The spring is flying by, and many high school juniors are prepping for the SAT and ACT tests taking place soon. With the advent of the redesigned SAT, studying for these tests has taken a dramatic turn. Many of the quick tips and crafty strategies that have benefited students on the previous SAT will no longer work. A long term approach is required, but there are some things to be aware of that can be employed for a few extra points.
According to Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., founder of Academic Approach, a one-on-one tutoring company, real success on the tests will come from developing and demonstrating the skills that are necessary for college readiness. These are skills that can’t be crammed into a short study session but need to be developed over time. For students preparing to take the SAT in early May, or the ACT in June, there isn’t much time if students don’t already possess these skills. However all is not lost, as Pietrafetta offers some strategies from immediate to long-term that can be used to help students improve their performance.
The Quick Fixes
- No guessing penalty: both ACT and SAT do not penalize a student for wrong answers, so don’t leave any answers blank.
- Time awareness: bring a silent, digital wristwatch as pacing on the tests is crucial. If you go too fast you can make mistakes, too slow and you leave questions incomplete. Sometimes it is hard to keep track or see the clock in the testing room, so having your own watch with a silent alarm can help you keep track of how much time has gone by.
- Write in the booklet: no one reads or cares what is in the booklet, only what you put on the bubble sheet. Annotate, underline, circle, write out math steps or whatever you need to focus on the details.
- Refuel: both tests are long, over three hours, which is in line with running a marathon (okay, a fast runner on the 26.2 mile course) versus a sprint. You need to keep your energy up to remained focused and push through the endurance test. Know you will have breaks and bring snacks or a drink that will help re-energize you during the test.
The Level One Skills
- Avoid redundancy: on the essays the readers value clear, concise writing. Longer sentences are not necessarily better. Avoid wordy, verbose and excessive language.
- Answers are in the text: reading sections and math word problems will provide evidence that supports the correct answer. If you can’t find evidence in the passage or info graphics to support an answer selection, it is not the correct answer.
- Use pencil to avoid math mistakes: common errors are made in the math section because students fail to write down steps neatly and completely in the booklet. Avoid mental math. Method and order of operation mistakes are easy to make if you are sloppy with your work.
The Level Two Skills
These skills are advanced and require months to develop. Advanced skill-based instruction, in the classroom with your school teachers or outside tutors, can help you develop the skills that are valuable for school success and as a side perk, higher test scores. Some of these areas include learning the rules of grammar, proficiency in algebra and word problems, and learning to deal with reading complex passages in primary source texts.
A final thought that Pietrafetta shared was that with the redesigned SAT, there is 44 percent more time per question than the previous SAT. What does that mean? For example, there is more time for annotation when reading as there is approximately seven minutes to read a passage in the reading section of the test. Now students might be able to relax just a bit knowing they have some extra time per question which will help them perform better on the test.
For more information on Pietrafetta’s thoughts on the SAT, ACT and test prep, check out the Academic Approach blog.