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Common Sense Method to Preparing for the SAT - page 2 / 11





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5. I would also recommend that you work one section at a time. Spend about one hour on each section. Marathon sessions will not be as productive as repeated shorter ones.

Who needs to "prep" for the SAT

Before answering that question, I should address another question. Who does LIKE to prepare for the SAT? That one is easier to answer ... nobody in his or her right mind would enjoy spending hours practicing the lost art of filling little oval bubbles! However, there is so much at stake, that the sacrifice becomes bearable. One compromise might be found in the form of transforming the SAT into a game. In fact, there is a small amount of satisfaction, if not pleasure, in finding ways to beat the SAT writers at their own game.

Back to the original question: the answer is that most everyone needs to prepare for the SAT. While we hear occasional reports of a student acing the SAT without any preparation, there is a good chance that the formidable test taker had some experience with standardized tests or with some kind of intellectual competition. The reality is that the SAT is very different from most school exams or tests, and presents a very different set of challenges.

Despite testing English and mathematical concepts, the SAT does not test much of the material a typical student learns in high school. While experts are now battling to decide if the SAT has indeed become an "achievement" test versus the "aptitude" test it was before March 2005, I think that it makes little difference to the students who are facing this animal. In order to tame this "beast," we need to respect it and learn as much as we can about his behavior and idiosyncrasies. For some natural test takers, this would require a simple review of a past test and a general understanding of the arcane presentation and language. But, let's not fool ourselves ... those students are exceptions. Most of us mere mortals have to face the simple truth that to do well on this grueling test, we will need to practice.

Can brilliant students do poorly on the SAT?

Yes, they CAN and they DO! The first thing to realize is that acing advanced calculus won't do you much good on the SAT Math. The SAT is a different test that requires a different knowledge: the knowledge of the test itself. One usually gains that knowledge by practicing on released tests. This is the best way to start understand the format and recognize the type of questions. In a typical test, 90% of the questions are testing "old" concepts and very few questions (maybe 3 to 5) are a bit newer and unfamiliar.

Getting a good score does not require a deep knowledge of math…nor a very large vocabulary. For example, you can solve most, if not all, of the problems without ever using a calculator. So, what does it take? What is needed is the ability to recognize the questions and patterns without much effort, and especially without wasting time. In other words, the key is to know how to solve the problems FAST. For most problems, it is neither necessary nor advisable to work through all the steps to verify your answers. The


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