Before taking the SAT exam, keep in mind several things to be effective in showing what you know. The following guidelines can help you avoid getting bogged down in the details. (You may want to bookmark this page and read it again a day or two before the test, just to refresh!)
- Be familiar with the types of questions on the test and know exactly what they ask. The directions stay the same on all forms of the test. You will save a lot of time, and feel more confident on test day, if you read through all the information on this site and do the practice tests ahead of time. Then, things won’t seem strange to you on test day. You can focus on the content of the questions and give it your best shot.
- Read the questions carefully and thoroughly. Don’t be tempted to read the first few words and think, “I know this!” and mark the answer. Some questions will try to trick you into doing this, and that is never a good idea.
- While taking the test, you may look through all the items in that section and go back and change the answers you are unsure of. Because you are allowed to access only the section you are currently working on, you cannot look at any other section during that time. When the time is up for that section, it’s up.
- All of the questions are worth the same points, so answer the ones you know first and go back to the ones on which you have to spend more time. Just be careful not to rush on the easier ones and make a goofy mistake.
You may circle skipped questions in your test booklet to save you time when you go back to try them again. Don’t be discouraged when you decide to skip questions. Many times, the questions that seemed hard at first will seem easier when you look again.
NOTE: If you do skip around, be very careful to mark the answers in the appropriately numbered rows on the answer sheet.
- In the Math section, some questions are multiple-choice, but others require you to solve for the answer on your own. So familiarize yourself with the process of filling in answers on a grid. You need to know how to enter whole numbers, fractions, and decimals before attempting to take even a practice SAT Math test. It is actually an easy process once you know a couple of key guidelines. To see an explanation for using grids, see this source.
It may save you time if you answer a set of grid questions in the test booklet, then grid them in all at once, maybe in sets of five. Just be sure you are on the right row on the answer sheet and grid in all answers you have figured out before the test time ends. Check for this when you are given the 5-minute warning before the end of the Math tests.
- Only two sections have the questions arranged in order of difficulty, from easiest to hardest. They are the Math and the Sentence Completion parts of the Critical Reading sections. This may help you as you decide which questions to attempt first.
- Don’t guess unless you can narrow the choices down to just two. You are penalized 1/4 point for each incorrect answer, but answers left blank lose no points.
There is an exception to this: The answers that require you to fill in the answer on a grid. If you answer incorrectly on these, no points are subtracted, so try to attempt all answers that require you to fill in a grid.
Remember that this is not just a “one shot” deal. Most students take the SAT exam twice and improve their score by doing so. And, remember, colleges look at the highest score for each of the three sections: Writing, Reading, and Math.
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