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SAT Test Taking Tips and Techniques

OVERALL SAT TEST TACTICS
  • Study and review each SAT section direction now. Use the your alloted time for the test to work on the SAT questions.
  • Go through the each section and answer all of the questions you know the answers to first. Mark all the questions you don't immediately know the answer to and return and answer them later.
  • If you're able to eliminate even on choice for the selection of possible answers then guess.
  • Don't be sloppy when filling in the answer grid for student-produced response questions.
  • Since you're allowed to write in the test book, cross out answers you know are wrong and do scratch work.
  • Since a machine scores your test, make sure not to put any stray marks on your answer sheet. SAT scoring machines frequently can't differentiate between a correct answer and an accidental stray mark.
  • Your first response to a question is usually correct. Don't change an answer unless you're certain you've made an error.
  • Only select one answer for each question -- as there is only one correct answer.
  • If you don't have any idea what the answer is then skip it. You're aren't penalized for not answering questions.
  • SAT tests are scored differently than other types of standardized tests. Make sure you understand how they are scored. You get one point for every correct answer. You lose a fraction of a point for each question you answer incorrectly. You don't lose any points for questions that you don't answer and you don't lose any points for incorrect answers in the math section's student-produced response questions.
  • Make sure you're placing placing your answers in the correct number space and section on your answer sheet. Its easy to place your answer in the wrong place if you're not paying close attention.
  • Pace yourself! This test is timed. Only spend a few moments on the easy questions and no more than a minute or two on the harder questions. Don't forget that the SAT consists of several small, timed, tests. Its easy to loose track of time so make sure to pay attention to how much time is alloted for each test and how much time is remaining as you proceed through each section. Pacing yourself requires practice so practice, practice, practice.
  • A rule of thumb is that easy questions harder questions.
  • Make sure that you fully understand each question before you answer it. If you've taken a lot of practice tests you'll be tempted to answer questions you recall from practice tests. Make sure to answer the questions asked and not those from practice tests.
  • Don't forget to bring your own stop watch to the testing center. There isn't always an accurate clock at the testing center.
  • You need to know the types of questions to expect on the SAT. There are 19 sentence completion, 40 reading comprehension, 35 math multiple-choice and 10 student-produced response questions.
SPECIFIC SAT SECTION STRATEGIES

CRITICAL READING Section --- SENTENCE COMPLETION:
  • One of the best strategies for the sentence completion section is to complete each sentence in your mind using your own words BEFORE looking at the answers. Once you've completed the sentence in your own words identify the selection choice the is closest to your answer.
  • Don't rush through each selection. Don't waste time but make sure to review all the answers before making the best choice.
  • If you come across unknown words use the context of the sentence to figure out what they mean.
  • One common mistake that students make is that they tend to overlook the reversing effect of negative words (such as not) or prefixes (such as un-).
  • Allow transition words, such as likewise and although, to suggest the better answer.
  • If you just can't figure out what a word means, think about other words you know that have similar prefixes, roots, or suffixes.
  • Eliminate choices in double-blank questions if the first word doesn't make sense in the sentence.
CRITICAL READING Section --- READING COMPREHENSION (Short and Long):
  • Always make sure to read the italicized introductory text.
  • Always answer the easy questions first. Come back and answer the more difficult questions once you've answered all the questions you know the answer to.
  • Use the line referenced numbers that appear in the questions to find the correct spot in each passage.
  • You should limit your answer for reading comprehension questions to what is stated or implied in the passages.
  • Read each passage through at least once before reading the associated questions.
  • The most important sentences of each paragraph are the first and the last. Pay particular attention to these sentences.
  • Don't waste time memorizing the details of each passage.
  • First, answer all the questions for the topics that you are familiar with. Afterwards, go back and answer the questions for the topics you are unfamiliar with.
  • Some reading compreshension passages are presented in pairs. In order to see how these passages relate read the bried introduction first.
  • Focus your majority of your time answering the questions -- not reading and re-reading the text.
  • All reading comprehension content comes from the Social Science, Science, Humanities, and Literal Fiction.
WRITING Section --- WRITTEN ESSAY:
  • You'll be asked to write a relatively short (250-300 words), persuasive essay on a specific topic that will be provided to you.
  • Make sure to strucutre your essay based on the 5 paragraph essay format which includes an Introduction, Body (about 3 paragraphs), and Conclusion.
  • You're proviced 25 minutes to complete the written essay portion of the test. Read the essay question as quickly as possible and spend about 5 minutes thinking about the topic you've been asked to address. Spend about 15 minutes writing your essay. Spend the remaining 5 minutes reviewing your essay and editing your grammar.
  • The introduction paragraph of your persuasive essay should clearing state your position on the topic you're writing about and introduce your thesis statement. The introduction should also inlude 3 points that support your position.
  • The body paragraphs should provide specific detail and examples to support each of your points.
  • Your essay's conclusion should summarize your position by restating your thesis statement in a shortened form.
  • Keep your writing clear, concise and simple. Don't use words and "filler" text that is not needed to make and support your position.
WRITING SECTION -- MULTIPLE CHOICE: Usage, Sentence Correction, and Paragraph Correction
  • Think hard about each question before attempting to answer it.
  • Each usage and sentence correction question is based on an individual sentence. Each question is designed to test your knowledge of basic sentence structure, grammar, and word choice.
  • Paragraph correction questions are based on two passages. There are typically several questions presented for each passage.
  • Make sure to read each question carefully so that you understand what is required before you answer it.
MATH Section --- STUDENT PRODUCED RESPONSE (GRID):
  • Since there is no pelanalty for guessing make sure to answer all the questions even if you don't know the answer.
  • There are no negative answers in the student produced response math section. So if you come up with a negative answer, you'll need to try again.
  • You're able to enter a short answer in any column provided. For example, .8 can be entered in columns 1-2, or 2-3, or 3-4.
  • If you're answer ends up being a repeating decimal, such as .4444444, just enter as many decimal points as you can in the grid provided.
  • Even though you can enter an equivalent decimal for your answer instead of a fraction, there is not reason to as it just wastes time.
  • Do not provide mixed numbers as answers. For example, if your answer is 2 3/4, you need to change it to 11/4 or 2.75.
MATH Section - STANDARD MULTIPLE CHOICE:
  • Read the question thoroughly and make sure you understand what the question is looking for. Select the best answer provided for the variable, value, or expression that is requested.
  • Make sure that you prepare before hand for this section of the test. Know all of the important math definitions, formulas, and concepts that might appear.
  • Use only the test booklet provided to show your work and for marking up diagrams or graphs presented.
  • The first sets of questions in this section of the test are usually the easier questions, so don't spend too much time answering them.
  • If the questions seems complicated and time consuming look for a shortcut to the answer. Don't get involved in detailed calculations that are going to require a lot of time. Look at the answers provided and see if you can rule out any as the correct answer. This will help narrow down your selection of possible correct choices.
  • If you come across a question with a strange symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when attempting to figure out the correct answer.
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