SAT Strategies That May Go Against What You Have Heard

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This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Jake Davidson at Veritas Prep.

Lots of tips and advice are out there regarding the SAT. Most of it is helpful and pretty standard, such as sleeping well prior to the test and avoiding cramming. Some pieces of conventional wisdom, however, are actually not very helpful when applied to the SAT. Here are a few of the most egregious ones and what to do instead.

Check your work at the end of Math Sections
It’s certainly important to check your work, especially when it comes to basic arithmetic on the math sections of the SAT. The time to do this, however, is not at the end of the section. Most likely, you will be pressed for time and doing a cursory glance. Most of the time, you will fail to catch an error and just confirm your answer choices. This is extremely ineffective. Instead, make sure to check your answer choices immediately after you do each problem. At this point they are still fresh in your mind: You will know exactly what you did and are more likely to spot an error if there is one. If you do have extra time left at the end of the section, don’t just twiddle your thumbs, it’s still good to check a second time. The time to really check your work on math on the SAT, however, is right after the problem.

Bubble in answers one at a time
This seems simple and harmless, but a lot of times students make careless errors with bubbling in the wrong number or wrong answer choice, and it can cost them time as well as points if the error is big enough. Instead of flipping back and forth between the test booklet and the answer sheet each time, circle your answer choices clearly on the answer booklet. Then, at the end of each individual page, bubble in four or five answers together. This will shave off a couple seconds here and there, which is an added perk. The main benefit of this, however, is to avoid careless errors that arise when filling in answers individually.

Go in order on every single section
While this is by and large true, two important exceptions fail to get communicated with this idea. On the writing mechanics section with 35 questions and 25 minutes, it might be helpful to do the last six improving-paragraph questions first. Generally these are some of the easier questions within the section. A lot of students face time constraints on this section and fail to get to those questions. This is leaving easy points on the table, and it can be avoided by flipping the strategy for this one section.

The other time when it may not always be best to go in order involves reading comprehension questions. Unlike every other section of the test, these don’t go in order of difficulty. That means the first question you face could be the hardest. If you come across an extremely difficult question early on in reading comprehension, don’t be alarmed. Instead, continue on if you can’t figure out the answer. The worst thing to do is spend a ton of time on it because you figure it will be easier than later questions.

Always guess C
This is a big no-no. Do not always guess if you don’t know the answer. The only time you should be guessing is when you can eliminate two of the answer choices positively. Otherwise, the cost benefit analysis shows that guessing really isn’t worth it. You lose ¼ of a point for every question you get wrong, so make sure not to guess on every problem you can’t do. Omitting is the move if you have absolutely no idea what the answer choice is.

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