I. Top 5 Myths About the SAT
1. The SAT Measures Intelligence
If your SAT score is not where you want it to be, don't get down on yourself. The SAT is only a measure of how well you take the SAT, not a measure of how smart you are. You can be a genius with a regular SAT score or a regular kid with a genius-like SAT score! It's all up to how hard you work at preparing, not how smart you are.
2. Stellar Grades Yield a High SAT Score
Perhaps the biggest mistake that "smart" students make when it comes to the SAT is that they let their ego interfere with their SAT score. I can't tell you how many times a parent has told me that his/her child got a low initial SAT score because the student decided to take the exam without preparing. Both the parent and the child believed that because of the student's excellent performance in school, that he/she would not have a problem scoring well on the SAT. Unfortunately, there is not significant overlap between what you learn in high school and the subjects covered on the SAT.
3. The SAT is Less Important Than Your GPA in College Admissions
For students looking to attend a competitive university, the SAT is much more important than their GPA. At prestigious universities, acceptance rates are dropping and average SAT scores are rising. Since almost every applicant already has a high GPA, to these prestigious schools, admissions officers need another measure to differentiate students' academic abilities: test scores.
4. You Should Take the SAT in the Spring of Your Junior Year
Perhaps the question that parents ask me the most: When should my child take the SAT? Well, if you asked this question to a high school counselor, he/she would tell you in the spring of junior year. But this is just "conventional wisdom" that has been passed on from counselor to counselor over the years. The problem with taking the SAT so late into the school year is that most students have AP exams and finals around that time as well. With so much on their plate, they have little time to study for the SAT. A better strategy is to take the SAT earlier when students don't have so much on their plate.
5. Your English and Math Teachers Are Good Resources to Prep for the SAT
While I commend all that my high school teachers have done to help me succeed, prepping me for the SAT is not on that list. SAT prep is simply not a high priority for most high school math and English teachers. In fact, many of the most effective strategies to tackle the SAT actually go against the core beliefs of high school teachers across the country. For example, in order to score high on the SAT Essay, you must write a long essay with big words in order to sound like an intelligent high school student. However, most high school English teachers would claim that quality is more important than quantity. While they may be correct in the real world, they are incorrect when it comes to the SAT.
II. Top 5 Strategies To Improve Your SAT Score Now
1. Write a Longer SAT Essay
An MIT study found that longer SAT Essays receive higher scores. So not only is it common knowledge among the SAT elite that a two-page essay will receive a higher score than a one-page essay, but it actually has research to support it! SAT Essay readers only have a few minutes to read each SAT Essay. They have hundreds of essays to read each day and cannot spend an enormous amount of time analyzing insights presented in every composition they read. Typically, smarter students have more to say. Therefore, essay readers discriminate against short essays. Make sure you practice filling up two full notebook pages in 25 minutes before test day!
2. Simulate Real Testing Conditions
You know the cliché: Practice makes perfect. But in reality, perfect practice makes perfect. And in order to practice perfectly, you should make sure your student mimics test day conditions when taking an SAT practice test at home. This means timing every section, no TV/internet/cell phone, 5-10 minute snack breaks every hour and nothing on his/her desk except a pencil, calculator, and water bottle. Know what to expect on test day.
3. Stop Using Algebra
Have you ever been given a multiple-choice exam in a high school algebra class? Chances are, probably not. That's because you could just plug in the potential solutions into the original algebra equation and see which one works. Essentially, you could bypass having to do any algebra at all. Well, guess what? That's exactly how the SAT is setup. When SAT test writers create multiple-choice algebra questions, they must give students the potential answers. So you should practice a powerful strategy called Plug In Numbers or PIN. If there are variables in the question, plug the potential options into the original equation and see which one works. You'll likely be able to avoid having to do algebra altogether!
4. Keep Your Pencil Glued to Your Test Booklet
Unlike a computerized exam, a paper test like the SAT allows you to physically write on questions and answer choices. By writing everything down, you will avoid information overload during this marathon exam and will have more thinking power to solve problems. Use your test booklet as a canvas to underline, cross out, and circle your way to a high SAT score!
5. Boost Your Vocabulary Skills
Nearly every student's least favorite part of SAT preparation is vocabulary memorization. However, boosting your vocabulary skills has many hidden benefits. It will help you answer more SAT passage-based reading questions correctly, become more articulate, and use more sophisticated language in college, scholarship, and high school essays. To make memorizing vocabulary a little bit more fun, post an SAT "word of the day" on your refrigerator or mirror every morning. Then try to use that word in conversations at least twice that day. You could improve the vocabulary of your whole family.
For more with Shaan Patel, please visit veritasprep.com and 2400expert.com.