Knowing Which SAT Questions to Skip

Which SAT Questions to Skip

On the SAT, each question will fall into one of three categories: questions you can answer, questions you can’t answer, and questions you could probably answer if you had enough time. This last category is where the right strategy can really help you to improve your score.

When to Move On

For starters, you need to recognize when it’s time to move on to the next question. If you spend too long trying to solve any one problem, you run the risk of not even making it to other questions that you definitely could have answered correctly.

Additionally, if you spend too much time on a question that’s too hard, you waste time that you could have spent correctly figuring out a harder, but still solvable, question.

If, on first read, you can’t eliminate even one answer choice, skip the question entirely. Your time is better spent on questions where you are more familiar with the material.

If you can eliminate one or more answer choices quickly, but narrowing the choices down to just one correct answer is taking too much time, come back later. You should make your way once through the entire section and answer every item that you can solve with minimal effort first, then go back through a second time to tackle the more challenging items.

When to Guess

Understanding when it’s in your favor to guess on the SAT, versus when it will hurt you, comes down to mathematics. Remember, each question has five answer choices. An incorrect answer reduces your raw score by 0.25, while a correct answer is worth 1 point.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you don’t even look at any of the questions and just randomly select bubbles on your answer sheet. Odds are that you would be correct one-fifth of the time — but you would be wrong four-fifths of the time. For each 1 point you gained, you would lose 0.25 points, four times. 4 * 0.25 = 1, so this cancels out the 1 point you gained, leaving you with a net score of zero.

However, if you can eliminate just one answer choice, the odds are now in your favor to guess. Now, random guesses would give you a correct answer once every four times, and an incorrect answer three out of four times. 1 point – (3 * 0.25) = a net gain of 0.25 raw points.

The bottom line: if you can confidently eliminate just one answer, you should guess instead of leaving the answer blank.

 

Create a Code Language

So, you’ve made your way through the entire section once and answered all the questions you knew you could. You have seven minutes left, and it’s time to make your way back through the section a second time to take a stab at some of the questions you left for later. But…which questions were those, again?

Make the most of those precious last few minutes in each section by clearly marking each question in your test booklet, so you can see at a glance which questions — and which answer choices within that question — are still in need of your attention.

Circle questions to which you want to return. These items are the ones to which you want to draw the most attention, as you’ll need to be able to spot them quickly during the last few minutes of the section. When you go back through, you’ll have no trouble spotting the circled items. Don’t be afraid to make big, bold circles — remember, you want to catch your attention when you’re flipping back through the test booklet.

Draw a large question mark over questions that seem too hard. You don’t want to spend your valuable time on these items instead of easier ones, but there’s always the chance you’ll still have an extra couple of minutes at the end to give these a second look. Remember, if you can eliminate even one answer choice, you make it worth your while to take a stab and guess.

For answer choices, cross out choices that you are confident are wrong. This will save you from having to look again at choices that you’ve already ruled out.

Having trouble deciding between two answers? Lightly circle them to indicate they’re your preferred answers. When you come back, you’ll know immediately that you think you found (or narrowed down) the answer, but that you should still consider the other options.

 

 

Leave Yourself Hanging

When you realize you have to move on and leave a question unanswered, make it as easy as possible to pick back up where you left off if you have time at the end to return to it. While the next step in the equation may seem obvious to you in the moment, the memory won’t be as fresh by the time you make your way through the rest of the test.

Before starting the next question, jot down a quick phrase or note reminding yourself of what the next step should be. If it’s a math problem, write the next equation if you can–but don’t solve it.

Not sure what the next equation is? Erase the last answer that you did calculate, leaving the calculation itself. While moving back a step might seem strange at first, when you come back later, being able to jump right in will help jog your memory, and can shave precious seconds off the time it takes to finish.

Make the Most of Your Junior Year

Despite all of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the senior year, it’s actually the junior year of high school that is the defining moment in most students’ academic lives. Generally, you’ll be sending off college applications well before you’ve completed your senior year, so it’s essential that you do as much as possible in your junior year to make yourself an attractive candidate to colleges. The following are some of the most important things that you can do in your junior year to start preparing for college.

