Smith’s SAT QUICKTips:
1. Have everything organized the night before–car keys, entrance ticket, license, school ID, directions, multiple non-mechanical #2 pencils, a good eraser.
2. Get a good night’s sleep. Seriously.
3. Eat a good breakfast–something with protein and carbs, which is brain food!
4. Bring snacks! The SAT’s are nearly 5 hours long, and you will think A LOT!
5. Practice writing an essay in 25 minutes. Seriously. Use the practice prompts to the right. Since it’s the first section of the test, if you feel as if you’ve done poorly on the essay, it might throw you off for the rest of the test.
6. Always take at least a minute or two to create a mini outline of your essay (use the test book as scratch paper). If you don’t, your essay might wander aimlessly; if you do, then your essay will feel mroe directed. Trust me.
Things Smith thinks you should know…THE LONG VERSION :
1. There are 10 sections to the SAT, and the first one is ALWAYS the 25-minute essay; there are 3 Reading sections, 3 Writing sections, and 3 Math sections. 1 of these is “experimental” and won’t count towards your score. You’ll never know which one.
2. Don’t randomly guess, but if you narrow the answer down to two choices, research supports guessing. You do not lose points for questions you skip, but you do lose points for answers you get wrong. The top score in each section is 800. Pretend there are 80 questions for the reading section–that’s ten points a question. If you get 50 questions right, then you get a raw score of 500. If you skip the other 30, then you keep the 500. BUT if you get those 30 incorrect, then you lose, roughly 2.5 points each, which means your score will be about 75 points lower at 425. So, don’t randomly guess, but if you have a 50-50 chance, then go for it.
THE WRITING PORTION:
3. Things to know about the Identifying Sentence Error Questions—
• “Knowledge of basic grammar and usage is necessary for this section….Review the rules of correct grammar and usage that have been emphasized in your high school English classes. In order to score well in this section, you will need to identify errors that break the rules of standard written English” (Cliffs Notes SAT Prep 92).
• IF YOU CANNOT FIND A CLEAR ERROR IN THE SENTENCE, DO NOT HESISTATE TO CHOOSE E—-20% of the answers are “E. No Error.”
4. Things to know about the Improving Sentence Type Questions—
• MORE THAN 50% of the questions in the multiple-choice writing section will ask you to correct faulty structure and grammar in sentences.
• THE FIRST CHOICE “A.” REPEATS THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE SENTENCE, WHILE THE NEXT FOUR CHOICES MAKE CHANGES.
• “Choose the answer that best expresses the meaning of the original sentence and at the same time is grammatically correct and stylistically superior. THE CORRECT ANSWER SHOULD BE CLEAR, UNAMBIGUOUS, AND CONCISE” (Cliffs Notes 93).
• Many of the questions here will have more than 1 error. Usually, the WRONG answer choices correct one of the errors and leave the other in place. Be sure the answer you choose is grammatically correct and maintains the original meaning.
• Statistically, the answer is usually the shortest or second shortest option.
• Watch Choppy and Wordy Sentences
• Choppy sentences are a series of very short sentences—FIX THIS BY organizing and simplifying the sentences so that the reader will not be forced to stop and start when reading.
• Wordy Sentences use unnecessary words and phrases, and often include redundancies. FIX THIS BY economizing the writing and eliminating unnecessary words. TIP: try to consolidate words that are repeated once or twice—WRORNG CHOICES USUALLY REPEAT WORDS (E.G. USE “THEY” TWICE)
• WATCH OUT FOR OPTIONS THAT ADD NEW INFORMATION
5. Things to know about the Essay:
• colleges are able to view a copy of your essay if they desire. (And so can you; it is loaded into your account about a week after your scores are released.)
• Your ability to communicate and support your ideas in writing in a clear and concise manner will help you on this section.
o Express ideas clearly
o Be organized and develop ideas in a logical sequence of events
o Use proper grammar
o Show unity and coherence from paragraph to paragraph
o Provide supporting examples and details
• 25 minutes
• 1st section of the test
• QUALITY OF YOUR WRITING IS MUCH MORE IMPROTANT THAN QUANTITY, but to over the topic adequately, you may want to write 3-5 paragraphs. Be specific.
• MUST USE PENCIL
• MUST FIT ON TWO PAGES
• KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE—Your essay will be graded by high school or college teachers who teach English, writing, or language arts.
• Two teachers score your essay on a scale of 1-6. The combined score is your score (2-12). If the scorers are more than 2 points apart, then a 3rd reader comes in.
