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General Resource : Resources for Test Preparation >> Test Prep for Colleges

  • How to Score High on the SAT or PSAT
  • How to Score High on the SAT or PSAT

    The SAT is a test that you take at the end of high school that determines what university you get into, however, unlike what some people think, the PSAT is not a pre-SAT, it is the preliminary scholastic aptitude test which is similar to the SAT but it is not the same thing. The PSAT is in fact harder than the SAT. It determines if you are qualified to become a national scholar or not. Some university require the SAT and some require a similar test called the ACT but the PSAT is not required. There is no way to guarantee a great score on the SAT, but these tips can help.

    Step 1:
    Give yourself a good block of time each day to prepare for it by doing practice problems, starting at least two months in advance. The best textbooks to use are Barron's test prep because they are much more difficult than the real test which will prepare you really well. Don't touch the Princeton review, kapland, or the collegeboard, those texts and practices are easier than the real test. ONLY use barrons. It's cheap if you order it from barnes and nobles online and if you order a "used" copy. Many times, used copies aren't horrible as some people like to think. I bought mines and it was perfectly new and some people only had one bent page and it was classified as "used".

    Step 2:
    Read constantly. You should always be reading a pieces of non-fiction over fictional literature. This doesn't mean that fictional literature is "Bad" but most texts that come up on the SAT and the PSAT are non-fiction. Reading by itself does not help if you don't annotate the text. If you don't think critically about the things while you are reading, you will never do well. Remember- vocabulary is only a small PORTION of the critical reading sections, you need to do well on the entire section, not just a part.

    Step 3:
    Read the paper or a news magazine; stay informed. Look for boring news topics and read editorials, because 100% of the time, not one text on that page interests you but use literary elements and annotate to break down the text: this helps in both the writing and critical reading as you study how good and poor writers think and write and you will be able to catch silly mistakes such as "either... nor" or "not only but and". Being informed about common events will give you more material to work with on the essay portion, if you are taking the new SAT. Especially read The National Review. It has many vocabulary words.

    Step 4:
    Buy SAT books. You must decide for yourself which books works best for you. Ask others (epecially those who did well) for their opinions on various review books, and look for reviews online. Skim through different books to see which style appeals most to you. SAT classes are also worth it now that the new SAT has come out but try to minimize the cost of the classes if you can get your english and math teachers to create a program to help students. Tell them that there needs to be discussion opportunities in class to help you guys think critically and understand and utilize the concepts until you know them by heart.

    Step 5:
    Look into SAT preparation programs for your calculator. They are a little known resource that can provide a quick score boost. Some programs can be used during the math section of the test and others can be used in place of verbal flashcards.

    Step 6:
    Practice one section every night. Every week, set aside some time to take a full-length practice test. Start always by practicing the test timed, and always use the strategies that work. Just because something is a strategy doesn't mean that you use it. Only use it if it's getting you a high score. If it's not, then obviously your strategy is not working.

    Step 7:
    Read, read, read! Reading books will help your vocabulary and writing. Choose a book that is a challenge to you, utilize the lexile rankings or read more philosophical books such as the bell curve.

    Step 8:
    A few days before the test, slow the urgency your review down but don't slow down the quality of your work.
    Two days before the test, constantly review and calmly overview stuff you learn one hour before you go to bed and have a good night's rest.

    Step 9:
    One week before the test, gather all the things you will need for the next day and work out how you are going to get to the testing center. Make sure to have directions as getting lost on the way to the testing center will cause your mind to lose focus and stress you out. At this point, you should be confident that you can perform well on the test or if you know you haven't prepared as well- that's your fault.

    Step 10:
    Get a full night's sleep (8 hours).

    Step 11:
    Eat a light breakfast the day of the test and bring a small snack or water bottle to the test with you. Almonds are also great. Hot cheetos are not.

    Additional Tips:

    • Studying Greek and Latin root words helps greatly. However, there are a ton of them, so don't drive yourself crazy. If you have the option of taking Greek or Latin as foreign language in high school or middle school, strongly consider doing so.
    • For the SAT, take the test two times, even if you scored well the first time. For the PSAT, you have only one chance during the junior year, so constantly prepare for this test starting in 8th grade. Don't wait until junior or freshmen year. Colleges only count your highest score and you almost always score higher every time you take it because you are familiar with it and are not as nervous. Don't take it more than twice, though. Some colleges will appriciate that you care about trying to do better on the test, but they will also think you're caring too much about scores if you take it more than two times.
    • Take the SAT for the first time in 10th or 11th grade so that you are familiar with it when you take it during your senior year.
    • Consider taking the ACT as well as the SAT. Many students find that they score much better on one test as opposed to the other. The trap almost every person falls into, however, is thinking that the ACT is easier. In fact, most who take both consider it the harder of the two. This is because the ACT may not have writing, but it has an extended science section, which most people have never prepared for in their lives. In addition, there are just four main sections to the ACT, while in the SATs, there are 10.
    • When you do the Critical Reading sections, do not read the questions first. If you fill your head with too much information, you will not do well on each individual question because each question is entirely different with 5 answers each. Annotate and stop on the text for each question. Always read the italicized background information on the top of the text each time. Read the entire first paragraph and stop and look at the first question regarding the text and try to answer it. Next, if the next question asks you to look at line 23, go back to text, read from the end of the first paragraph to the end of line 23ish and stop and go and answer the question. Sounds good huh? IF you're running out of time, answer all the questions that ask you about specific lines such as "frosty" in line 30 most nearly means or what literary device does the author use in lines 23-25?
    • Familiarize yourself with the type of grammatical errors SAT wants you to be aware of (eg. parallelism, subject-verb agreement, etc.)and familiarize yourself with the test. Know every single little detail you can about the test. X section has x question and needs to be done in x amount of time.
    • Practice writing the 25-minute essay and have it graded by a teacher consistently.
    • If you do not have much time and feel that your vocabulary is not good enough, consider memorizing SAT vocabulary using flash cards.
    • Take it from someone who has gotten a perfect score on the New SAT's. The SAT's are just a system, they ask the same questions over and over just with different words, be able to identify the ten or fifteen different types there are.
    • The most important piece of advice that can be given is to recognize that once you get into a philosophical discussion with yourself regarding the question, you've gone way too far. Go back and re-read the question and answer it using only the information that has been presented to you. IF you look at the questions line specific, then you can check what you've read so far and use each line to prove an answer correct or incorrect.


    Source: wikiHow

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