 

Research Colleges
Because of the amount of time and money involved in submitting college applications in your senior year, you’ll want to have your list of colleges more or less set by the start of your final year of high school. Consult a reference like the US News and World Report college issue to get detailed information about schools. Some questions that you’ll want to consider when looking through info on colleges include: Do you want to attend a public state school or a private university? How far away from home would you like to live? How selective of a school would you be able to get into? In order to answer these questions, you’ll need to think seriously about how much money you or your parents can afford to spend on tuition (or how many student loans you’re willing to take out) and you’ll need to evaluate your own academic performance in terms of your GPA and test scores.

Prepare For and Take the SAT
SAT scores are one of the most important elements of a college application and are one of the most common “minimum” criteria that schools use to indicate what they require from applicants before further considering their applications. Thus, it is very much in your interest to prepare for the test as thoroughly as possible. There are a variety of SAT prep courses and methods available, including free online SAT prep. In addition to finding a test prep program, you’ll also want to check online for test dates and registration deadlines to make certain that you stay on track with your schedule. While you should make certain that you leave appropriate time for prep, you should try to take the test during your junior year. The sooner you know your score, the sooner you’ll be able to make informed decisions about which schools to apply to.

Build Up Your Extra-Curriculars
College admissions committees have to look through hundreds or even thousands of applications every year and, while your GPA and test scores are important, having a diverse swath of extra-curricular activities can help set you apart from the crowd. Choosing to join a club or play a sport in your junior year insures that you’ll have an extended affiliation with a group on your application. Generally, this looks much better to an admissions committee than a few activities that appear to have been “tacked on” at the last minute in your senior year.

By setting a few simple goals in your junior year, you can insure that you’re doing everything possible to set yourself up for a successful senior year and a great college career!

 

Tips for Retaking the SAT

Colleges and Universities schools rarely consider students with scores below their standards, so getting as close to their school’s average or above puts an applicant as an advantage. Unfortunately, not everyone receives their ideal score after taking the SAT just once.

Maybe the first time you took the SAT you didn’t prepare. You told yourself you were going to and maybe even bought a book to help you review but just never put in the time. Maybe you were the exact opposite and enrolled in a prep course, spent every weekend studying and carried vocabulary flashcards around with you and all of that work still didn’t amount to the score you wanted. Both are common scenarios and there is an answer for you if you fit into one of these two categories.

The SAT is not like the usual test you will face in high school, so it makes sense to utilize a strong SAT prep course that fits into your schedule. The idea is to get comfortable with the format and learn strategies to maximize results. Timing is very important throughout the SAT. Each of the three main sections has three subsections, each with its own time limit. In general, the easy questions are at the beginning and harder questions come at the end, but this is not always the case. One strategy you can explore and practice online is to blitz through an entire multiple-choice section, answering the questions that you’re at least somewhat sure of but marking some for review later. Just skip questions that are confusing or too difficult, but leave a few minutes at the very end to go back and guess at the answers. A blank counts as a wrong answer, so don’t leave any question blank.

By not even knowing what to expect on the test, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You won’t be nearly as confident and probably won’t get through as many questions as you would have hoped. On the other hand, by studying too much, you’re essentially drowning your brain with an overload of information so when it comes time for common sense questions, you’ll end up overanalyzing and probably miss questions that you shouldn’t.

By enrolling in a free online SAT prep course, you can move at your own pace and take breaks as often as possible. Unlike a classroom, you won’t get left behind on questions you don’t understand or stay stuck on skills already mastered. You can track your own progress and create a study plan that works for you. The course includes as many as eight timed practice tests. Taking these will help you get comfortable with the SAT format, which can do a lot to help you reach your best score. After taking the test twice, you’ll know for sure where your strengths and weaknesses are; which sections you score highly on, and which give you trouble.

Breaking Down the SAT: Sentence Error

Everyone who takes the SAT must do their best to pass the Sentence Error section of the exam.

Can you spot the error in the sentence above?

If you recognized that the pronoun “their” does not agree with its antecedent “everyone,” then you are probably well on your way to becoming a pro when it comes to identifying sentence errors for the SAT.

