A question we get all the time from SAT students is, "aren't you going to show me some SAT test tricks and tips that will send my score soaring?" The answer is, "yes and no." Of course we're going to teach you all of the inside SAT test tips and tricks that we've taught thousands of students. Those will get you some quick points and you'll be glad you knew them.
The SAT Test.
The TestSherpa course will go to great depths with sophisticated methods and techniques you need to know to score the highest you can on the SAT Test. This is simply a basic overview of the SAT test – the absolutely critical information you need to know to start your study. There are a number of very simple strategies that can help you right away. These simple strategies are easy to learn, but you need to practice them and review them frequently until they are second nature to you. You don’t want to get to test day and forget something as basic as your watch or have to worry about timing. With the proper practice, the right test strategies will be a habit, maybe not an enjoyable habit, but a good habit nonetheless.
Why do I have to take the SAT Test?
The SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills you will need for academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well you analyze and solve problems—skills you learned in school that you will need in college. But the bottom line is that most colleges require an entrance exam score just to consider you for admissions.
What is the New SAT?
The College Entrance Examination Board changed the SAT test stating in March 2005. It now includes an essay that you will have to write, a multiple-choice section that asks you to identify problems with sentence structure, along with questions about improving sentences and paragraphs. You will be tested on grammar and usage, but you do not have to define terms. Also, spelling and capitalization are not tested.
The new SAT test has removed the analogies and quantitative comparison questions that were on previous versions of the test. Instead, you will find reading passages that are a paragraph in length and a short paired paragraph.
The Math section is beefed up with some advanced topics such as Algebra II, stats, probability and data analysis.
You will still face the other sections from the previous version of the SAT test, including longer reading passages, a long paired passage and other math questions.
SAT Test Sections
The three sections of the SAT Test are:
- Critical reading, which has sentence completion and passage-based questions
- Math, which is based on the math that college-bound students typically learn during their first three years of high school
- Writing, which has multiple-choice questions and a written essay
- 70 min. (two 25 min. sections, one 20 min. section)
- Multiple choice and “student-produced” responses
- Numbers, operations, functions, Algebra, advanced Algebra, geometry, statistics, data analysis and probability
- Scoring: 200-800
- 70 min. (two 25 min. sections, one 20 min. section)
- Sentence completion, critical reading
- Scoring: 200-800
- 60 min. (25 min. essay, 35 multiple choice questions across two sections)
- Multiple choice questions about finding problems and fixing sentences and paragraphs, and a student-written essay that tests your ability to express and back up a point of view
- Scoring: 200-800
- Essay score: 2-12
- Multiple-choice score: 20-80
According to the College Entrance Examination Board: “Colleges want to know not only how well you write, but also how well you express and then back up a point of view. You will have 25 minutes to write your essay, which will count for approximately 30% of the score for the writing section. The essay will be scored as a first draft, not as a polished piece of writing. The essay must be written with a No. 2 (soft-lead) pencil.”
The essay measures your ability to:
- write your particular perspective about an issue presented
- develop a line of critical thought that supports your perspective by using examples from your reading, education, life, and ideas
- show that you can use proper written style and grammar for standard written English
The essay portion of the SAT test lets you demonstrate that you can effectively develop and communicate your thoughts and perspectives. Because this may be one of the few chances you get to show that you can put forth your ideas in written form, you should take your time to consider your perspective and present your ideas logically and clearly.
You must write your essay in the line of your answer sheet. You cannot use other paper or blue books to write your essay in. You will not run out of room if you take care to use every line and keep your margins and the size of your writing reasonably small. It is also important that your handwriting be as careful and clear as possible. First, your handwriting is like a first impression at an interview. Before reading a single word, your handwriting will say something about you to the reader. Second, you want to make sure that your writing is actually legible, or your interesting and logical ideas cannot even be read and scored.
Important SAT Essay Reminders:
- If you write your essay in pen, you will score a zero. Be sure to write the essay in pencil.
- You will only be scored on what you write in the answer sheet. Nothing you write in the test booklet will be scored.
