A lot of parents have been asking me for advice for their child regarding taking the SAT college entrance exam. I have compiled a few questions I get asked a lot and tried my best to answer them. I will continue to update and add to this article as the questions come in. As always, I would love to hear feedback!
Take The Test Twice… At Least
Generally I recommend taking the test once and then, if necessary, sitting down and coming up with a study plan to improve your score the second time around. There are many reasons for taking this particular test at least twice. First of all, taking the test more than once does cannot affect your scores on the first test. Whereas some standardized tests (the LSAT for example) average your sores over multiple attempts, colleges admissions offices throughout the country will only see your highest SAT score. Furthermore, recently some college began doing something called “superscoring,” which means they take all of your SAT subscores (Math, Reading, Writing) from all of your test dates, and then choose the highest math score, the highest reading score, and the highest writing score, regardless of whether those happened at the same time, and they call this your “highest score.” Although this sounds like great news, keep in mind that colleges do this for everyone; even though your apparent score went up, so did everyone else’s.
Another reason to take the test more than once is is psychological: any time you’re in a novel situation there are a lot of unknown people and factors which raise your stress level and decrease your ability to focus and think rationally. I suspect this is a manifestation of what is called by psychologists the orienting response. The orienting response can be useful to an organism that needs to react quickly to a novel situation, in other words this is what you do when you don’t know what to do. The second time you take the test, you’ll already know the general layout, how often the breaks are, where the bathroom is, how many pencils you should bring, etc. Habituating the student to the testing environment decreases the total number of “unknowns,” reduces stress hormones like cortisol, making it more likely the student will focus on the actual test and its contents. I would recommend that you purchase the extra student answer service (I think it is an extra $13.50 as of 2017). This would allow the student to go back after he/she has taken the test once and look at specifically which questions he missed and why, and then come up with a study plan to fill in any gaps in his/her knowledge.
To Improve Your Vocabulary, Read!
Lots of students ask me what tricks or methods I recommend for improving vocabulary and comprehension of wordy passages. I usually do not suggest spending hours and hours memorizing words from flashcards as many educators would suggest. The definition of a word can be extremely important on the SAT Test, however the context in which it is used is equally, if not more, important. In addition, unless you have an incredible memory and ability to pay attention memorizing long lists of words and definitions is tedious and not very effective. To get a feel for what words mean in context, you must read… a lot. Read anything you can get your hands on, try going to your local library and asking if they have any scholarly journals available in print or online, read them. Find the words that you don’t understand and look them up, then go back to the text and put the word into its context and see if you can understand what the author was trying to convey. Ask yourself, why did they use a sophisticated word here instead of a common one?
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