As a test prep teacher, and admittedly an SAT geek, I have worked with over a thousand students in my career. Ninety-nine percent of them come to me with misconceptions about the test which ultimately leads to errors in their execution. These errors make a test guru cringe because they are easily preventable! You just need to take the time to learn about the SAT before taking the test. To help you along in this journey, here are the top 10 SAT Mistakes students make.
Omitting Too Many Questions
On the SAT, every time you can eliminate one or more answer choices, you should guess! The average student can eliminate at least one answer choice on 95% of the Reading and Writing questions. But, these same students leave 10-20% of these questions blank! There’s almost always one ridiculous answer in those questions, so eliminate it and take a guess.
Not Guessing in the Math Section
You are not penalized for wrong answers in the Student-Produced Response questions, aka “Grid-Ins.” For this reason, always make an educated guess on these questions! If the question asks what fraction of the pizza remains, the correct answer isn’t 2! A better guess is 2/3.
Mis-bubbling the Answer Sheet
This is another reason that guessing is a smarter choice than not answering. If you omit an answer, you have to be meticulous when transferring answers to the answer booklet. If you skip a question, skip the corresponding bubble! Don’t accidentally bubble correct answers in the wrong bubbles.
Taking Your Phone into the Test Center
Don’t do it. Cheaters use their phones to look up formulas, take pictures of the test, or share answers with friends. If a proctor spots your cell phone, you will be asked to leave and your score will be cancelled. Leave your phone in the car.
Failing to Explain How Your Essay Example Proves Your Thesis
High school students are great at providing the background information about their supporting evidence, but they often fail to connect their example to their thesis. If you use The Great Gatsby as an example, you need to explain not only who he was, but also why he is the perfect example of your main idea. Need some essay practice? Find two essays on our Free Help Area.
Underestimating the Math Section
Students in advanced math classes often underestimate the SAT because they think they have a solid understanding of Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry. These same students fall apart when a question about a concept you learn in third grade pops up. The SAT is not like an ordinary math test. The further you are away from basic math courses, the more you may struggle with the reasoning questions on the SAT. Want to see if you’re ready for the most difficult math questions? Check them out on our Free Help Area.
Not Studying Vocabulary Words
The College Board, the makers of the SAT, insists that its test is not a vocabulary test. While it’s possible to get a perfect Reading score without knowing the definition of every word, any test expert will tell you that vocabulary is important. In our experience, the average high school student knows about 50% of the vocabulary words in the Reading questions. You can easily learn a good number of the other 50%. Typically, the “other half” are frequent fliers on the SAT, so good word lists will help you tackle common SAT vocabulary.
Overthinking Reading Questions
Most students can narrow down a Passage-Based Reading question to two choices. But the hard part is allocating an appropriate amount of time analyzing those two choices. It’s often easier to select the wrong answer than to choose the right answer, too. Knowing the characteristics of wrong answers can help you pinpoint the correct answers. For example, answers that use extreme language, half-truths, and copycat text are likely not correct.
Not Prioritizing a Positive Mentality
It’s incredible what a positive mindset can do for your confidence and ultimately, your performance on the test. In order to do well, you must believe you will do well. If you’re struggling and nervous about the test, take a step back and realign your modes of thinking. Focus on the positives and set yourself up for success!
Taking the SAT “Cold”
The official SAT is no time for a practice test! Too many students take the test “just to see how I do.” These scores are stuck with you forever! Most schools request that you send all scores with the application. So, even though the College Board offers Score Choice, you may not have the chance to use it. Only take a real SAT when you feel you are completely prepared. A practice test should be taken at home on the kitchen table or in a proctored SAT class, not at an official test administration! To help you create a plan of attack, visit the Study Plan section of our Free Help Area.
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