- You might think that it is cute and original to write an essay that does not directly address the topic — some disreputable test prep companies even suggest this — but an off-topic essay receives a zero every time.
- You have twenty-five minutes to write an essay on the topic assigned below.
Bring a Good Watch and Calculator
You must pace yourself through each section and not rely on the room clock or the proctor. You are not allowed to use a noisy watch during the test. Watches that beep can be taken from you. The best bet is to use a digital watch with a stopwatch function that doesn’t beep. The next best bet is to use an analog watch. Set the hands of the analog watch to noon at the beginning of every section. That way, it’s easy to tell at a glance how much time you have left.
Have a calculator at hand when you take the math sections. This will help you determine how much to use a calculator the day of the test. Use a calculator with which you are familiar.
Acceptable (“Legal”) SAT Calculators
Calculators permitted during testing are:
- graphing calculators
- scientific calculators
- four-function calculators (not recommended)
If you have a calculator with characters that are 1 inch or higher, or if your calculator has a raised display that might be visible to other test-takers, you will be seated at the discretion of the test supervisor.
You will not be allowed to share calculators. You will be dismissed and your scores canceled if you use your calculator to share information during the test or to remove test questions or answers from the test room.
Unacceptable (“Forbidden”) SAT Calculators
Unacceptable calculators are those that:
- use QWERTY (typewriter-like) keypads
- require an electrical outlet
- “talk” or make unusual noises
- use paper tape
- are electronic writing pads, pen input/stylus-driven devices, pocket organizers, cell phones, powerbooks, or handheld or laptop computers
Use Practice SAT Tests
You can and should take practice tests which are widely available. Take as many as you can and simulate the conditions of the actual SAT test. They reinforce your test-taking skills and TestSherpa strategies and you will certainly be more comfortable when you take the actual SAT test. Practice tests will give you a good idea of what to expect on the actual test. However, the test you eventually take will differ in some ways. It may, for example, contain a different number of reading passages, and its sections may be in a different order. Also, practice SAT tests typically include only nine of the ten sections that the actual test contains. This is because one of the ten sections is experimental and unscored.
After you score your practice test, analyze your performance. Asking yourself these questions and following the suggestions can help you improve your scores:
- Did you run out of time before you finished a section? Try to pace yourself so you will have time to answer all the questions you can. Don’t spend too much time on any one question. The TestSherpa method will teach you how to make the most of your time on the SAT test.
- Did you hurry and make careless mistakes? You may have misread the question, neglected to notice a word like “except” or “best,” or solved for the wrong value.
- Did you spend too much time reading directions? You should be familiar with the test directions so you don’t have to spend as much time reading them when you take the actual test.
When taking your practice SAT tests:
- Set aside 3 hours and 20 minutes of uninterrupted time. That way you can complete the entire test in one sitting. Note: the total testing time is 3 hours and 45 minutes, but you save 25 minutes because the unscored section is usually omitted from practice SAT tests.
- Sit at a desk or table cleared of any other papers or books. You won’t be able to take a dictionary, books, notes, or scratch paper into the test room.
- Allow yourself the specified amount of time for each section. Pace yourself by using a watch (without an audible alarm), which is what you are allowed on test day.
- Have a calculator at hand when you take the math sections. This will help you determine how much to use a calculator the day of the test. Use a calculator with which you are familiar.
- Read the test instructions carefully. They are reprinted from the back cover of the test book. On test day, you will be asked to read them before you begin answering questions. If you take the entire TestSherpa course, you will be well familiar with the instructions so you will not need to waste any time reading them on test day. If you save a couple of minutes, you might get an extra question or two.
Don’t Read the Instructions on Test Day
After completing the TestSherpa SAT test course, you will know exactly how to attack each section. Taking a minute or two to read the directions for a section is like throwing away a point.
Of course the directions are totally intuitive, especially after you’ve practiced with some practice tests. But, if you must read them at all, the directions will look something like the following examples. Read them now and get them out of your system.
SAT Test General Instructions
You will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to work on this test.
