How to Beat the SAT’s

How to Beat the SATs

Leann Stick, Staff Writer

Methods of Study

There are many ways to study for the SAT’s, and they all involve time. Unfortunately, this is not a test that’s crammable. Many businesses offer SAT study programs, including businesses like Kaplan, PrepScholar, The Princeton Review, and many others. Undoubtedly, the best free study program is Khan Academy. Although most students might know Khan Academy by the boring, monotoned, black videos that save them for tomorrows’ test, their SAT prep is unmatched by any other free program. Khan Academy can connect with PSAT scores to make a curated study plan to help a specific individual work to optimize their study time. As for one-on-one style tutoring, many local businesses (and online as well, using video chat) offer tutoring. Mr. Kocian offers after school tutoring for the SAT (which is completely free) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays in A-16.

The best way to study on your own is to take a free practice test and score it, to get an idea of how you will do on the real thing. Then once you have your scores on the different sections, see which one needs the most improvement and focus on that one. Once your score has been improved on the worse section, you can perfect the better section’s score. Remember when studying to take breaks every 20-30 minutes, studying for long increments of time with no breaks is cause for exhaustion.

The math sections are easier to study for, it’s easy to learn a math skill then apply it to the test. If you see a concept on the practice test that you are unfamiliar with, look up a video online of the concept. More than likely there will be many videos that explain how to do the math. There are also websites like Math is Fun, which have detailed explanations in writing as well as practice problems to help you master the skill. Once you have the math concept down, you can apply it to the problems that you see on the SAT. DO NOT try to memorize formulas for the SAT, a formula sheet it provided at the beginning of both math sections, only memorize basic algebraic formulas.

The reading section can be studied for by learning how to spot information while reading, so learning to skim read while still picking up details is very important. Most of the questions will ask you to interpret or recall things from the passage, so make sure to practice picking up information while reading. To save time on the reading section, try looking at the question first, then going back in the passage to look for key words to then help you answer the question.

For the writing section, read up on grammar and punctuation. Many of the SAT writing questions ask for the appropriate punctuation within the paragraphs that are written. There are questions that ask about adding sentences, what the most relevant information is, the order of a series of words, the pluralization of words, possessive words, and changes to make the writing more concise. NoRedInk is a website that helps you practice punctuation and grammar, which can then be applied to the SAT.

Test Taking Strategies

Maintaining focus for 3 consecutive hours is not something that many students encounter on a regular school day, suddenly having to do this on the testing day can throw many students off. Something good to practice at home is focusing for long increments of time. Start by only 30 minutes of sitting still and focusing on a task, then progress to 1 hour the next day, then 1 hour 30 minutes the next day, and the day after that 2 hours, and so on. When you’re not worrying about how bored you are, you can concentrate on the task at hand.

One of the best strategies for answering questions is elimination. This is best on the math section, where obviously wrong answers can be spotted and eliminated. Look at the question logically and see what answers don’t make sense. Read the question carefully for words like ‘not’, ‘always’, ‘true’, ‘false’, ‘never’, and ‘always’. Often times looking at this detail can eliminate some of the answers, allowing you to select from a smaller group to up your chances of getting the question correct. Another good thing to do is study with a watch, this gets you used to timing your questions (see ‘Time Management’ section for more details).

If you really have no idea how to answer the question, statistics are on your side. Author and MIT graduate, William Poundstone analyzed 2456 test questions to find out the odds behind multiple choice tests. The answers ‘none of the above’ and ‘all of the above’ were found to be correct about 52% of the time. So, if in doubt about a question with one of those as the answer, pick it. He also concluded that the longest answer is usually correct. He also found that for ‘true or false’ questions, ‘true’ was correct about 56% of the time.

Time Management

Arguably, the hardest part of the SAT is the time management skills that it requires. The sections are spaced out as follows: reading/65 mins/52 questions, writing/35 mins/44 questions, math no calculator/25 mins/ 20 questions, math calculator/55 mins/38 questions. If you divide the time that each section gives you by the amount of questions, you should get a good idea of the amount of time that can be spent on each question. For reading you’ll probably spend about 3:45 seconds on each of the 5 passages (18:45 for all of them), leaving you with 00:53 per question. On the writing section you have about 00:47 seconds per question. On the math no calculator section you have about 1:15 per question. On the math with calculator section you have about 00:45 per question.

Try to memorize the above numbers in that order. 53, 47, 115, and 45. These will be the only numbers you’ll have to memorize for the test. You should also bring in a watch to the testing day, not a smart watch, an analog watch (they will take the smart watch away from you). You can keep track of your time on each question. But don’t worry if your times vary a little bit, some question are more difficult and take a longer time, some are easier and take less time. Just focus on setting a good pace, because if you go too fast, you’ll miss details and therefore miss the question.

Remember that the SAT is not a measure of intelligence, it’s a measure of knowledge. Knowledge can be gained, whereas intelligence cannot. So, if your score isn’t what you were hoping for, know that it can always be improved upon.