Uploaded by Linda Lin

Taking the SAT - techniques and review

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I took the SAT for the first time in August of 2017, when I was just about to start grade
10. After an intense two months of taking SAT prep classes at IVY 100, I felt quite confident that
I would be able to score well – and I did, scoring 1590. During my two months at IVY, I
developed my own method of test taking, especially regarding the English section of the exam,
which may or may not be useful for others about to take the test as well.
One key aspect of taking the SAT is speed. Many students often find that they don’t
have time to finish all five reading passages and resort to guessing when they run out of time.
Even if a student does finish their reading or writing section questions, they may also run into
the problem of not having enough time to double check questions, which leads to careless
mistakes being made. I find the main reason I am able to answer questions accurately and
quickly while doing reading section questions is because of my ability to read quickly. My strong
ability in reading comes from years of, well, reading. I love to read, and not just read books that
challenge my language abilities or books that are educational, but rather books that I enjoy. I
find that the more I read, the faster I get at it. So, for students who aren’t pressed on time, I
recommend finding books in their reading level (the method my teachers had taught was to not
read books that had more than five words per page that I didn’t understand) and simply
enjoying them. This also applies to writing questions, as some questions are not based simply
on grammar rules, but also on the commonality of sayings and phrases. During the actual exam,
my suggestion is simple: don’t use too much time on reading something unless there’s a need
for it. For reading passages, read the article roughly the first time in order to get a broad idea of
what the passage is about. Then, answer all the questions you can with that information.
What’s usually left are questions referring to specific parts in the passage, where you can then
go back and read that part in more detail. For writing passages, there are instances where the
article does not have to be read at all. Usually, there isn’t a need to read the passage for
grammar questions. Even if there is, all that’s needed to be read is a sentence or two before the
place where the question is posed. Only read a paragraph or a passage when there’s no other
choice.
During mock exams, I found that I often made stupid mistakes. After hearing the
explanation to a question I got wrong, I often felt that I should’ve gotten right, since it was
simple once understood in a certain way. For reading and writing, a very important thing to do
when taking test is to read the question. It may seem simple, but, in the heat of the moment,
one might only skim over the question before choosing a wrong answer. In order to avoid that, I
learned to pay attention to what the question for – whether it be “most specific”, “most
effective”, “implies”, “indicates”, “support”, etc. I found that, often, when faced with these
words, I was able to eliminate an answer choice without even looking at the passage. After
correcting an exam, I would also make sure to look at what I had done wrong. Although
questions and passages never repeat themselves, question types do. By finding out which
question types I was most prone to making mistakes on, I was also able to increase my
awareness when doing those questions.
As for specific techniques while doing the exam, I don’t have a lot. For double questions
in the reading section, I recommend working backwards when the answer is not clear
immediately. Look at the evidence options first, then choose an answer that best suits one of
the options. For vocabulary questions, I remembered to always plug in my answer before chose
it because, often, a word can have multiple definitions. Also, the answer choice will mostly be
parallel to the tone of the entire passage, which is something to consider. The essay is
something that is hard to have specific techniques for, since it is so dependent on one’s
understanding of the prompt. When I read an essay prompt, I typically ask myself these
questions: “who is the author, and does it matter?”, “what is the main topic of the prompt?”,
“if it is an argumentative prompt, what is the author’s stance on the topic?”, “who is the
audience, and does it matter?”, “if it is a political prompt, what is the author’s political
standpoint”, and more following this train of thought. Once a solid grasp on the prompt is
achieved, it is far simpler to write an article arguing what the author is trying to achieve.
The SAT is a hard exam, there is no question to that. My fellow classmates and I have
struggled greatly to achieve what we have achieved now, and there is no question regarding
how hard we had to work for it. The basis of everything I did in order to prepare for the SAT is
hard work, and I truly believe that anyone can do well on this exam if they work and wish hard
enough for it.
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