Identifying Sentence Errors questions are what comprises the bulk of the new Writing section of the exam with 20 questions at the beginning of the multiple choice portion and another 10 at the back, making 30 questions in all. You will be presented with a series of sentences like the one above that may contain a grammar mistake and asked to identify it from among four underlined options, or if there is no mistake to choose the fifth option, “No error.”

These types of questions test your “writing sense,” or your ability to identify errors based on the way sentences sound and on grammar rules. Because of this, in order to do well on this section it is helpful to have a solid “reading” background: the more you read sentences like the ones presented on the SAT, the more attuned your “inner ear” will become to mistakes that sound wrong. However, even if you are taking the SAT next week and don’t have time to read the New York Times everyday, there are a few strategies and things you can do to boost your confidence and your score for this section of the test, including online SAT test prep.

One important thing to remember is that these identifying sentence error questions are not going to test you on your knowledge of punctuation conventions. While it is probably helpful to be familiar with things like comma rules or where to place apostrophes, what these questions really probe is your understanding of grammar and syntax within the context of sentence structure.

The best method of approaching these questions is to read through the sentence quickly, “listening” for what sounds wrong. This often yields an obvious error. If there is more than one possible answer that you think sounds wrong, look at each option within the context of the surrounding sentence and apply your grammar knowledge to eliminate those without errors.

If upon reading the sentence you cannot “hear” anything wrong, go through each underlined option and eliminate those that you are sure do not contain errors. After that, if you cannot identify an error, mark “No error” and move on.

The sentence errors you will be asked to identify can have to do with a variety of topics such as subject/verb agreement, parallel structure, pronoun/antecedent agreement, verb tenses, infinitives and gerunds, adjectives and adverbs, and prepositions. You’re not going to be asked to name or correct these errors, only identify them, so don’t worry too much if you cannot remember exact definitions. In the example above, for instance, you may not remember what an antecedent is, but if you remembered that singular subjects do not go with plural pronouns, you probably spotted the error anyway.

To prepare, do your best to familiarize yourself with grammar principles. Online SAT test prep can be very helpful in giving you a quick refresher on concepts you may have forgotten.

If you keep these tips in mind, you can breeze through this section and concentrate on others that may be more difficult for you.

Creating a SAT Prep Plan

Most high school students planning to attend college still take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, also known as the SAT. The test is usually taken during the junior year of high school, which can be a hectic time for most students, so creating time to study can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are some options for SAT prep.

The easiest way to sign-up for the SAT is to go to the College Board website. Students can search for the nearest testing location, which is usually at a local high school or university. The sign-up process is simple and only requires that the student give some basic personal information. College Board then provides instructions for testing day, including tips for a healthy breakfast and a good night’s sleep.

Many students know about existing weaknesses- a student who does not perform well in math generally knows this before it is time to take the SAT. However, to better determine areas needing improvement, sample tests can be used to identify particular sections that could use refreshing. For students wishing to sit through the whole testing experience, some high schools will provide the option of taking the PSAT, but this does not allow review of items missed. Sample tests can be purchased at most major bookstores. Additionally, online test prep materials are available via the College Board website and sites such as ePrep. Online and bookstore SAT test prep options allow review of items missed, and some online programs offer explanations for why the correct answer is the best choice.

When establishing a schedule for studying, the best option is to start early and work in small increments. Working through a practice book each day will get exhausting and expensive in no time at all. Devote no more than 15-30 minutes 3-5 days per week to do SAT test prep. This does not necessarily mean using an expensive practice book every day. For example, a student with vocabulary difficulties can generate a list of words and create flashcards, and practice like this is quite mobile, so practicing on the bus or during a break between classes is easy. When it comes to using practice books or online SAT prep, try to do just one section at a time. Also, alternate what is being practiced to prevent burnout. Finally, as the time to test draws near, start doing the full length practice exams. If possible have someone time you so that you can prepare for time constraints.

The SAT can be daunting at first glance, but success is not out of reach. With practice and confidence, a good score can be earned.

