What You Need to Know About the SAT Experimental Section

SAT Prep

don%27t panic1On Saturday, I will have taken the SAT for the umpteenth time. I’m taking the January administration for a couple of reasons: first, so I can buy this test. Three times a year the test makers allow you to purchase a copy of the test through their Question and Answer service, and January is one of those test dates (May and October are the other two). I like to have a copy of the test so I can see what questions I missed (and thus learn from my mistakes) and so that I can add it to my collection of old tests which I use to track vocabulary and question patterns. This test will push my collection over 70. Not bad.


The second reason I’m taking it is to spy on some proposed changes. As you may know, the test is changing in 2015 but these changes have only been hinted at by College Board leader David Coleman and his staff. Students who took the December test, though, reported seeing strange question types and question topics, resulting in panic and hysteria. Among the most alarming questions: differentiating between its/it’s in Writing, selecting parts of the Reading passage that illustrate concepts, and solving complicated quadratic equations. The good news is that these questions are only being tested in the experimental section for now, so they do not count toward your score. You can relax on Saturday if you come to a section that seems unlike anything you have every studied and know that I am subjecting myself to five more hours of SAT torture for the good of everyone taking the test in 2015 and beyond. You’re welcome.


So how does an SAT guru prepare for the test? I am writing this on Thursday, two days before the test. Tonight I will go through our Top Repeat Offender Vocabulary Words and re-familiarize myself with any words I may have forgotten. Just glancing at the list obstreperous, proselytizer, and unctuousness come up as some words I do not know. See? Even veterans don’t know every word on the SAT.


I will also go through our Math formula flash cards tonight. I have to get those coordinate geometry Transformations down because they always catch me.


For Writing, I may glance through the idiom list in The SAT Writing Bible, but that’s it. Luckily, I was gifted with an innate writing ability, so this section is my favorite. Bring it, College Board!


And tomorrow? It’s Bye Day Friday. You get a bye on studying the day before the test. This gives your brain a chance to rest up for Saturday. Unfortunately I don’t get a bye on being a mom to twin toddlers, so I’m sure there will be many games of Chutes and Ladders to get me ready for SAT Math and multiple readings of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to prep me for SAT Reading. I’d ask you to wish me luck, but by the time you read this, I’ll have sworn off the computer until after the test, at which time I’ll spend the rest of the day discussing my test answers with the incredibly smart kids on College Confidential. On second thought, do wish me luck—I plan to celebrate Saturday night with a good game of Candyland and I refuse to let the boys win just because they are three. If the SAT decides to test colors in 2015, I’ll be all set.

Photo: Don't Panic Badge courtesy of Jim Linwood.