SAT Tip of the Week: Remember That the Test is Standardized

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT, as all of you know, is a whole different animal compared to most tests you take. In terms of time, content, and structure, it’s definitely not your average high school exam. While this difference can serve to make the SAT seem particularly difficult, it can actually be a boon to test takers.

Whereas high school tests operate by their own rules and procedures that vary class-by-class and school-by-school, the SAT is by definition a standardized test. And although standardized tests are usually thought of as a drag, in this case standardization makes taking the SAT a lot easier.

Since the SAT is standardized, it has to operate the same way every time – it always plays by the same rules, always has similar types of questions, always has the same instructions, and so on. How is this information helpful to a test taker? Here are three ways to use this knowledge to your advantage:

1) There are no surprises.
Since the SAT has to operate by the same rules on each of its versions, you know what you’re going to get on each exam. There are limited and delineated areas of content, so there’s no chance a question on advanced calculus will show up on your test. Keeping this consistency in mind can help alleviate some stress about the SAT, since you know that if you’ve studied hard, you’ll be prepared for anything the College Board throws at you.

2) Answer choices have to be totally and completely defensible.
Since the test is strictly standardized, there can only be one right answer on each question. Let me say that again: there can only be one right answer per question! No other answer choice besides the right one can be at all correct. If there were answers that were debatable or questionable, then the standardization mechanism of the test would fall apart – there would be no way for the College Board to definitively say who scored better or worse if some questions had two answer possibilities.

So, when taking the test, know that if you find yourself stuck between two answer choices, then you’re thinking about the question wrong in some way. While it can be hard on the ego to admit this, it will help you re-frame these difficult questions in your head and be more confident in your ultimate answers. 

3) Practice really can make perfect (or at least better).  
Going along with the first point, since you know what general questions are going to be on the test, you can know that you are practicing the right things. Unlike some high school tests where you spend days studying only to realize the test isn’t what you thought it was going to be, on the SAT, the real tests will look exactly like the practice tests. So, the more you practice, the more you’ll be prepared for the real thing – it’s as simple as that!

Instead of thinking of the standardization and repetitiveness of the SAT as annoying, now you can know that it is this exact standardization that makes it easier to succeed on this challenging exam.

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By Aidan Calvelli.