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SAT Exam Strategy

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The SAT test is like a contest in which you need to apply your knowledge.  Most test takers already have a general knowledge of what will be covered on the exam.  In reality SAT reveals as much differences in the level of preparation as it reveals differences in IQ.  One reason some test takers do well on test day is that they have made the critical connection between the material they learned and how to use that material to succeed on the SAT test.  That's the question of strategy.

The most fundamental strategy is to take as many practice tests as possible and took SAT several times. Nationwide, more the two third of students who took the SAT more than once increased their composite score.

One of the simplest SAT taking strategy (or generally for any large test) is to answer easy questions first. Another good but less well known strategy is to look for traps on the harder problems.

To learn useful test-taking strategies you can use any of Kaplan’s or Princeton Review’s books (you do not need the latest version; old versions are really cheap). You do not need edition with the CD, they are more expensive. Kaplan’s books are slightly higher level then Princeton Review’s books but both are good. Princeton Review concentrates on "backdoor" strategies of solving problems and those can be greatly enhanced by using TI-89 to the fullest extent possible.

Please remember that test-taking strategy will only get you so far. It does not replace the knowledge that you need to have to pass the test. While they definitely can help, you need to work on improving your problem solving skills, especially math skills to get better score.

Ironically, heuristic tricks are more useful for low to mid scoring students. If you are aiming for 800, educated guessing is not going to help; you do need to know the correct answer. But if you are aiming for 600, you can skip some questions and answer the questions easiest for you.

The Strategy

Note: There are good section on strategies in Kaplan and Princeton Review book. This is just a supplemental information.

  1. Find the best for you books; do not try to save money by buying less books, just buy older editions. The quality of books can make the difference between success and failure. Good books can really increase your chances of passing.
  2. Find out as many details about exam in advance as possible. Among simple stupid question that are often missed and negatively influence result one can mention:

    Knowing details in advance can help to optimize your behaviors during the exam, and thus improve your chances of success. If calculator is allowed you should pay special attention to maximizing its utility. Search the WEB and find all possible uses for particular problem area.

  3. Plan to work hard. There is not royal way to mastery. Usually the subject is a pretty difficult and demanding beast. Always (repeat after me always) try to solve old problems after each chapter in the textbook. Often they are more important that the text of the chapter. Get a second computer or second hard drive and practice installation and other tasks on it. Even if you have job experience, it may not cover all the test topics adequately.
  4. Buy and master the latest version of TI-93 caculator.

On Exam

For example College Board lists the following recommendations (SAT Test Taking Approaches – SAT Questions):


This topic is covered elsewhere and we just repeat points that we find most useful.

  1. Read each question carefully and preferably twice! People often lose points simply because they read the question too quickly and misunderstand what is being asked.
  2. Be attentive putting answers in a proper place. Many test takers lose points because they put an answer in the wrong place. Use a transparent ruler to avoid this possibility. Check your answer sheet as you go along to make sure your answers match up. Circle key terms.

    When selecting your answers, cross off any you know are definitely wrong. Circle the correct answer.

  3. Bring drawing instruments with you. Especially useful are protractor, ruler, bow pencil and divider. They help to solve geometric problems. See for example
  4. Find out what is the procedure used and try to adapt to it in advance. Take trial tests, if possible.
  5. Differentiate between simple and complex questions. This is a trivial recommendation but it is important as the test explicitly designed to stress the person so that less prepared takers run out of time. To beat the odds you usually can take advantage of the order of the questions by not answering them sequentially but using two passes instead.
  6. Use educated guessing. Guess only if you can eliminate two possibilities out of five. If you cannot eliminate two or more answers it might be better to skip the question. SAT system are structured in such a way that odds of random guessing are against you. For example, probability to guest right any question that have four answers is approximately 25% but for three possible answers it is 33%. Only the latter case compensates you for the fact that SAT subtracts 0.25 for each wrong answer. Remember 1/4 of a point is taken away every time you answer a question incorrectly. Wild guessing is not your friend. You can leave at least 20 questions blank on the entire verbal and the entire math section and still get over a 500 (an average score)!
  7. Don't exhaust yourself the day before the exam. A good night's rest before the exam will improve your problem solving ability. If you will spend it preparing you can slow yourself down and fail the exam that otherwise you would pass.
  8. Bring spare batteries for your TI-89 calculator or replace and check batteries before the test.

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[Nov 15, 2008] What to Expect on Test Day - Proprofs

We've talked a bit about the SAT and why you should take it seriously. Many students want to know what the SAT is actually like though, and what they can expect on the day of testing. We're here to break down the testing time and format for you as well as give you a few tips for what to do on and leading up to SAT testing.