Memorization Tips and Tricks

Knowing how to quickly and effectively memorize information can make life a lot easier for students. Memorization techniques can help when it comes to studying for tests, quickly processing information, and learning how to learn better for the future.

Word Games
Many students find that creating acronyms or acrostics can be a useful tool to memorize sets of information. Acronyms are words created from the first letter of a series of terms to help jog your memory. The goal is to memorize the word and be able to write it down to help you to remember the rest of the terms. Acrostics are sentences created from the first letters of a series of terms, memorize the sentence and them fill in the correct words when you need to recall information. Which works best for you is a matter of personal preference and whether or not the terms you’re memorizing lend themselves better to a single word or a memorable sentence.

Recopying and Repeating
Two easy ways to help information stick is to recopy and repeat. Some students learn well by rewriting the important parts of their notes. Even if you generally use the computer for note taking, writing out information by hand often helps it to stick in your mind a little better. Similarly, reading through notes or sections of a textbook aloud can help to solidify the information. You may feel silly reading to yourself aloud, but you also may find it helps the information sink in better.

Pace Yourself
Spending time studying at a steady pace is typically a better way of memorizing information than trying to cram for a test the night before, or even just a couple days before. Reviewing information over time and going back over information on separate occasions can help to commit it to memory.

Work with a Friend or Group
Memorizing information with a friend, classmate, or study group can be helpful to many students memorizing information. The group can work together to come up with ways to memorize information and share their own tricks for studying and memorizing terms and information. Working as a group and then going over information alone can help students to learn information and memorize for the test.

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The Benefits of Personal Goal Setting

Setting personal goals is an important skill to develop as a student and continue to hone throughout college and your career. While everyone’s goals are different and what works for one person may not work for everyone, there are some basic tips that can help you to follow through on your personal goals.

Write Your Goals Down
Take time to think about your goals and put them down on paper. This will help you to focus and identify priorities, isolating your top personal goals for the next week, next year, and next five years. Being able to see these mapped out can help many students to focus and feel good about meeting their future personal goals.

Break Your Goals Down Into Manageable Steps
A big life goal, like being a lawyer, can seem overwhelming when you’re in high school and looking just at that end goal. When you break it down into pieces, it seems a lot more manageable. For example, you could set a goal to keep a certain GPA in high school and perform well on your SATs so you can get into your first choice college with a great pre-law program. At that point, your goal becomes doing well and studying for your LSATs so that you can get into your first choice law school. Then your goal will shift to law school and passing the bar. Broken down into steps, your goal will help you track your progress and keep your dream in sight.

Make Yourself Accountable
Sharing your goals, whether big or small, with a trusted friend, teacher, or family member is a great way to keep yourself on track. Knowing that someone else is aware of your goals and rooting for you to make them happen can provide a great dose of encouragement. When you feel that you have someone to update on your progress, it makes it more exciting as you make progress.

Continue to Adapt
While goal setting is important, it’s also a good idea to revisit your goals every so often and make sure they’re still a good fit. There’s no shame in adjusting your goals as you grow and learn more about yourself and who you want to be as a student and as a person. Changing goals is a natural part of goal setting.

How to Utilize Your High School Counselor

Many students travel through their high school years without ever making use of one of the best resources available–their high school guidance counselor. Guidance counselors can be a wonderful resource for students and it’s worth finding out early on all of the ways that they can help. By the very nature of their job, high school guidance counselors wear many different hats and can help you with a number of different things.

Information at High School
Guidance counselors can be your one-stop for information as you plan out your high school years. They can answer questions about scheduling and classes, suggest activities, and help you to manage your schedule. One of the best things you can do is make an appointment to meet with your counselor just to get to know each other. The more your guidance counselor knows about you and your interests, the better equipped he or she will be to offer you assistance and make you aware of opportunities.

College Information
Your guidance counselor can be a big help in your college search process–from the very beginning through the day your acceptance letter arrives in the mail. He or she can help you to narrow your college choices and identify top schools, contact admissions offices and arrange for visits and interviews, and provide assistance answering questions as you prepare your applications. The guidance office can also be helpful when it comes to finding financial aid opportunities. They can help to answer questions about eligibility, help prepare applications and paperwork, and suggest things you may miss. High school guidance counselors have the benefit of experience–many have helped class after class of seniors to find their perfect college. This can be a great way to quickly learn about the process and feel prepared as you move through the application process.

