Beating the New SAT: A Look at the Format
There is simply no getting around it: the SAT is a critical component of your college application. Get a bad score on the SAT, and, practically speaking, you completely take yourself out of the running at the most competitive schools, and you probably put yourself behind the eight ball even at schools where you expected to be competitive.
Like it or not, the SAT is used as the "great equalizer," the one standard measuring tool that almost every student takes, whether he or she goes to the top-ranked boarding school in the country or the poorest public high school with the fewest available resources. And like it or not, the data continue to confirm that performance on the SAT does, in fact, predict future performance in college better than any other factor used in the admissions process.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that the test is not that difficult—and it can be prepared for and "gamed" for maximum performance.
You Must Prepare For The SAT
The first question most students ask when confronted with the specter of the SAT is, "What is the best way to prepare for the exam?" And in response, many people will tell you that if you're a good student and you've studied hard throughout junior high and high school, you should just get a good night's sleep and treat the exam like any other exam you've taken up to this point.
Those people are dead wrong. Don't listen to them.
"You must study for the SAT. Don't believe the people who tell you that you will do well because you are naturally 'bright,'" Carolyn warns. "This is absolutely a test that you can and should prepare for, and very often, that preparation will make a big difference."
"Given that comfort and confidence are, in my opinion, the hallmarks of a successful test taker, taking practice tests and learning from them is the most effective preparation," Chase advises. "Practice tests give the test taker confidence about timing and working through difficult problem types. By the date of the test, I knew that nothing strange or unexpected was going to leap out at me. I was comfortable that I could answer the questions in the time allowed, and I had developed a methodology for solving the problems that used to stump me."
Studying and preparing for the SAT means you should either take a review course—which will force you to learn the exam, the different question types featured on the exam, and the different strategies for handling these questions, and will also force you to drill with the questions until you master them—or at a minimum, buy an SAT strategy course in book form and drill with that.
This exam is not like any other exam you've taken to this point. Sure, you've taken standardized tests before, and you may have taken the PSAT, and you may have even done really well on them. That's all well and good.
This test is different. It counts. A lot. In fact, it counts so much that if you shank it, it can ruin three years of great work in high school, and if you really ace it, it can make up for some subpar performances in high school.
"Okay, okay," you say. "I get it. The exam is important. I have to study for it. So what the hell am I supposed to do to get ready for it? And how far ahead should I start preparing for it? And what's on it, anyway?"
Glad you asked. We'll start with the format.
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