The SAT exam is unlike any other. Scoring is different. Test taking strategy is different. Preparation is different.
We asked our professional online SAT tutors to take a few moments to share a few of their most important SAT prep tips to help students prepare:
Cross Out Incorrect Choices and Code Possible Correct Answers
The importance of the SAT can add unbelievable pressure and cause students to freeze up on the exam. This anxiety often leads to students forgetting simple SAT strategies like taking advantage of the multiple-choice format of the test. Although it may seem self-explanatory and overly obvious, it is critical to cross off choices that you know for sure are incorrect.
At times, the multiple choices can seem to loom under the question and, in the stress of the moment, can seem to blend together into a string of jumbled possibilities that you keep reading and rereading. Simply crossing out choices that you know for sure are incorrect can eliminate this frustration and confusion. This will help to limit the number of choices that remain as well as prevent repetitious reading of choices that you have already determined are wrong.
However, do not become over zealous and cross out a choice that you think may be a possibility. In this case, simply write an "M" for "maybe" to the left of it so that you can go back to it after you read all of the choices and re-evaluate the possibility of it being correct.
By coding the choices in this way you can help yourself to organize possible correct answers. Additionally, this method can help you to save time because it allows you to confidently skip rereading choices that you have already determined are wrong. Despite the stress of the moment, try to remember that a correct choice does exist for each question and that by having a plan on how to deal with the multiple choice format can help you arrive at that correct answer more quickly and accurately.**
When Should I Guess or Skip a Question?
SAT Prep professionals are always asked: "How do I know if I should guess or skip a question that I am unsure of?" While there is not a cut and dry answer on how many questions you should (or shouldn't) skip or on how many questions you can afford to guess on, there are a few tips on how to determine whether it is worth it to guess or if it is more beneficial to skip. Just keep in mind that you don't lose points when you skip a problem but you do give up the possibility of earning points toward your overall score if you were to guess correctly.
**It is recommended that you approach each question as though you do not have the opportunity to skip it; analyze each question and try your best to eliminate as many choices as possible before you even consider skipping it. Even if it is a question that covers a topic that you are not familiar with, attempt to solve the problem as if you had no other choice but to take an educated guess on the answer.
Now that you are attempting every problem with sincere determination, you can move on to analyzing your probability of getting the question correct. Without getting distracted by statistical analysis, let's just say that every time you cross out a choice that you are confident is incorrect, you increase your chances of getting the question correct. Therefore, if you are able to eliminate two choices, you should guess and if you are able to eliminate three choices you should not skip; at this point your chances of answering the question correctly to 50%. In this case it is definitely beneficial to guess. However, if you are not able to eliminate any choices or can only eliminate one choice, It is recommended that you skip the answer and not risk losing SAT points; in this case you only have 20 - 25% chance of answering it correctly.
When you are finished with a section go back and look over the ones that you skipped. It has been our experience that many times after a student looks back over the questions they previously skipped they realize that they are able to eliminate more choices and guess on the correct answer. Also, by reviewing the number of problems you skipped you can ensure that you have not skipped an extreme number of questions.
Whatever you do, don't try the "Christmas tree method" - where you just fill in the bubbles to make a nice pattern. If you are stuck on a number of problems, remain calm and do your best to eliminate even one incorrect choice. As mentioned previously, every time you cross out an incorrect answer you increase your chances of picking the correct answer.
SAT Math: Which Questions Should I Answer First?
Every student has a math section with which they feel most comfortable, and conversely, everyone has a math section or topic with which they are weaker in. Since the math sections of the SAT contain problems that range from pre-algebra to geometry to pre-calculus, it goes without saying that there will be questions that are more difficult and those that are more simple. Therefore, it is beneficial to go through the exam and answer as many of the easier questions as possible.
Each math problem takes time, consideration, and, in many cases, scratch work; so it is best to go through the section and answer as many easy questions as you possibly can first. This will ensure that even if you struggle with a few at the end, you have already correctly answered a large proportion of the questions correctly, adding valuable points to your SAT exam score. Most SAT math questions are worded in a way that makes it easy to determine which math subject area you are being tested on and whether the question targets a skill at which you excel or you struggle; after you determine whether or not it is going to be an easy problem or not, you can decide if this is a problem that you can feel confident about answering correctly, if not, skip the question and return to it later.
It is recommended that you go through the section and initially skip over the problems that you think may take you a while to solve or that you believe you may not be able to solve at all. While you would like to believe that after hours of studying and practicing you would be able to solve every math problem, the reality is, for most students, there will be a handful of problems that are very difficult and time-consuming to solve. In this case, after you have gone through the easy and medium questions you can return to the more difficult ones and devote the remainder of your time solving them.
By doing this you do not risk becoming involved in a problem, losing track of time, and missing out on the opportunity of correctly solving several problems that you may have considered easy, which would have added more points to your SAT score. If you skip all of the problems that you may essentially skip anyway you ensure that you answer as many questions correctly as you can and then you can spend the remainder of the section time on questions that you wouldn't feel bad skipping if necessary. As an added bonus, this will also boost your confidence and keep you from feeling discouraged that you wasted time on problems that you weren't able to solve anyway.
Ryan Duques is the founder of TutaPoint.com - an online education company. TutaPoint provides live, online SAT prep for students seeking experienced course instructors. All of TutaPoint's courses includes professionally taught course, private one-on-one SAT tutoring, diagnostic results analysis and materials. To learn more visit www.TutaPoint.com/SAT/full-course