From calculators, batteries, breakfast, to full-length practice tests, this updated preparation article will share an encompassing view of all things SAT. The inspiration for this guide came from my having to look information up due to my school severely lacking in knowledge. I actually took my second round of this test last week, so the information is certainly fresh in my mind.
The chart above was taken from my SAT Prep book and shows the eight-types of questions asked on the three subjects of the test (Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics). It also depicts how many sections are in each subject as well as the time you have to complete them.
SAT Essential: The chart depicts all 10 sections of the SAT. The 10th section is known as "The Variable/Experimental Section" This section can be any of the three subjects and is used by Collegeboard (the association that develops the test) to make sure the SAT is the same as ones prior to it.
This section of the test will NOT be scored. However, you have no way of knowing what section is variable so make sure to do your best on each and every single one of them. This fact is pretty interesting to know, because it results in my pondering post-test trying to detect which one isn't counted.
2. Scoring Guidelines
This section will begin with the smaller details and will work itself up to the final score you see when you get your Score Report
- 1 point for every correct answer
- 1/4 a point SUBTRACTED for every wrong answer
- 0 points added/subtracted for questions left blank
Tip to keep in mind: When you have no idea how to attack a question for either of the subjects, you are better off leaving it blank then answering incorrectly and losing points.
The more answer choices you can eliminate in a question, the greater your chances become of getting the question right.
However, you do not want to skip too many questions in any section. I made this very mistake the first time I took the SAT in the math section. Rather then attempting to answer some of the more difficult questions, I left the vast majority blank causing me to have a lower score than I care for.
Grid In (Math Section)
- You do not lose any points for wrong answers in the grid-in sections so be sure to answer ALL of them
- The essay is scored on a scale of 2-12. However, an essay can receive the score of a 0 if it was written in pen/ or it was illegible.
This section is graded by two essay readers on a scale of 1-6. These two scores are added together to give you your final score. An example is shown below:
The separate scores for each section of a subject are added together and equated giving a score from 200-800 for each section.
3. Must Haves for SAT Day
The checklist above shows everything you will need for test day. Be sure to print out the picture, or go over it mentally. Below, I will go into the specific details of each item:
- Appropriate photo ID
This would include a Driver's License, School Id, or a passport.
- Admission Ticket
This can be printed online at Collegeboard.org Be sure to print multiple copies and double-check that you have it on person before you leave.
This chart shows all the acceptable types of calculators. Make sure to bring a spare calculator or extra batteries for test day
Bring small snacks that you can munch on in short 5-minute breaks. I normally bring a ziplock bag of cashews and granola bars. This however, excludes the rare bunch like my friend who can demolish a 12-inch sub in five minutes tops.
3. Critical Reading Section
- Always mark the text and leave side notes or symbols for important ideas. This will save you a lot of time from flipping back and forth and re-reading sections to answer questions
- If you can't eliminate at least one answer choice for a difficult question, your best bet would be to leave the question blank
- Read the questions prior to reading the passages because it will save you time when you know what answers your are looking for when reading the passage
- Answer questions that direct you to certain lines first such as "Read lines 3-6 and answer: What does the author...?"
4. Writing Section
You will have a total of 25 minutes to both plan and write the essay. If this sounds like a short amount of time to you, I highly recommend taking multiple timed essays to get you prepared.
You will without a doubt need reasons/examples for the essays. The ones suggested by Collegeboard are: current events, history, and personal experiences. When I took the SAT I have found out that the writers score higher for current events and history over personal experiences.
The way you should look at the essay topics is "What does this topic have to do with history? Does this topic sound like something going on right now?"
Let's do a sample essay: Do you find teamwork to be essential? Why or why not?
Historical Reason: The Constitution and Bill of Rights never would have existed without the suggestions and concerns of the multiple parties when setting up the documents.
Current Events: The government shutdown was the inevitable result of the separate parties in government not wanting to work cooperatively for a solution.
5. Math Section
One thing to keep in mind is that the SAT creators designed every question to e solvable without a calculator. This means that there are easy and to-the-point ways to solve every answer, and it'll be to your benefit to find them.
- When in doubt, plug it in. The multiple choice answers are a godsend in this exam. If you can't figure out how to solve a question, use the answers and work backward.
- Do not spend too much time on a question. All questions are worth the same amount of points. You get the same credit for answering a difficult question as you would for answering an easy one.
- Graphing Calculator
If you have an acceptable version of a graphic calculator, use it to your advantage. If you have a question where you have to find out how the graph of an equation looks, plug the equation and have your calculator do it for you.
- Remember your goal is to get as many questions done as accurately as possible
6. Suggestions from Bibi
This section will cover all the prep I personally did--or wish I did.
- SAT Book
This was a great investment in my opinion because you are getting it directly from the test creator. You can buy cheaper older versions of the book on both Amazon and eBay.
If you do not want to purchase the book, you can always check out a copy from your school/public library and do practice questions on separate sheets of paper and continue to renew the book as needed.
This is a FREE online prep course for both the SAT and ACT. There was a study done comparing the online Princeton Review Course and this free one, and the result was: the scores were the same!
One thing to keep in mind with this sort of course, however, is you only get out what you put into it. A wise idea would be to set up a certain amount of hours you will devote yourself to this course.
- SAT Question of the Day
This is a program you can sign up for on the Collegeboard website and it will send you an SAT question every morning along with the answer and explanation. One convenient factor of this is that it allows you to save your progress on all the questions you've done.
- SAT Connect (Watermelon Express)
I'm more of a tech-savy person so as soon as I started preparing for the exam, I started searching free apps for prep. This is the one app I've stuck with and it provided great material for ALL sections rather than other apps I've attempted to use.
It allows you to take practice tests with as many questions as you prefer, and it continually marks your progress throughout the entire time you use the app.
7. The Night Before
Do not, and I repeat, do not attempt to cram information for the SAT the night before the exam. Not only are you not absorbing the information, but you are only stressing yourself out.
Instead, head to bed early with lovely dreams of you getting your score report in your inbox/mail with the score you aiming for.
8. Post-Test Anxiety
After you've dealt with the heathen of test, invest in a big tub of your favorite ice cream (mine is chocolate chip cookie dough) for the horrors known as: the wait. I only took my exam last week and I'm already logging on to the website for the illogical hopes that they decided to post scores a week early.
I hope you have all benefited from this guide as much as I had fun--the sadistic kind--while writing it. If there are any questions you may still have on the exam or anything college-related feel free to y-mail me.
I wish you all the best on your own SAT tests and can't wait to see how mine turn out. Now, I'm off to devour some more of that ice cream and indulge in my anxiousness.
P.S. Let me know if you would be interested in a similar guide for the ACT.
Author's Note: Sources: -Her own horrendous experiences, The Official SAT Study Guide, Collegeboard.org