Thursday, March 8, 2012

More SAT help

The SAT is a standardized test which is required for college admission by many colleges and universities in the United States. The College Board designs and administers the SAT to test "critical thinking and problem-solving skills" in Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Writing. In other words, the SAT primarily tests reasoning skills, not knowledge in any particular subject area. However, a certain amount of knowledge in these subjects is necessary in order to excel on the exam.
The SAT includes three sections, each of which can earn a maximum score of 800 and a minimum score of 200. For the test-taker's final score, the College Board adds the three scores together. On average, students answer 50 to 60 percent of questions correctly. The test is 3 hours and 45 minutes long, broken into ten separately-timed sections. Nine sections count (Mathematics, Reading, and Writing each get three sections); the tenth section is an "experimental section" that does not count in the student's final score.

In the United States, the SAT is offered seven times a year; the exam can also be taken at test centers overseas, for students there who wish to apply to American colleges.

The Layout:

The first section is always the Essay, so be prepared to write for twenty-five minutes straight. The order of the rest of the test is never predictable, but you will see:

  • Two more writing sections (one 25 minutes and the other 10 minutes)
  • Three math sections (two are 25 minutes and one is 20 minutes)
  • Three critical reading sections (two are 25 minutes and one is 20 minutes)
  • A 25 minute experimental section which could include writing, math, or reading, but ultimately does not count for your final score.

Remember, you cannot skip around between sections. If you finish early, check your answers, do not move onto a new section, and when you feel confident with your answers and you still have time, check them once again.

The Essay is a response to a general prompt that does not require specific prior knowledge, and is graded by two separate readers on a scale of 1 to 6, for a total score of 2 to 12.

The Mathematics sections of the SAT are composed of both multiple-choice questions and "student-produced responses" (or "grid-ins"). The questions require knowledge of basic Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and a small amount of Algebra II. Most questions use these basic math subjects in order to test critical thinking and reasoning skills.

The Reading sections contain multiple-choice sentence completions and reading passages. The sentence completions ask the student to fill in one or two blank words in a sentence, requiring a combination of reasoning and vocabulary knowledge. There are single-paragraph as well as longer reading passages, matched with questions on the content, meaning, and style of the passage and its parts. Often two passages are paired together for the purpose of comparison and contrast.

The Writing sections consist of multiple-choice questions on English grammar and contain three types of questions: Improving Sentences, Identifying Sentence Errors, and Improving Paragraphs. Improving Sentences questions will offer a sentence that may contain a grammatical error and ask the student to choose an answer choice that is a grammatical improvement over the original. Identifying Sentence Errors questions have four underlined words or phrases in a single sentence, and ask the student to identify which, if any, contain a grammatical error. Improving Paragraphs sections offer a longer paragraph that is poorly written, and ask a series of questions similar to Improving Sentences, as well as some broader questions on the content and style of the paragraph as a whole.

The Plan:

The day before the SAT (Friday)
Review and Relax
You should be prepared by now. You shouldn’t be trying to work your way through more questions today. Rather, review your math notes, grammar rules and the examples you’ve prepped for you essay. Try and avoid going to practice and tiring yourself out too much today. I’m sure your coach and teachers will understand if you need to take it easy. Don’t spend more than one hour reviewing your notes; at this point, you just want to feel confident and relaxed.

SAT day (Saturday)
Breakfast Strategy
Wake up an hour or two before you need to leave and eat a good and balanced breakfast. Make sure not to overeat or have anything too greasy – more blood will be redirected to your stomach to digest everything, leaving less blood to keep your brain sharp and alert. While you’re eating, do a quick review of your math and grammar rules and then spend some time reading a difficult article (e.g. an editorial or report in the New York Times). Often, the first complex thing people read on SAT day are the reading comprehension passages. Reading a report at breakfast will help wake your brain up before hand. When you’ve finished, you’re all set to go! Good luck!

Test taking tips:

Take an educated guess by ruling out one or more answer choices for a multiple-choice question as definitely wrong; your chances of guessing correctly among the remaining choices improve.
  • Omit questions only when you really have no idea how best to answer them. You don't gain or lose points for omitting an answer.
Use the test book for scratch work to cross off answers you know are wrong, and to mark questions you did not answer.
  • Be sure to mark your answers on the separate answer sheet. You won't receive credit for any answers you marked in the test book.
  • Avoid extra marks on the answer sheet. The answer sheet is machine-scored, and the machine can't tell an answer from a doodle.
Become familiar with the organization of the tests you are interested in, the SAT Subject Test answer sheet, types of test questions on each test, and the test directions ahead of time.
Answer the easier questions first.
  • The easier questions are usually at the beginning of a grouping of questions.

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