The SAT is perhaps the best-known college admissions tool. It is also one with a popular history of fear and foreboding. High school juniors and seniors dread their test days and enter exam centers with the single, paralyzing thought that this score determines their future university path. (Or at least, I did.)
However, like a high number of haunted houses and horror films (seasonally appropriate, no?), the mysticism that surrounds the SAT serves to embellish its impact and worsen its true nature. Yes, pupils should treat the SAT with serious consideration. But there is no need to vilify a test that is entirely surmountable.
“How?” you ask. True, there is no magic trick that allows students to earn a strong mark with minimal or no effort. The necessary steps require a degree of commitment, both in time and effort, but they are both manageable and simple. Begin here, right this instant, by reading the four suggestions below for a successful SAT test day.
1. Prepare your body (as well as your mind)
At three hours and forty-five minutes in length, the SAT is a substantial exam. For a significant percentage of high school students, the SAT may also represent their longest test to date. Given the stakes associated with the exam, it is crucial to ensure you provide your body with the items it requires to perform in peak condition – namely, a good evening’s rest and a nutritious breakfast. In the scramble immediately preceding the SAT, these necessities often fall to the wayside. Do not allow this! Your sharp(er) mind will thank you.
2. Utilize every second of exam time
Three hours and forty-five minutes translates to 13,500 seconds. Your mission? Use each moment to its fullest. By the two-hour mark, this may (admittedly) seem like an unattainable goal. Even the most committed of test-takers may wish to rush merely so they can exit the exam room. Avoid this impulse. Review and revise your essay. Revisit problems you skipped or of which you were uncertain. The College Board allows you 13,500 seconds for a reason – they estimate that it is the average time necessary to successfully complete the SAT. One full test session is far shorter than having to add on a second sitting, so do your best to meet your score expectations now!
3. Guess, but do so sparingly and with reservation
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that you will not understand everything that is tested on the SAT. When this occurs, do not simply choose answer C. Incorrect answers carry a quarter-point deduction in several sections of the vast exam. In a competitive college admissions market, every point on the SAT matters. If you cannot first eliminate a minimum of two potential responses, make note of the problem and continue onward. If time permits, return to the question at the close of the test. Should it not, a blank response garners no penalty.
4. Maintain a clear exam perspective
Contrary to popular opinion, the SAT does not measure the intelligence of its test-takers. Instead, it gauges the ability of high school students to recognize a particular type of problem and deploy the appropriate strategy. The SAT, therefore, tests problem-solving skills. If you struggle with issues of algebra or sentence structure, take heart. Learn to recognize patterns, rather than attempting to learn your entire English or mathematics textbook. Acknowledge important keywords in explanations and instructions. Finally: remember that the SAT is just an exam. You can achieve success on exam day with the above suggestions and careful planning.
Good luck to you all on your big test day!
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