14 Tips to Master the SAT1

While there are no quick-fixes in this world and no substitute for hard work, sometimes working smart may yield better results than working hard!  Tests are no exception and often, we can beat the system with smart thinking and approach.  Although the SATs are supposed to reflect your aptitude, good practice and clever answering would lead to a higher score.  Here are some quick tips on how to improve your SAT1 score!

Tip 1 : Questions are usually ordered from easy to difficult except under the Critical Reading Section.  Plan on spending time on questions accordingly. Remember that the obvious answers to earlier questions are probably correct, while obvious answers to the difficult questions later are probably distracters.  Be careful to check these carefully.

Tip 2 : Use a intelligent process of elimination if you are to guess any answers.  Remember that wrong answers get penalized ¼ point so guess only if you can narrow down your choices to 2 or 3. This increases your chances of getting the right answer and over the course of the test, shall probably lead you to gain more points than lose. However, if you are unable to eliminate choices, do not hazard a guess.

Tip 3 : Go with your first instinct or first choice answers for the most part. Research has shown that candidates often arrive at the correct answer but when they revisit a question later and try to second guess themselves, they might change it to a wrong one.  Trust your first instinct.

Tip 4 : Beware of tricky questions.  Don’t rush through the test – its important to read the questions carefully. Look out for Reversing words like ‘not’ that would reverse the meaning of a question. Another common example of a simple trick would be a question like ‘What is X+1’ instead of ‘What is X’. Even the answer choices would include the right value for X so you might choose that in a hurry while the correct choice would have been the value of ‘X+1’. Read Carefully!

Tip 5 : Don’t fret over the short time of 25 minutes allotted to the essay since it obviously is not enough to write a perfect essay. While grammar is important, it plays only a small part in the grading. The graders shall care more about your development of the argument in the topic.

Tip 6 : The Essay should ideally have an introduction to establish your position, two to three paragraphs to expand and elucidate on it with examples and cases, and then a conclusion to tie it all in together and support your assumptions/stand. Since you have only 25 minutes for this, spend the first five on thinking and brainstorming ideas in your mind and jotting them down. Get down to writing the essay only after you have done this.

Tip 7 : Do NOT waste time on questions you are unable to answer. Try to apportion time to all the questions in any section properly so that you do not get bogged down with a few here and there. Move on if you find a question difficult and return to it later if you have time left. Agonising over a difficult question you do not know will lead you to miss out on others you would have gotten right.

Tip 8 : If you have time, double-check the questions that might have given you trouble so that you can be sure of your workings and your answer.  Do this only if you have time left at the end of a section.

Tip 9 : Make sure you understand the directions for each section before-hand.  This will save you some time during the test since you don’t want to be reading all these over again on the Test Day, when you could have done it at home earlier.

Tip 10 : It is a long test and can get strenuous if you are not used to it.  Make sure you have taken enough practice tests under similar conditions. Sleep well the night before and don’t do last minute cramming by staying up all night. Give adequate rest to the brain to deal with the strain and pressure on Test Day.

Tip 11 : Keep track of the time. Each Section has its own time limit and you would do well to plan the time spent on questions accordingly. Carry a watch with you in case the Exam Centre does not have a proper clock.

Tip 12 : Last minute cramming does not work.  The SAT is an aptitude test and you will be better off building your skills over a period of time (years would be ideal). Build vocabulary lists, do a lot of reading, practice maths, take practice tests, take up appropriate high school courses like algebra that would help you prepare.

Tip 13 : Many difficult words are often repeated on the test so it would be a good idea to go over past tests and build a list of words that you find difficult. You would be surprised at how often some of these words keep appearing on the test. There would be no excuse to not know a repeated word due to lack of effort in going over past tests.

Tip 14 : In the Sentence Completion section, try to complete the sentence using your own words even before you see the available answer choices. If your answer matches with a choice, its probably the correct one. This technique will also save you time that you might otherwise lose in trying to fit each choice with the sentence.

Remember, these are not substitutes for preparation or hard work!  However, they may help you score higher by approaching the test more smartly.

All the best and do keep us posted on how effective you thought these tips were.

Nirmal Agarwal



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