• Score is scaled and factored in with the writing multiple choice sections.
• Scorers are trained to read the first 10 lines of your essay and then formulate a numerical impression of your essay–and by the end of the essay, they should go up or down a point–SOOOO, make your first ten lines awesome! TIP: CORRECTLY use 5-10 “big” words, and correctly use fancy punctuation, like a semicolon or a colon.
• You can lie! (Sort of.) Don’t make up statistics–that’s really bad, BUT if you want to prove your point by writing about your great-uncle Harold who started from nothing and worked his way up to become a millionaire, then do it. You are being graded on your WRITING, NOT on your opinion. So, if it is easier to argue a perspective that isn’t necessarily yours, you can still do it.
• Make sure that you have an intro and a conclusion!
• Use transitional words between paragraphs! YOU MUST.
THE READING SECTION:
6. Things to know about the reading section:
• QUESTIONS DO NOT APPEAR IN ORDER OF DIFFICULTY.
• NEVER spend more than 45 seconds per question, or you will not finish.
• In questions that mention SPECIFIC LINE NUMBERS, be sure to read the lines just before and just after the line(s) mentioned in the question.
• Develop good reading habits. READ at least 15 to 20 minutes per day, at least 6 weeks before your exam. Pay attention to key words (structural triggers and transitional words). THIS PROCESS WILL HELP STIMULATE AND BUILD PATHWAYS TO A PART OF YOUR BRAIN THAT STRENGTHENS READING DEVELOPMENT. Developing good reading habits is similar to going to the gym to build and strengthen a muscle in your body You must frequently practice reading to build your brain muscles. Try to read material that you MIGHT NOT NORMALLY read.
• Watch out for NEGATIVE QUESTIONS, i.e. questions that ask for an answer that is “not true” or “not correct.” Treat answer choices as true/false statements.
• LONG READING PASSAGES—read first and last paragraphs, and the first and last sentences of the paragraphs in between.
• PAIRED PASSAGES—Treat them as two separate passages, i.e. read 1st and answer questions for the first, then read 2nd and answer questions for the second. Then tackle questions related to both passages.
• FOUR STEP APPROACH TO READING QUESTIONS: To improve one’s reading comprehension skills, one must ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE READING PROCESS. To be a successful reader, there is a conscious interaction between the reader, the passage, and the context of the passage.
Step 1. Review and Pre-read the Questions. Circle or underline important words or line numbers to give you clues about on where to focus. Circle words INFERENCE or CONCLUSION (implied not directly stated). DO NOT READ ANSWER CHOICES AT THIS TIME!
Step 2. Read Actively. “Active reading provides the highest level of success when answering SAT questions” (CliffsNotes 67). Practice being a reading detective.
Step 3. Record important points from the passage (i.e. annotate). “Lessons learned from a variety of effective reading programs have shown that surveying the passage, paraphrasing, clarifying, and predicting will improve your reading comprehension” (CN 67). Actively marking the passage forms visual representations of the written material. This technique helps one focus on the passage’s main ideas and avoids distractions. Writing down a few trigger words helps you link mental word associations to the context of the reading passage—helps one recall information when answering questions
Paraphrase—restate material in your own words. Summarize content. Circle key words.
Clarify—identify what you don’t understand (?), or jot quick note to seek clarification.
Predict—make predictions so that your mind is continually guessing/anticipating about what is going to come next.
Step 4. Respond to the Question.
7. REASONING QUESTIONS (inferential) Strategies
o Signaled by “What can be implied?” “What can be inferred?” “What is suggested?” “What is assumed?” “What is indicated?”
o Paraphrase while reading. Expect part-whole analysis. **To practice—read passage and then go back and find the sentence that captures the main idea. Repeatedly doing this should help a reader see a pattern of how writing is arranged.**
o Identify tone of the passage. Look for important words, punctuation marks, italics that convey either a positive or negative tone. (**Maybe use shorthand: positive;
o Avoid selecting extreme (“all or nothing”) answer choices. The SAT typically asks one to evaluate subtle differences.
8. VOCAB-IN-CONTEXT STRATEGIES
o Pay close attention to the word or phrase in the context of the sentence—sometimes one needs to read the sentence before and after.
9. PASSAGE STYLE STRATEGIES
o SHORT—About 100 words long. Skim Questions and try to move through them quickly while underlining author’s main idea and tone. These passages are generally straightforward.
Look at the title and the short italicized abstract at the beginning of the passage to sense the author’s topic, tone, and purpose. Tone can also be gauged by prefixes and suffixes. Understanding author’s attitude will help eliminate some answer choices.
