Test Prep

Debunking the Most Common SAT Myths

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SAT prep can be extremely stressful, I will never deny that. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty from friends at school, teachers during class, and maybe even from siblings who have taken the test. Chances are good what they’ve said is perfectly valid (and helpful!), but there are also a few SAT myths out there that are less fact than fiction. Remembering that the test can be a different experience for everyone is key in not letting the stress get to you.

Here are some common misconceptions about the SAT that might help you sleep a little easier leading up to test day:


No. 1: Guessing Will Decrease Your Score

Some tests will detract points from your score if you mark an incorrect answer. The SAT is not one of those tests. (Although it used to be — your older siblings may have gotten different advice from us!) What that means for you is that you can feel free to guess all you want without worrying about a penalty. Of course, a correct answer is always best — so if you know it, mark it. But even if you’re less than sure about an answer, it’s still a better idea to fill in a bubble on your answer sheet than it is to leave it blank. Plus, even narrowing your choices by one or two will give you a better shot at guessing correctly.

No. 2: You’ll Have to Recall Your Entire High School Mathematics Curriculum

Some say the Math section tests even the most advanced subjects covered in high school, including geometric proofs, logarithms, calculus and matrices. This is simply not the case. Most of these subjects won’t even be tackled in school until after your SAT date! However, the material that is on the SAT consists of quite a bit of algebra, a few questions that cover arithmetic and statistics and a tiny bit of geometry.

No. 3: You Can’t Study for the SAT Reading Section

Reading on the SAT is not like English class. You don’t get the text ahead of time, and you can’t explain your answers — every question in Reading is multiple choice! This makes it seem like studying for the Reading section is an impossible task, but that’s not the case.

The key to SAT Reading is that the correct answer is always directly supported by the text. In other words, the answer is there — your job is to find it. However, the wrong answers often look really good; the writers of the SAT are experts at making trap answers. So, to improve in Reading, first you should, well, read. Read challenging texts in a variety of contexts so you can better understand what the passages say on the test. Second, take some practice College Board SATs so that you can familiarize yourself with how the test writers design their wrong answers; this can help you to eliminate these trap answers on the day of the test.

No. 4: Your SAT Score = Your Intelligence

Believe it or not, this last myth is potentially the most widespread. Some believe that your SAT score is a direct indicator of how you’ll perform once you finally reach your college campus. In reality, the only thing scored on the test is how good you are at taking the SAT, not your overall intelligence. Taking the SAT is a skill, and like any skill, it can be improved with effective practice. Of course there are various ways to study, practice tests to help identify areas of opportunity and plenty of other resources out there for SAT prep (and the SAT greatly rewards you for putting time and effort into that preparation). In fact, many students take the test more than once (and many schools will even “superscore” multiple test sittings), so if you don’t at first get the score you desire, remember that you can take it again.

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