There are ten separately timed sections:
- One 25-minute essay
- Six other 25-minute sections
- Two 20-minute sections
- One 10-minute section
When working in each section:
- You may work on only one section at a time.
- The supervisor will tell you when to begin and end each section.
- If you finish a section before time is called, check your work on that section. You may NOT turn to any other section.
- Work as rapidly as you can without losing accuracy. Don’t waste time on questions that seem too difficult for you.
- Carefully mark only one answer for each question.
- Make sure each mark is dark and completely fills the circle.
- Do not make any stray marks on your answer sheet.
- If you erase, do so completely. Incomplete erasures may be scored as intended answers.
- Use only the answer spaces that correspond to the question numbers.
- You may use the test book for scratchwork, but you will not receive credit for anything written there.
- After time has been called, you may not transfer answers to your answer sheet or fill in circles.
- You may not fold or remove pages or portions of a page from this book, or take the book or answer sheet from the testing room.
- For each correct answer to a question, you receive one point.
- For questions you omit, you receive no points.
- For a wrong answer to a multiple-choice question, you lose one-fourth of a point.
- If you can eliminate one or more of the answer choices as wrong, you increase your chances of choosing the correct answer and earning one point.
- If you can’t eliminate any choice, move on. You can return to the question later if there is time.
- For a wrong answer to a student-produced response (“grid-in”) math question, you don’t lose any points.
- The essay is scored on a 1 to 6 scale by two different readers. The total essay score is the sum of the two readers’ scores.
- An off-topic or blank essay will receive a score of zero.
You will become familiar with the specific sections of the test as you progress through the TestSherpa SAT Test Prep lab. Just remember that taking the time to read the instructions on test day could cost you enough time for 5-10 raw points.
Basic Math Content
Here are the basic concepts covered in the math sections of the SAT. Don’t worry, the TestSherpa Lab will cover these concepts in detail. If there are areas on this list that give you particular grief, you may want to seek out some extra tutoring help before you get to test day.
Number and Operations
- Arithmetic word problems (including percent, ratio, and proportion)
- Properties of integers (even, odd, prime numbers, divisibility, etc.)
- Rational numbers
- Logical reasoning
- Sets (union, intersection, elements)
- Counting techniques
- Sequences and series (including exponential growth)
- Elementary number theory
Algebra and Functions
- Substitution and simplifying algebraic expressions
- Properties of exponents
- Algebraic word problems
- Solutions of linear equations and inequalities
- Systems of equations and inequalities
- Quadratic equations
- Rational and radical equations
- Equations of lines
- Absolute value
- Direct and inverse variation
- Concepts of algebraic functions
- Newly defined symbols based on commonly used operations
Geometry and Measurement
- Area and perimeter of a polygon
- Area and circumference of a circle
- Volume of a box, cube, and cylinder
- Pythagorean Theorem and special properties of isosceles, equilateral, and right triangles
- Properties of parallel and perpendicular lines
- Coordinate geometry
- Geometric visualization
Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability
- Data interpretation
- Statistics (mean, median, and mode)
More Basic SAT Strategies
Here are some simple tips to raising your score quickly
Get the Easy SAT Points First
You earn just as many points for easy questions as you do for hard questions. The easier questions are at the beginning of the section and the harder questions at the end—except for Critical Reading questions, which are ordered according to the logic and organization of each passage.
It’s OK to Guess on the SAT Test
If you can rule out one or more answer choices for a multiple-choice question as definitely wrong, your chances of guessing the right answer improve. For math questions without answer choices, fill in your best guess; no points are subtracted for wrong answers as they are in all other question types.
Skip the Stumpers
But if you can rule out any choice, you probably should guess from among the rest of the choices.
You do not have to answer every question correctly to get a good score on the SAT
You can get an average score by answering about half of the questions correctly and omitting the remaining questions.
Use your test book for scratch work
You can also cross off choices you know are wrong and mark questions you have omitted so you can go back to them if you have time.
Keep track of time
If you finish a section before time is called, check your answers in that section only.