Counseling
Guidance counselors can also provide counseling and help you with any number of challenges during the high school years. They can help to mediate conflicts, be there for you to talk through problems at school or at home, and refer you to a psychologist or specialist outside of school if you need more assistance than they can offer. Guidance counselors are experts at the high school age group and familiar with the many challenges facing young people today. Taking advantage of this resource can help you learn coping skills, work through problems, and enjoy a healthy and happy high school career.

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Getting the Most Out of a College Fair

College fairs can be a wonderful opportunity to gather information, speak with admissions office staff members, and get answers to your questions all in one place. Plan to attend at least one college fair during your college search process and you will walk away with plenty of new information and resources to aid in your search.

Do your Homework
Plan to attend college fairs well in advance so you can select fairs that have many of your top choice schools in attendance. Find out which schools will be there and make a list of the schools whose tables you want to be sure to visit, as well as schools on a second tier list if you have time to check out more of the tables at the fair.

Be Prepared on College Fair Day
Dress neatly and professionally for the college fair–you don’t have to be formal, but you want to be neat. You can’t go wrong with business casual. Bring along a bag large enough to carry materials you collect at the college fair, a pen, and a notepad to write down things you find out. When you arrive at the college fair, find a map right away and plot out where you want to go first and your plan for the day. Many college fairs can be busy and hectic, so taking a moment to plan ahead will make a big difference.

Ask Good Questions
Spend some time looking at college websites before attending and prepare a list of questions that you have about each of your top choices. You want to ask good questions that you could not answer from the website or admissions materials. This will help you to gather information as you make decisions about college and also help you to stand out to potential colleges. Subjective questions can provide more interesting information than objective questions, like class size, which can often be answered from admissions booklets. Ask the people representing the school about the things that makes their college unique, their favorite traditions, and what college freshmen would say about their first year on campus.

Keep an Open Mind
While you want to be sure to get to all of your top schools, allow some time tat the college fair just to wander and see the other school’s displays. If something catches your attention, stop and ask questions. College fairs can be a great time to add schools to your list and explore options you may have not heard of in the past.

Overcoming Testing Anxiety

Testing anxiety can affect even the best students and have a strong impact on students’ abilities to perform well on tests. Finding ways to overcome testing anxiety will help you to do better in school, stay calm before exams, and perform better on big tests like the SAT too.

There are many causes of testing anxiety. Some students become anxious during the hours before a test fearing that they have not studied enough. The best way to combat this is to start studying early and not leave anything to the last minute. When you feel comfortable with the material, its easier to put the books and notes away knowing that you’ve done everything you can to prepare. When preparing for bigger tests, like the SAT. It is even more important to start early and stay calm. A solid SAT test prep schedule will help you to budget your time and know that you have done all that you can to prepare.

The more tests you take, the better you will become at keeping calm before a big exam. When preparing for the SAT, taking practice tests as part of your online test prep can be a big help to students who are anxious. Similarly, if your textbooks have practice tests or questions to check your work, go back and look at them before a test. This is a good way to anticipate potential questions and identify trouble areas. Answering questions about test material can also help you to feel confident going into the test.

If you have questions, make the time to talk with your teacher. Similarly, if you find yourself experiencing severe anxiety, it may be worthwhile to talk with a parent or guidance counselor about ways to feel better, handle your emotions, and find ways to lessen your anxiety.

The day before the test, read over summaries of the material and then put your books and prep work away. Take some time to relax and be sure to get to sleep at a decent hour the night before a test. Feeling well rested and not spending the evening cramming for the test will help you to relax. Going into the exam calm and confident counts for a lot and will help you to recall information and follow directions on the test.

If you feel yourself getting anxious, try taking deep breaths and reminding yourself of the work you put into studying. Learning how to calm yourself down before a test is a skill that will be useful throughout your academic career.


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