Strategies for SAT Success
SAT Writing, Critical Reading & Math – those are the ingredients that make the SAT. Here are some tips that will help you prepare for success in the SAT.
Writing – The Essay
The essay portion of the SAT is given to provide a better understanding of a student’s true writing ability. The essay requires students to establish and develop a point of view on a given topic by using evidence, reasoning and examples based on their own observations, thoughts, learnings and experiences. Students are given a paragraph to read, and it is followed by a question that is the basis for the Essay. Read this paragraph thoroughly – twice if you must – to get a good grasp of what you’re being asked.
Because you only have 25 minutes for the essay, first determine your standpoint – do you agree or disagree with the question? Then write an outline with an introduction, body and conclusion, and jot down points to discuss in each. When writing the essay, envision having a discussion with the writer about the topic, and try to see a different point of view other than yours, and address this if possible.
Writing – Multiple Choice Questions
The SAT Writing – Multiple Choice section requires that students identify linguistic errors and improve sentence or paragraph structure. Students are presented with sentences that may or may not contain errors, and they are asked to identify which section of the sentence is incorrect. The best way to succeed in this area is to ‘listen’ to the sentence. Read it to yourself and if it sounds a bit strange, find out what part is throwing it off. The multiple choice answers may list out the possible wrong areas of the sentence. Read these and sound them out to yourself to see if they fit with what you think may be wrong in the sentence.
Preparation for this part of the SAT begins with reading, reading and more reading! Read higher level novels, journals and periodicals and you’ll be able to see and “hear” what proper writing looks and “sounds” like. The more you read proper writing, the easier it will be to spot mistakes on the SAT Writing section.
Critical Reading – Reading Comprehension
The key to success in the SAT Critical Reading section is to master the ability to concentrate on the topic, and take in what you’ve read. The SAT Critical Reading section does not require special knowledge of the given topic as all the information needed to answer the related questions are supplied in the passage at hand. Each passage is prefaced by either a short or long description. For some students, reading and “absorbing” the entire passage prior to reviewing the questions works best. However, many students find it better to first read the questions and then selectively refer to the passage to find the specific answer in question.
As you read the passage, determine the main purpose or theme. Summarize or take notes after each paragraph to help remember key points of what you have just read. Most important, however, is remembering that this part of the SAT is about how well you are able to understand what the author is conveying.
The best way to prepare for SAT Critical Reading section is to do plenty of reading. Get your hands on higher level reading material such as novels or academic journals. As you read, remind yourself to truly absorb the material and not just skim through it. You need to develop your sense of comprehension when you read.
Critical Reading – Sentence Completion
Part of the Critical Reading section contains a sentence completion exercise. You are given a sentence with a word missing, and the multiple choice options ask that you select the word that best fits the given sentence. Having a broad and varied vocabulary is critical to succeeding in this area and unfortunately not something you can “cram” for. Instead, you need a longer runway to develop the deep and broad vocabulary that the SAT will require. Develop a habit of jotting down words you encounter when reading and making a point to look them up and incorporate into your vocabulary. Learning just ten words a week can add over 500 words to your vocabulary in a year. ePrep features an interactive vocabulary building tool called WordSmith that can systematically help you build a strong vocabulary.
The Math section of the SAT has problems based on arithmetic, geometry and algebra, and logic. You are allowed to use any available space in your booklet as scratch paper, so work out the problems before filling in the corresponding bubble on the answer sheet (something we call “show yourself the answer”). The best preparation strategy for the Math section is practice – practice as much as possible. When you miss questions, take note of why you missed them. Was it a careless error? Are most of your missed questions on algebra or geometry, multiple choice or fill-ins? Taking practice tests will reveal which types of problems are most difficult for you, and this will allow you to better focus your study time on the areas you need.
Though you can use a calculator during the actual SAT test, it’s best to practice without using one. You don’t want to create the habit of relying on the calculator. A calculator can actually take time away from the test from the fumbling of going back and forth between calculator and pencil. You will burn precious seconds and you will break the flow of problem solving when you look away from the paper to your calculator. Calculators can ultimately keep you from staying on point.