SAT Myths and Tips
4 SAT Myths
MYTH #1: The SAT is a test of intelligence and my scores are a good indication of how I will do in college.
FACT: Your SAT scores reflect how good you are at taking the SAT (as well as how much time you spent preparing)–and that’s about it. Nevertheless, admissions officers continue to place great weight on this test. So it’s important to do well.
MYTH #2: The SAT tests complex math concepts.
FACT: SAT math can seem challenging because of the way the concepts are tested, not because of the concepts themselves. The math sections include concepts you learned in the seventh or eighth grade, like arithmetic, basic geometry, basic algebra and algebra II. You won’t see any calculus or trigonometry on the SAT.
MYTH #3: You can’t really improve your Critical Reading score.
FACT: You can improve your Critical Reading score by expanding your vocabulary. Reading comprehension and sentence completions all rely upon your understanding of the words in the questions and answer choices. So read books, newspapers and anything else you can get your hands on, and check out our SAT prep for additional vocabulary-building tools.
MYTH #4: It’s better to leave a question blank than to guess.
FACT: Not necessarily. You receive one point for every correct answer, zero points for every question you leave unanswered and minus one-quarter of a point for every incorrect answer If you can eliminate even one of the answer choices, guess! From a purely statistical standpoint, this approach will gain you more points over the whole test than you’ll get by playing it safe and leaving the questions blank.
3 SAT Tips
We’re not big fans of the SAT. It doesn’t measure intelligence. It can’t possibly measure your future success in college. The SAT measures one thing, and one thing only: how good you are at taking the SAT.
That’s good news! It means you don’t have to be a genius to improve your score. You simply have to understand how the exam works.
Here are three SAT tips to help you be a smart test-taker:
Know the order of difficulty.
SAT questions can be divided into three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard. The questions in the first third of each section are easy, those in the second third are medium and those in the last third are hard. (The only exception is the Reading Comprehension passages, which do not follow this order.)
Every question on the SAT is worth an equal amount. So spend your time making sure you get the easy and medium questions correct and tackle the hard questions if time remains. Rushing through the test to get to the hardest questions will only drag your score down.
Don’t be Joe.
Joe Bloggs is your average student. He gets the average score, 500, on each section. He gets all of the easy questions correct; he gets some of the medium questions correct; he gets all of the hard questions wrong.
Why is this important to you? Because our friend Joe is predictable. He gets all of the easy questions right because the choices that look correct are correct. He gets all of the hard questions wrong because the choices that look correct are wrong. If you know what Joe will do, you can make better decisions!
If you’re working on an easy question, the answer that seems right probably is. If you’re working on a hard question, the answer that seems right is always wrong. Use this strategy to help you eliminate choices for difficult questions.
Use the process of elimination.
Don’t know the right answer? It happens. But if know which choices are definitely wrong (see above), you significantly improve your chances of getting the question right.
Each question has five possible choices. Eliminate one or more possibilities, and your chances of guessing correctly are 25% or better. An incorrect guess will cost you only a quarter of a point. A correct guess will add an entire point.
Let’s say there are 8 questions where you eliminate 1 choice and guess among the remaining 4 choices. Statistically, you will guess correctly 2 times and incorrectly 6 times. You are rewarded 2 points and penalized 1.5 points. You just earned .5 points from guessing. Congrats—you’ve improved your score!