Stressed About Tests? We're here to help!
When college decision day rolls around, every high school senior hopes to see a “Congratulations!” envelope stuffed into their mailbox. However, as competition amongst students increases, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get accepted into your college of choice. While extracurricular activities and GPAs are important in adding substance to your college application, there is one factor that may just stand above the rest— the SAT. No high school student wakes up on a Saturday morning yearning to take a 6 hour exam, but it may expected that students who have success in high school math classes would have a similar fate on the math portion of the SAT. Surprisingly, this often isn’t the case. Students who excel in high level math courses are often discouraged and frustrated when their SAT scores fail to align with their school performance. Why does this disparity occur so rampantly? The focus of math classes is typically centered on methodical thinking and importance is placed on the correct steps rather than just the correct solution. This focus on rationale and problem solving is great for grasping complex concepts, but does not match up with the format of the SAT. The multiple choice questions of the SAT do not allow for partial credit, and only the correct answer gives the student points. In math classes, shortcuts are discouraged, but those same shortcuts can prove to be incredibly advantageous during the SAT. Furthermore, SAT math questions are based on the fundamentals of mathematics. It isn't uncommon for students in high level high school math classes to shy away from the basics or turn to their calculator more often than not. This post is meant to help bridge the gap between mathematical aptitude and SAT scores. Here are some helpful tips that can lead you too success on your next standardized test!
Know Your Enemy: Understanding the basics of the SAT
It is important to understand the test you are trying to master. The SAT is unlike many other academic tests that students may be familiar with. It is important to know the nuances and types of questions that College Board (the makers of the SAT) uses to test students' knowledge. Generally speaking, the SAT is composed of three parts— reading, writing, and math. Each part is worth 800 points, making a perfect score 2400. However, less than 1% of students achieve a perfect score, and the national average is 1500.
Which Test Is For Me? The ACT vs. SAT
Until recently, taking the SAT or ACT was decided based on location. Midwestern states often preferred the ACT, while the east and west coasts favored the SAT. Now as the ACT becomes more accepted, and the SAT moves into the midwest, the choice is up to the individual. The good news surrounding this fact is both tests are significantly different, and measure a completely different skill set. Students are encouraged to experiment with both to understand which better showcases their strengths. This advantage often serves as a glimmer of hope for several high school juniors and seniors.
According to Kaplan Test Prep, educators often describe the ACT as “content-based” while the SAT encompasses “critical thinking” and “problem solving.” More differences include:
- The ACT includes a science reasoning test; the SAT does not.
- The ACT math section includes trigonometry
- The SAT tests vocabulary much more than the ACT
- The SAT is not entirely multiple choice
- The SAT has a guessing penalty; the ACT does not.
- The ACT tests English grammar; the SAT does not.
If the math section in either the SAT or ACT is not your strong suit, don’t panic, you are definitely not alone. However, we are confident that if you consider these helpful tips you will be able to boost your score.
Understanding the Stakes
Boosting your score in any section, especially your weakest, could potentially serve as a make or break as far as college admission goes. For those who wish to be considered as a math or science major, a strong math score is especially vital. The pressure to succeed is without a doubt overwhelming. However, an essential first step is to simply understand how individual sections truly affect the grand scheme of college admission.
Understanding Basic Math conceptsDespite the fact that math questions on the SAT and ACT vary greatly, they both focus on fundamental concepts. Don’t waste your time trying to master complicated problems when the basics are still foggy. Make sure you have on concrete base and understand the “little things” like ratios, fractions, and geometry rules. Brushing up on basic algebraic functions will help you save time on the exam, as mental math is faster than typing into a calculator.
Skip the Most Difficult Questions
When dealing with the SAT, the unfortunate reality of leaving a question unanswered probably proves more helpful than making an educated guess. When you only have 25 minutes per section, this strategy gives you far more time on easy and medium level questions - the questions you have a better chance of getting right!
Drill Down on your Weaknesses
Many students make the common mistake of simply buying a prep book and reading it cover to cover, confident that this is the best way to nail the test. Along with this, many students try to boost their confidence by only doing math questions they are good at. In the midst of all the craziness in your life right now, don’t waste time with unnecessary material. Focus almost exclusively on what you don’t understand. We guarantee come test day, you will thank yourself.
Don’t Stress too Much.
Relax. Create an efficient and healthy study environment. Ask for help when you need it. Lockdown on your weaknesses. Most importantly, don’t overwhelm yourself.