SAT Strategies You Need To Know

mindset sat preparation testing strategies Jun 16, 2022
How thinking differently will raise your SAT score


Opposite of a School Test

What’s the most important thing to know about taking your SAT? Forget everything you know about taking a test in school. What??? Yes, that’s what I said. In many respects, this test is the opposite of tests that you take in your classes at school. 

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School tests are designed to test information you have learned in a specific class. The SAT cannot be designed that way. Not all students take the same classes. There is a very specific set of rules for the Writing and Language test and very specific list of concepts for the Math tests. Familiarizing yourself with these rules and concepts is mandatory to score well. 


The Reading section is different. It is a skill section. Chances are very good you have never seen any of the passages before and even better you will never see them after test day. The answers to the questions asked on the Reading section HAVE TO BE in the passage. You just need to develop the skill of finding them quickly and accurately.


No Style Points

All you want is the correct answer as quickly and accurately as you can get them. Hmmmm, does that sound familiar? It is a recurrent theme in preparing for the SAT. As students, it is drilled into your brain to take your time, show ALL your work, and read the material for comprehension and retention. 


As a math teacher it hurts me every time I say this, but just get the answer the easiest way you can. Only write out steps and information that will help you find the correct answer. Plug in the answers, work backwards, use estimation, go back a look for the answer is the passage. There are NO style points. 


Every question is worth 1 point. Skip the ones you don’t know and get all the points you can. The easy questions are worth the same as the hard questions. This is a skill many students need to practice. They are used to being rewarded for solving the harder questions. The test writers count on that. Time is not your friend. Think of it as an Easter Egg hunt. Don’t waste your time looking for the golden egg. They are all golden. 



The Answer Has to Be There

Look at the answers BEFORE you try to solve the question. The correct answer HAS TO BE there. Why reinvent the wheel? Let the answers help you. 


Process of Elimination is your friend. Often you can eliminate 2 of the 4 choices right away. Look at the differences between the remaining answers. Let that help you solve the problem or answer the question. 


These are standardized tests. That means that ALL students have to agree without argument that one and only one answer is correct. Practice will help you recognize the structure of both the questions and the answers. Think of it like watching game film of an upcoming opponent. They can’t run a trick play if you have already seen it. 


You’ll Never See This Information Again

One of the biggest mistakes students make is pouring over the reading passages, painstakingly reading every word before they even look at the questions. ALL you want is the right answer as quickly as you can get it. The questions on the Reading section only cover about 25 - 30% of the passage. The rest you don’t need and after this test, you will NEVER see it again, so reading like you read your textbooks is just a waste of your valuable time. 


Skills vs Concepts

Earlier I said that the SAT could not be designed to test concepts you learned in a specific class at school. Of course you need to know basic rules of grammar and some math concepts. But the Reading section is a skill section. All of the information you need to answer EVERY question is in the passage. You just need to find it quickly and accurately. 


There is that phrase again, “quickly and accurately.” That is a skill and skills require practice. When you are planning to take the SAT, make sure you block out time to practice the skills your are learning. It isn’t easy to change the habits  you have developed in school but it is the first step toward getting your best score on the SAT. 

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