On test day, you will enter your pre-designated testing center with your registration information in hand along with two forms of ID. You should be prepared to wait in line; typical wait times are around ten minutes. Once you have registered for the test and are assigned to a room, you will enter the room and the proctor will seat you. You will sit and wait for other students to arrive before the test begins. Once the test begins, the proctor will read instructions that have been given to her by the College Board. She will then hand out the necessary testing materials and assure that students have pencils in hand. She may also check calculators to ensure that they meet the College Board requirements.

After all of these formalities are complete, she will ask you to bubble in personal information and get ready to begin the test. The testing breakdown is as follows:

Section One: Essay - 25 Minutes

Sections Two - Nine: Math, Reading, or Writing - 20 or 25 Minutes

Section Ten: Writing - 10 Minutes

As you can see, the testing format and length is highly variable! The only sure thing is that you will have the essay first and the short writing section last. In addition, there will be breaks and pauses within the test at the discretion of the proctor and the direction of the College Board.

During the test, you obviously cannot talk, solicit help from others, look at another reference, or try to gain any sort of unfair advantage. You also may not use your cell phone or any other communication device.

After the test is over, the proctor will collect materials and will dismiss you. It's as simple as that.

Improving Your SAT Score - Proprofs

Many students complain that they are overwhelmed by the length and depth of the SAT, and that the material covered in the three sections is just too much to handle. We have good news for you: you don't necessarily need to handle it all!

The vast majority of colleges ask you to report your best SAT score on each section, meaning that the score you report will be the composite of your best attempts at each section. For example, let's say you took the test three times, with these results:

January 2008 CR 630 M 650 W 560

March 2008 CR 700 M 440 W 470

May 2008 CR 550 M 570 W 700

Although each of the total scores are roughly comparable for the three testing dates, your actual reported score will include the best of these three sections, so:

SAT Score CR 700 M 650 W 700

This is a much higher score than any of your three testing dates. So, the point is that you should focus on improving one section at a time rather than trying to improve all sections at a time if you need a major score increase.

3 SAT Tips The Princeton Review

Here are three SAT tips to help you be a smart test-taker:

Know the order of difficulty.

SAT questions can be divided into three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard. The questions in the first third of each section are easy, those in the second third are medium and those in the last third are hard. (The only exception is the Reading Comprehension passages, which do not follow this order.)

Every question on the SAT is worth an equal amount. So spend your time making sure you get the easy and medium questions correct and tackle the hard questions if time remains. Rushing through the test to get to the hardest questions will only drag your score down.

Don't be Joe.

Joe Bloggs is your average student. He gets the average score, 500, on each section. He gets all of the easy questions correct; he gets some of the medium questions correct; he gets all of the hard questions wrong.

Why is this important to you? Because our friend Joe is predictable. He gets all of the easy questions right because the choices that look correct are correct. He gets all of the hard questions wrong because the choices that look correct are wrong. If you know what Joe will do, you can make better decisions!

If you're working on an easy question, the answer that seems right probably is. If you're working on a hard question, the answer that seems right is always wrong. Use this strategy to help you eliminate choices for difficult questions.

Use the process of elimination.

Don't know the right answer? It happens. But if know which choices are definitely wrong (see above), you significantly improve your chances of getting the question right.

Each question has five possible choices. Eliminate one or more possibilities, and your chances of guessing correctly are 25% or better. An incorrect guess will cost you only a quarter of a point. A correct guess will add an entire point.

Let's say there are 8 questions where you eliminate 1 choice and guess among the remaining 4 choices. Statistically, you will guess correctly 2 times and incorrectly 6 times. You are rewarded 2 points and penalized 1.5 points. You just earned .5 points from guessing. Congrats-you've improved your score!

Ready for more SAT tips? Check out our SAT Test Prep.

SAT Topic Strategy Essay (Strategy for the Essay Question)

The essay section of the SAT provides you with a specific topic, or prompt, and allows you 25 minutes to write an original essay.

The essay is scored on a scale of 2 to 12. Two evaluators read every essay, and each assigns a score from 1 to 6; the two scores are then combined for your final essay score.

This section is intended to test your ability to develop and express ideas clearly and effectively. You will not be required to have special knowledge about the topic; you are expected to draw upon your experiences from courses you have taken, reading you have done, and experiences you have had both inside and outside of school. The essay is scored as a "first draft," but you will need to have a sound strategy before starting.

Top scores are given to essays that:

There are a variety of ways to achieve an essay that merits a score of 12. Fundamentally, the most important aspect is building your essay on an explicit viewpoint, or thesis. A thesis statement should clearly establish the main point or goal of your essay; everything you write should ultimately support your thesis.

Fundamentals for the essay:

Learning Resources:
Review the following materials on good writing practices:

If you are particularly concerned about your writing skills, take the time to review the short book Elements of Style by William Strunk; this is a standard reference used by many professional writers.

