By Blake Dykes
For many people, or at least for me, the SAT is one of the most stressful things about college preparation, especially because I don’t do too well on standardized tests, which is not a good combination with how heavily colleges weigh these test scores with consideration of acceptance. Upon taking the SAT and ACT a total of four times and reading the SAT prep book, I have learned a lesson or two.
Pick out the wrong answers first. Often times we get too caught up in finding the right answer, as opposed to eliminating the answers that we are positive are wrong. By marking out the answers that are definitely wrong we can narrow our choices down and increase the possibility of guessing the correct answer.
Don’t spend too much time on the difficult questions. Generally speaking the questions progressively get harder as the test increases (not the reading comprehension portion). However, the easy, medium and hard questions are all worth the same amount so don’t get hung up in difficult questions. Approach the easy and medium questions in an unrushed state of mind. You’re better off taking a little more time on questions you know you can get right opposed to spending ample time on the more difficult questions that you have a lower chance of guessing.
Take the guess. Most people fear guessing on the SAT because it’s the test that “punishes you for guessing the wrong answer.” That is one way to think about it. But for every question missed on the SAT is only -.25 a point, which is worth the risk if you are debating between two answers. Plus if you get the correct answer you earn one whole point. So narrow down your choices and take the educated guess.
Know that you are short on time. The SAT is designed to put pressure on you and make you feel rushed. It’s no coincidence that you barely if not at all finish each section at the buzz of the timer. When you have the wordy reading comprehension section you just simply don’t have time to read the entire story. I recommend reading the title, scanning it briefly, then reading the questions and going back to the story to scan for answers. If not you will more than likely find yourself reading the last story, not even looked at the questions yet, and you are already out of time.
Visualize the correct answer before seeking it. Once you read the question to the problem try to figure out the right answer before you look at the answer choices. This method allows you to understand what type of answer you are looking for and helps you avoid falling into the trap of looking at a question and picking an answer that seems right but isn’t quite the one.
Get enough sleep. I know this is cliche and you hear it so many times, but honestly getting enough sleep before the day of the test is crucial. There is nothing worse than going to take a test and either being so tired you just don’t care anymore or not being able to comprehend what you are reading the questions.
Eat breakfast. This goes without saying. You will need your energy for this long test. You won’t be able to perform to your fullest if you are so hungry you can’t concentrate.
Taking these simple steps can only help you on the SAT. Study, get some sleep, eat a good breakfast and just relax.