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What is the SAT?
Well, the answer to this question comprises of several parts. When the SAT was first introduced in 1926, it was known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Since then, the college entrance exam has been renamed several times in addition to undergoing many formatting changes. In fact, the current format that is being utilized will undergo major changes in 2016.
What is the format of the SAT?
As of now, the SAT comprises of three unit sections, which students have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. The three units section are Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. Each section receives a score on the scale of 200-800 in ten-point increments.
The Critical Reading Section comprises of two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. The Mathematics section comprises of one 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. The Writing section comprises of one 25-minute essay section, one 25-minute multiple choice section, and one 10-minute multiple choice section. In addition, there is one 25-minute experimental section
How long is the SAT in terms of time?
Completing the SAT itself should take 3 hours and 45 minutes. The entire examination usually takes a little longer than 4 hours (~ 4 hours 15 minutes) due to administrative duties such as handing out the booklets, reading out the directions, breaks between sections, and minor disturbances.
Tell us about the Critical Reading section.
The Critical Reading Section comprises of 2 25-minute sections and 1 20-minute section. There may be one additional 25-minute reading section on the exam, if your experimental section happens to be reading (you won’t know which section, of course). There are approximate 5-8 sentence completions in each section, which do increase in difficulty as the numbers ascend. The bulk of the critical reading section is reading comprehension questions that accompany both short and long passages—the longer the passage, the more questions you can expect to be associated with it. Reading comprehension questions do not increase in difficulty as the question numbers increase as is the trend is the large majority of the exam. Instead, they follow the order of the passage with the exception of the “big picture” questions.
How should one prepare for the Critical Reading section?
That really depends on how much time the student has prior to the examination. We recommend students to utilize a myriad of study tips that range from reading the New York Times or TIME magazine, understanding the trends in the reading passages, knowing content types, memorizing high-frequency SAT vocabulary words, recognizing connotation within a sentence, looking out for uncommon punctuation within reading passages, and a lot more. Furthermore, one has to understand why the wrong answer choices are wrong whether they confuse details or are the opposite of what is stated in the passage.
Any tips for those pesky sentence completions?
A lot of SAT instructors will suggest that you memorize a ton of vocabulary for these, and we half-heartedly agree. While memorizing high-frequency SAT words will help, you should also make sure you understand connotation. Sentence completions # 1-4 shouldn’t involve too many challenging vocabulary words and at least one of the questions from #5-8 if applicable will involve a difficult connotation rather than difficult vocabulary words.
What we suggest is to keep a list of words (and their definitions) that you will add to while completing practice tests. Keep in mind that you will have to memorize these definitions, so keep them as short as possible. At RQM, we provide our students with word groups that associate synonyms to one definition, so it’s easier to memorize larger quantities of words. Furthermore, we have them memorize arcane vocabulary words in groups. High-frequency SAT flashcards/word lists are great too provided that they come from a reputable publisher.
Tell us about the Mathematics section.
The mathematics section involves a myriad of concepts ranging from special right triangles, circles, function notation, permutations, combinations, elementary probability, algebra 1, systems of equations, inverse relationships, and many more. The questions do increase in difficulty as the question numbers ascend. Keep in mind that there is no penalty for wrong answer choices in the fill-in section (but because of the number of possibilities, it is fairly impossible to guess your way through these). Students get questions wrong not just because of lack of experience/proficiency in a content manner, but also because of the difficulty of the problem itself. It is essential that you approach Level 4 and 5 problems with a greater attention to the nuances and techniques to solving them.
How should one prepare for the Mathematics section?
Practice, review; practice, review; practice, review. In other words, do math sections (we recommend the CollegeBoard Blue Book), review your mistakes either with a tutor or a knowledgable friend, and keep track of your mistakes in terms of content area and difficulty. After doing 8-11 math sections, you should be able to spot a trend whether you only get difficult problems wrong or are deficient in a few content areas. Hone in on those concepts with practice problems and help from an instructor. Then, review with more practice exams in order to understand your score changes.
Which calculator should I use?
