It has nearly been a year since College Board debuted the redesigned SAT, and while there were significant changes to format and content, the overall purpose and ideology behind the test didn’t change much. In its year since being administered, the SAT has proven that it's as popular as ever, but nationally the ACT still has an edge on the market share. Regardless, most colleges will accept either, so whichever is more popular with test-takers won’t affect your admissions chances.
But let us talk about the SAT specifically, and for this post, let us do a brief run through on how to approach the different sections. If you are planning on taking the March 11 exam, then you should start thinking about setting aside time to prepare. As you probably already know, and as we like to remind students all the time, the SAT, like any other standardized test, not only tests knowledge and ability but also understanding of the test itself. With that in mind, here are some general tips to make your March testing experience the best yet!
Critical Reading: Treat every question as if it had a line reference.
The Critical Reading section is the hardest to improve in a short period of time, but there are some things to keep in mind that will give you the best shot at a good score. The most important thing is that the Critical Reading test is not one of comprehension. Instead, each question requires that you consider a specific area of the passage. Sure, there are main idea and tone questions, but the bulk of the questions, even ones without line references, require you to consider a specific word, sentence, or paragraph--and nothing else--to get the correct answer.
Writing: Tackle grammar rules; then focus on passage questions.
The Writing and Math sections share at least one commonality: they both have concrete rules that you must know and apply. For Writing, you should first make sure that you know the grammar and punctuation rules before moving on to the passage-based questions. There are plenty of rules tested on the Writing section, ranging from pronouns to verb tenses, from comma usage to dashes, so you may be spending a lot of time working with those--and that’s okay. Those questions are much easier to master.
Math: Know the formulas.
The Math test brings on many new obstacles, from its extra-wordy word problems to its heavy emphasis on algebra. While those dang grid-ins are still there to haunt students, one thing to really keep in mind is that knowing the algebra and geometry formulas tested will be a major help to your exam experience. So, if you are a little rusty on the formulas, then definitely revisit them and see how they are presented on the test. And if you feel confident in your math skills, make sure you can apply them to the unique way the SAT presents math problems.
Essay: Choose three persuasive elements; over-emphasize how the argument affects audience.
The Essay is analytical, not persuasive, but you will be analyzing someone else’s persuasive writing. The easiest and best method to get those three 8 scores (in Reading, Analysis, and Writing) is to write a standard five-paragraph essay. For each body paragraph, focus on one of the rhetorical or persuasive elements that the author uses--such as data/statistics, appeals to emotion, or use of personal anecdotes. Heavy quoting of the text is not really necessary; paraphrasing works fine. And singling out 1-2 examples is also okay. The major thing you need to remember is that you have to explain how the author tries to persuade the audience.
While the SAT is an ever-evolving test, the most recent version will be around for a while, so you can be sure that this advice will work for the March test, and hopefully only the March test--because you’ll be done! But if not, consider that studying the SAT is a mixture of rote practice and true enrichment. A lot of people, for example, ask how they can improve their Critical Reading scores. There’s a certain plateau that students often find because they can only test prep so much: some of the increases are seen with a more sustained engagement with reading in general, so be willing to build your brain outside of the test-prep book. It may not be the three-week plan, but consider it the life-long plan.
Thankfully you don’t have to go at your cramming, or general enrichment, alone, and we at B2A have many resources and instructors ready to help you master the SAT right in time for the March exam date (or for any, really). Check out our services and if you’re not sure what path to take, set up a consultation with one of our directors. Let us help you march into the next stage of your academic life.