Week: How Are These Strategies Relevant to the Rest of My Life?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullQ: Studying for the SAT feels so useless. I know this will help me score higher on this test, but ten years from now I won’t really care about PIN, TAC, WYPAD, misplaced modifiers, or order of difficulty. Why should I even care about any of this? Why is the SAT testing me on things I’ll never actually have to know? Am I the only one who thinks this whole exercise is just a huge waste of time?

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one wondering–I get this question a lot. We all understand that standardized tests are important for college admissions, but the concepts in SAT curricula often seem too test-specific to be applicable to life beyond standardized testing. Fortunately, there’s more to SAT test prep than just test preparation: many of the skills covered are highly applicable to both academic and professional life.

Here are a few of the most useful things you can take away from your SAT prep course besides a higher SAT score.

  • An eye for grammar. We’ve all joked about grammar nazis, but the reality is that good grammar is a highly valuable skill both in school and in the working world. Every essay, application, resume, cover letter, and professional email you ever write will command more respect and be taken more seriously if it is grammatically correct. I personally don’t think it makes sense that most American students stop studying grammar after middle school; since poor grammar is so common in both school and work, strong grammar can be a great advantage in applying for jobs, making good impressions in letters, and achieving higher grades on written assignments.
  • Logical and quantitative thinking skills. A basic understanding of math will help you develop the quantitative side of your mind, making it easier to think critically about school subjects like science, economics, and engineering, as well as about useful life skills like budgets, finance, and investment. For example, you may not need to remember the acronyms PIN and TAC, but it’s important to understand that abstract concepts can be expressed concretely, and that working backwards is a perfectly valid way to solve a problem.
  • Formal prose writing skills. Sure, not everything you write after high school will be in the form of a five-paragraph essay–but introductions, topic sentences, transitions, conclusions, signposting, tone, logical flow, logical structure, and conciseness are essential elements of just about any piece of formal prose. Strong understanding of these elements can make your writing more convincing, interesting, and understandable, which can improve your grades, build your brand, and open up job opportunities.
  • Reading comprehension skills. SAT Reading passages expose you to and improve your ability to understand more complex and academic writing than many students are used to. Since reading is one of the primary ways we learn, both in school and at work, strong reading comprehension skills can make you a better student and a better learner in almost any field you pursue, either academically or professionally.
  • Ability to analyze and criticize written works. SAT Reading passages improve your ability to think critically about things you read by making you more aware of tone, purpose, style, organization, and other elements of writing that clarify authors’ intentions, perspectives, and arguments. By better understanding authors and their goals, you can better analyze their writing and are less likely to take them at face value. For instance, it is extraordinarily useful to be able to identify an newspaper article’s hidden political agenda, or to be able to read the mood of colleagues or business partners through their professional correspondence.

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Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.