Look to answer specific questions before general ones, i.e. skim questions for literal information related to specific line numbers, facts, and details to circle before you read the passage. Make any necessary notes in the margins.
Answer general questions after the specific ones.
o PAIRED PASSAGE—The passages somehow relate to one another—they either support or oppose each other.
A common paired passage will ask you the primary purpose of each passage, so always look for the main point of each passage. Use what you know about writing to help with reading, e.g. locate the topic sentence and conclusion of each paragraph.
(As mentioned above) Treat them as two separate passages, i.e. read 1st and answer questions for the first, then read 2nd and answer questions for the second. Then tackle questions related to both passages.
Use active reading skills to note in the margins important points about how the passages are alike and different.
Use ELIMINATION METHOD as you read through the answer choices.
10. Sentence Completion (18% of section score):
Things to Know
• Word memorization is fairly useless with no guarantee that the words will appear on the SAT, so use techniques that will expand one’s vocab instead:
o Mnemonic devices to help store, retrieve, and recall words.
o Power vocab words
o Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes
• If one can expand one’s knowledge of vocabulary strategies, then one can improve his or her overall performance on the verbal section.
• Tests one’s knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structure—tests how well one understands vocabulary in the context of the sentence and how well one uses CONTEXT CLUES.
• One’s “knowledge of vocabulary and standard written English should help [one] create coherent and structurally cohesive sentences” (CliffsNotes 54).
Sentence Completion Strategy
• QUESTIONS APPEAR IN ORDER OF DIFFICULTY!
• BEWARE of the “attractive distracter” that contains a subtle variation of the correct answer.
• Use only knowledge that is stated or implied in the question—do not use your own personal (outside) knowledge to answer the question.
• Read ACTIVELY—circle or underline key words.
• Skip questions only if necessary (Use +/- Strategy)
• EVERY QUESTION HAS A BUILT-IN CONTEXT CLUE. Find ‘em!
• USE YOUR OWN WORDS. Plug your own word into the blank and then read the answer questions to see which one matches up.
• Look for the word that LOGICALLY makes sense.
• Work backwards. If a question has 2 blanks, then play with the second blank first. Usually ALL of the choices will fit the first blank; ergo, it’s the second blank that decides the answer.
• Look for STRUCTURAL TRIGGERS (transitional words, signal words, qualifiers) that generally SIGNAL A CHANGE IN DIRECTION or relationship between the first and second blank. Examples: but, also, on the other hand, however, despite, rather than, instead.
11. VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT
Things to know:
• Research has proven that vocabulary growth correlates with increased academic performance and higher SAT scores, yet it requires a commitment to practice and repetition. An increased vocab can give you a greater sense of accomplishment and a greater ability to interpret reading passages.
• It is pointless to memorize additional vocabulary, rather one needs to develop word attack skills. Developing these will give one “A DISTINCT LEARNING ADVANTAGE” (CN 78).
• “VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT MODELS are based on improving your memory to manage difficult words, building a solid base of commonly used words, and helping you become familiar with word parts.
Vocabulary Development Strategies:
• Memory Improvement (Mnemonic devices)—Memory improvement is based on techniques that integrate your physical senses with schematic brain structures, i.e. if you can develop an association in your physical body, your brain tends to remember facts and details.
• Visual Encoding Technique—associate a word with a mental picture to form a new schematic representation of the word. Memory experts also report that associating bizarre visual images with words helps in memory retention.
Once you have developed visual encoding, you can expand on this by CHUNKING words together that have similar meanings.
• Auditory Technique—Use rhymes to trigger your memory (Obviously, build in a context clue in your rhyme).
• Writing (Kinesthetic) Technique—Writing boosts cognitive brain structures. “The physical psychomotor action of writing down words is communicated through neurons to the brain to help you remember what is being written. Writing (FLASH CARDS) helps imprint words into your explicit memory.
• Power Vocabulary Words—“THE BEST WAY TO EXPAND YOUR VOCABULRY IS TO READ REGULARLY” (CN 79).
WHEN YOU COME ACROSS NEW WORDS, try to use words from your personal vocabulary every day, and always remember to use words in context to derive the meaning of the word in question.
WORDS ON THE SAT ARE ALWAYS PRESENTED IN THE CONTEXT OF A SENTENCE OR PARAGRAPH.
• Words Parts—Your knowledge of word parts can noticeably expand your ability to understand the general meaning of words. One research study showed that when combining 20 prefixes and 14 root words, it is possible to learn as many as 100,00 words.