We get this question a lot unsurprisingly. The market is chockfull of calculator apps, expensive graphing calculators, relatively useless four-function calculators, and great-looking scientific calculators. We would whole-heartedly recommend going for a graphing calculator over a scientific. in the graphic calculator sector, we’d recommend the TI-83+, TI-84, TI-84+, TI-84+ Silver Edition, and a TI-89. Although it is nice to have the latest and greatest (our personal favorites are the TI-Nspire and the Color LCD TI-84s), we usually find that students familiarize themselves with a calculator that they use for a while. There is no need to borrow a more advanced calculator for the SAT than the ones we mentioned. We know that the new technology is cool, but working with an unfamiliar instrument on a high-stakes exam is particularly risky. As for apps, some of them are really useful, but we’d recommend that you become comfortable to its interface before utilizing it on any examination.
Tell us about the Writing section?
The Writing section tests on all of the common English grammar laws that are but not limited to: subject-verb relationships, pronoun-antecedents, verb tense, verb case, past perfect, present perfect, faulty comparisons, misplaced modifiers, dangling modifiers, parallelism, gerunds, comparatives/superlatives, word usage, subjunctive mood, idiomatic prepositions, and much more. There are three types of questions: identifying sentence errors, fixing sentences, and improving paragraphs. There are different techniques on how to approach each question type. Furthermore, there is an essay section (the very first section) that is graded and factored into the writing score.
How does one prepare for the essay?
Well, it is a process (depending on how great and efficient of a writer you are)—and a very long one at that. Essays have to be revised, which only someone with expertise on the SAT grading process should do. Our quick tips would include filling up the two pages, having three body paragraphs, transitions, no contractions, eloquent language (vocabulary and punctuation), statements that are prewritten (in your minds) before entering the examination, and much more.
How does one prepare for the writing section?
Study the grammar rules, and take practice tests while keeping track of the questions you make mistakes in. Make sure to write down the corresponding grammar rule(s) for the questions that you have gotten wrong.
When should I take the SAT?
The simple answer is when you’re ready. Many test prep agencies and private tutors suggest their students to take the exam in March or May where “the curve is better.” But, this sentiment couldn’t be more false. Not only is it completely baseless, it has absolutely no merit. While there is a curve, that curve is only in place to ‘equate’ the difficulty of that particular SAT compared to the norm. So, let’s say in the May SAT 2014, the second math section was particularly easy, the math section of that SAT would be given a lower curve to account for the easier problems. Keep in mind that a lower curve translates to a larger deduction in the scaled score for every mistake. Furthermore, the difficulty, or lack thereof, of the problems in the SAT are determined prior to the examination, so it doesn’t take into account test takers’ ability to complete the problem. In other words, the curve is predetermined before the test takers walking in. Also, it is completely arbitrary whether the reading or the writing or the math section will be more difficult in whichever examination. Therefore, take the SAT when you feel confident about your preparation for this high-stakes exam.
What is the experimental section?
In every administration of the SAT, there are ten sections. Of those ten, one is an ‘experimental section’ such that the section will not be reflected in your score. Keep in mind that it is usually not fruitful to ascertain which SAT section is the experimental. Many have said that the experimental section is usually particularly easier or harder than the scored part of the exam. While this may be true, no one cannot be entirely sure on which section is experimental. Some can narrow it down to a subject. If there are two sections of the same subject in a row, one of them must be experimental, but is it really worth trying to find out which one it is? No. Just do your best on the entire test.
Can I cancel my score?
Yep, you can. If you were sick during the exam or just feel like you did terribly, you can cancel your examination no later than 11:59 PM on the Wednesday after the exam date, which we think is fairly generous. You can read more about the procedure here. http://sat.collegeboard.org/scores/cancel-sat-scores.
May I bring food and/or drinks to the examination?
While CollegeBoard officially allows test takers to bring food and drinks into the examination to consume during breaks, we have had many reports of proctors forcing students to discard their snacks before walking into the testing room. We firmly believe that this is an injustice and would recommend that you direct your proctor or his/her supervisor to: https://sat.collegeboard.org/help, to show them CollegeBoard and ETS’ testing guidelines that must be strictly followed.
When should I sign up for the SAT?
We usually recommend our students to sign up for the test two months in advance. Even though the registration deadline is one month before the examination, many seats fill up by that time. Registering two months in advance allocates enough time to gauge the progress and assess readiness for the exam while maintaining the great advantage of getting first pick for your testing center.
How much is the SAT?
“The SAT costs $51 ($78 International, $99 for India and Pakistan, since the older testing system is in place). For the Subject tests, students pay a $24.50 ($49 International, $73 for India and Pakistan) Basic Registration Fee and $13 per test (except for language tests with listening, which cost $24 each).” There are fee waivers, however, for those that receive free lunch. Ask your guidance counselor for more information.