What you need to know before Taking the Sat Test

In spite of a legion of books that claim the contrary (“The Bell Curve” being the most famous among them) and a host of studies that misuse it, the Scholastic Aptitude test is anything but an intelligence test. That is the first and most important thing to know about it. The SAT does not measure your value as a human being, it does not measure how far you will go in life, and it does not measure intelligence, or anything close. It measure one thing, and one thing only: your ability to do the SAT.

Too many modern American high school students consider the SAT the be all and end all. They see it as the predictor of college admissions and life success, and consequently stress out about it and do badly. But the SAT is neither difficult nor complicated. It is, like all tests, a tool. And the simple fact of the matter is that if you know the tool, and its purpose, you can game the system and score high.

The first trick is figuring out what the SAT is looking for. It (tried) to assess your ability to do math up to Algebra II, and to spot tricky questions. The way to prepare for this is not to review math principles, but to do practice SATs, over and over again. Do the questions, read through the answer book, and figure out what you did wrong. Perseverance will pay off (for this author, steady practice led first to a 700, then a 750, and on the third try an 800).

The SAT also wants to gauge your understanding of English grammar, and your ability to write. But in gauging your speed writing ability (20 minutes for an essay… seriously?) it actually does a better job gauging how much time you put into practicing writing 20 minute essays. Doing one a day for the week before the SAT helps. This author earned a 660 on writing without that practice. A 700 with some practice, and with a two-week daily practice, a 790.

Finally, the SAT wants to gauge your ability to read and understand a passage. Reading and writing analyses of what you have read can help practice, but it is largely useless. What you want to do is simply do the passage-comprehension sections of the SAT, over and over and over again. Too much practice is never enough, as long as you read the answer booklet and figure out what you did wrong.