Top SAT Strategies

When it comes to the SAT, follow our seven proven test-taking strategies to pick up quick points, to guess smarter and to prevent careless mistakes.


All information is taken from SAT Test Prep, Division of Continual Learning, UNCG

Test taking tips

  1. Get a good night's sleep the night before your test.
  2. Eat breakfast.
  3. Dress comfortably and in layers. You never know what the temperature of the test room will be.
  4. Know the location (building, room, closest parking areas) of the test site before test day.
  5. Plan to arrive at the test site early. Leave enough travel time for traffic snarls and unexpected detours.
  6. Don't forget writing utensils, calculators (if allowed), your watch (without an alarm), ID cards, and your registration info.
  7. Have the test instructions memorized so that you do not waste valuable time reading them instead of answering questions.
  8. Take advantage of breaks to use the restroom, grab a snack, and stretch your legs.
  9. Don't listen to other test takers during breaks, especially if they are talking about how easy or hard they find the test to be.
  10. If you find yourself starting to panic, close your eyes, count to ten, and take a couple deep breaths to regain your composure. Stay cool!

SAT Prep - Proven Test-Taking Tips and Strategies

There are many ways to familiarize yourself with the format of the SAT. Familiarization is a great way to help alleviate test day anxieties. The following list has ways to help you become accustomed to the SAT.

Become comfortable with the SAT's format: When practicing, simulate the conditions of the actual test. Pace yourself. Stay calm. After repeating this process a few times, you are boosting your chances of performing well on test day. Success breeds confidence, and your successes here will give you much more confidence on test day.

Read all of the possible answers: If you believe you know the correct answer to a question, it is best not to assume that your answer is automatically the correct answer. Read through all answer choices to ensure that you are not making an error by jumping to conclusions.

Use the process of elimination: Examine each answer to a question. Eliminate as many of the answer choices as possible. By eliminating just two answer choices, you have given you're a better chance of the getting the correct answer out of the remaining three answer choices. Guess only if you can eliminate at least two answers. Remember that wrong answers are always penalized.

You don't have to answer every question: You are not penalized for not answering every question. Questions left blank are not counted. Maximize this advantage by using a smart guessing strategy to questions where you are unsure of the right answer. Always keep in mind that if you are truly stumped, you do not have to answer, especially because ¼ point is deducted for every wrong answer on multiple-choice questions.

Work quickly and steadily: You will only have 20 to 30 minutes to work on each section. Working quickly and steadily helps you avoid focusing too much attention and time on any one problem. Use the practice exams in this book to help you manage your timing.

Learn the directions and format for each section of the test: Familiarize yourself with the directions and form of each of the different test sections. This will help you avoid "direction shock" later on during the test, when you might read directions that were better read at the start of the test. Shocks like these cause nervousness. Nervousness causes mistakes. And these kinds of mistakes are completely avoidable.

Work on the easier questions first: The questions for each section of the SAT are arranged in ascending order of difficulty. The easier questions are at the beginning of each section, while the more difficult ones are at the end of the section. If you find yourself working too long on a single question, make a mark next to it in the test booklet and continue with the next question. After you have answered the remaining questions, return to the ones you skipped.

Mark answers carefully: Be sure that the answer sheet oval corresponds to the question and answer of your test booklet: Because the multiple-choice sections are graded mechanically, marking one wrong answer in this way can throw off your answer key and thus ruin your score. Be extremely careful.

Eliminating obviously wrong answers: Sometimes an SAT question has one or two answer choices that appear odd or out of place. These answers may be obviously wrong for one or more reasons:

• Impossible to achieve given the problem's conditions
• Violation of mathematical rules or principles
• Simply illogical

Being able to spot obviously wrong answers before you finish a problem gives you an advantage because you are able to make a better educated guess from the remaining choices. This works best when you find yourself unable to fully solve a problem.

Working from answer choices: Turn the multiple-choice format to your advantage by working backwards from the answer choices to solve a problem. This strategy is not applicable to all questions, but it is helpful when you can plug choices into a given formula or equation. The answer choices often narrow the scope of responses allowing you to make an educated guess based on eliminating choices that you know do not fit the problem.

[Nov 2, 2008] How to Improve Your S.A.T. Score

We have amassed some simple rules that we hope will help you improve your SAT score. While these are not fool-proof, they have been helpful to numerous students in the past.

  1. Take a Practice SAT Test ...
  2. Sign up for a Review Course (optional) ...


  1. Set up a private study plan

    Now that you have your basic test score, you can set up a study plan (without the review course. If you have chosen a review course, all of the following steps will be given to you in the course of the class.) Give yourself approximately two months prior to the test to make sure you have enough time to understand the test mechanisms, can learn to unwind the testing secrets, and ultimately overcome your weaknesses.

