The SAT Hunger Games

SAT Prep

The Reaping

It was inevitable. You knew that your name would be called on Reaping Day, given all of the tessera you had taken to raise your grades and improve your transcript, but you are surprised at how nervous you feel on your way to the Training Center. The fact that you are about to train with the world’s most elite Prep Team should calm your nerves, but like most tributes, you believe that taking the SAT is a matter of life and death. Nothing can convince you that you have a chance. After all, the Careers have been preparing for this their entire lives, with honors courses and AP classes, and even they are often disappointed with their results. What chance do you stand against the Gamemakers and other tributes?

The Training

When you enter the Training Center, you are greeted by your Mentor, a previous victor of the SAT Hunger Games. It’s no wonder that PowerScore has recruited him—with a score in the 95th percentile, he is an obvious choice for coaching aspiring tributes. His enthusiasm and confidence put you at ease, and over the weeks leading up to the Games, he guides you through the four training stations: Math, Reading, Writing, and Attitude. At the first three stations, you learn three basic principles about the subject area: the content of the test, the types of questions assessing that content, and how those questions may be designed to deceive you. At the fourth station, Attitude, your mentor discusses how your confidence and beliefs can affect your overall performance, and what you can do to bolster your expectations of yourself. The rest of your Prep Team—the stylists from the PowerScore home office—ensure that you have access to world-class weapons in the Online Student Center. On the eve of the Games, you begin to believe that you truly have a chance, not just of competing well, but of mastering the test and emerging the Victor.

The Arena

The next morning you gather your district token—a simple four-function calculator—and meet one final time with your Mentor. He assures you that you are ready and reminds you of the important points from your lessons, “Guess when you can eliminate one answer choice. Reread the question after selecting an answer. Watch for deceptive muttations in the higher level questions.” When the time arrives, you move into the launch room, a holding cell where all of the tributes wait nervously for the start of the games. It is here that you meet your Escort, who will be administering the test in the arena. She reminds you and the other tributes to have your photo IDs out for examination, that you cannot carry a cell phone, and that you must bubble in your answer sheets completely. She seems indifferent to your uneasiness, as if the next five hours have no bearing on the future, or on the future of your family and your district.

After a seeming eternity, the Launch Room doors open and you are thrust into the arena. You find a seat near the front of the room, as your Mentor suggested, to avoid any distractions behind you. A Career from your district sits next to you. She has been at the top of your class since before you qualified for Reaping, and she smiles at you with pity and condescension. She clearly believes that you will not survive this test, but you know what she doesn’t: the SAT is designed to test not what you know, but what you can deduce. And PowerScore has provided you with a cache of weapons and tools to do just that.

Once the books are passed out you have sixty seconds. If you open the book before the required minute is up, your test is over. You’ll be dismissed from the Games and branded an Avox—a rule breaker—for eternity. Sixty seconds to stare at the cover and remember your Mentor’s lessons, his words of encouragement, and his lectures on positivity. You will do well. You will win.

The Games

Suddenly the escort announces “You may now begin,” and the bloodbath ensues. The tributes who fill the arena turn to the essay question, and as in Games past, unprepared test takers are quickly defeated. Those who don’t know how to write a short introduction and fully support it with two examples are no match for the Career tributes or for the Gamemakers themselves. The arena is filled with casualties.

You, however, compose a stellar essay, using a simple thesis and preplanned examples. As you move to the next section, you see it is Math and are anxious to try out your new weapons. Before you on the page sits the Cornucopia, a box filled with formulas, definitions, and relationships that will serve you well in the Games, but you leave it and its spoils behind with barely a glance; you’ve memorized everything you may need, and your mentor recommended moving on as quickly as possible. It’s better to leave the Careers and inexperienced tributes to fight over the fruit of the Cornucopia.

You are relieved to find a few Grooslings right away—those easy problems that the Gamemakers offer up to lull you into a false sense of security. But unlike those unprepared tributes who survived the bloodbath, you recognize the Grooslings for what they are and avoid the common traps that occur as you head into the higher-level difficulty questions. As you approach the final questions of the section, you search for the muttations that your Mentor warned you about. You remember his reminder: “Take ten seconds to analyze the question in order to save several minutes on the solution.” The final question of the section is indeed a muttation: the question appears to be about the volume of a cylinder, but is actually about the hypotenuse of a right triangle.

The next section requires weaponry for vocabulary and reading. You carefully read each question and answer choice, avoiding the deadly nightlock berries. These are extreme words, like “only,” “always,” and “hostile,” which make an answer choice difficult to defend. There are other attractive wrong answers, but your Mentor prepared you for them well. You recognize answers that were written to deceive you, even when it’s a single word that wrecks the entire answer choice.


Over the next seven sections, you wield bows, arrows, swords, daggers, and battle-axes. You use every weapon in your arsenal to strike down assailants and defend against muttations. You contend against the clock, Careers, and other tributes, but when your escort calls, “Time!” at the end of the Games, you are astonished to realize you have emerged the victor. There wasn’t anything that the Gamemakers could do to distract you from your goals of survival and success. You are a master of the SAT Hunger Games.

As you gather up your pencil and token and prepare to return to your family, you happily wonder which colleges are on the Victory Tour.