  2. Take an untimed test

    Within these two months, you will give yourself two untimed tests, after which you will go through each question and learn the reasons you answered correctly and incorrectly. Then you will go on to the next step. Now that you have studied the books you have purchased, you will take a timed test.

  3. Take a timed test on Saturday morning a month before the test

    You have taken an untimed test and studied all answers. Now, you are ready to set up a room in the same testing situation that you will find on the actual SAT. This means, completely timed, quiet, and timely. Set up a room with the same conditions you will face when the real test comes around. Have a parent or friend time you and begin the test at 9am on Saturday morning as to train your body for the real test in a month.

  4. Take a timed test on Saturday morning three weeks before the test

    Repeat the same exercise. You should be improving your score now.

  5. Take a timed test on Saturday morning two weeks before the test

    Repeat the same exercise. You should be close to your "goal score" by now. Do not fear if you are not, there is still plenty of time to continue studying and practicing.

  6. Do nothing on the Saturday morning one week before the test

    The Saturday (and week) prior to the test will be rather stressful. Consequently, we recommend that you do nothing too strenuous regarding the SAT. Too much pressure placed on this week may cause you anxiety. It will be hard, but stay away from those study books.

  7. Prepare the night before

    Set several alarm clocks and back-up methods of waking up in due time. A few days prior to the test, it is helpful to drive to the testing site so that you know where you must go on the morning of the test. You do not want to stress or even arrive late because you are lost. Set out your clothing, bag, and several No.2 pencils (do not forget T-89 calculator and set of spare batteries -NNB)

  8. Morning Preparation

    On the morning of the test, eat a healthy large breakfast. Pack your bag one more time. Be sure to dress in layers, so that when it gets hot or cold, you can remove the appropriate amount of clothing and always find comfort. Have several No. 2 pencils sharpened and ready, and pack a snack. You do not want hunger pains in the middle of the test.

The SAT, like all sports, is a test that can be studied, attacked, and conquered. If you treat it like you would treat a football or baseball game, you will overcome its foibles. You must train your brain, like you train your body, to understand the language of the standardized test.

Improve your score by at least 100 points!

Conquer the test, conquer your fears. You can improve your score by at least 100 points guaranteed. Read the following 10 ways to improve your score below. If you find the information beneficial (and you will), you can purchase the text, "A Coed with a Will, Keeps it Real," which chronicles a teenager's journey from high school to college and ultimately the real world (work)! The book is available at and other retailers.

Try free test prep sites as well:

If you like, I can be your coach. email me at: [email protected]

1. Improve your vocabulary: read, read, read. Read newspapers, your favorite magazines and books. Look up unfamiliar words, write them down, make flashcards.

2. Practice makes perfect: just like you would practice before that big game (sport players / stars) or before a recital (musicians), you need to practice. Take the SAT more than once. Take the ACT too.

3. Use a guessing strategy: remember the correct answer is staring you in the face...Use process of elimination (POE). Start with multiple choice C (for math it's the middle number, then use POE).

4. Omit: leave questions blank. I know, it contradicts your entire years of schooling...yes it does, but this strategy is crucial. Remember 1/4 of a point is taken away every time you answer a question incorrectly. Guessing is not your friend, if you don't use POE. Hint: if you cannot eliminate at least two answers, leave the question blank. You can leave at least 20 questions blank on the entire verbal and the entire math section and still get over a 500 (an average score)!

5. Get a good night's rest (very important and yet so simple). You do not want to be tired during this long and not so appealing test.

6. Eat a nutritious breakfast in the morning. You don't want your stomach growling as you test. You may scare your fellow test takers. In all seriousness, breakfast is crucial and will help you be more alert and less distracted.

7. Be prepared: Print directions the night before to the test site. Bring several pencils, your ID, wear layered clothing in case the testing site is too cold or hot. Bring a snack for the break. Turn your cell phones off (you do not want any distractions or your scores invalidated, which may occur if you look at your phone).

8. Set a goal and pace yourself: you should not spend longer than a minute per question. All questions are worth the same. Set a reasonable goal. Ivy league schools are not for everyone, but everyone can get into college with the proper work ethic and preparation. A 500 is average for each section. Aim for this range if you are a C student. If you are an A or B student aim for a 600 on each section. The total score you can get is 2400.

9. Think Positively: when in doubt, don't panic. Close your eyes and think of a place or something that makes you happy. Don't close your eyes for too long though (10-20 seconds should be long enough).

10. Relax: especially the day before the test. A marathon runner would not run a practice marathon the night before, so neither should you. Remember you can do it. You are the boss. Believe in yourself. The mind is the most powerful tool owned by humans. Don't doubt yourself. Good Luck.

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