You’ve decided to pursue your undergraduate studies abroad. And have been preparing for the SAT for a while now. And you’re confident and quite thorough with the strategies and concepts examined on the test. But do you know what you should do differently in your last month of preparation to get ahead of the competition?
Although 2020 – the year of the pandemic has had its ups and downs, many students took the SAT on August 29 and many more are expected to take the December 5 SAT. So with only one month left for the exam, it’s quite important to keep in mind a couple of things in order to perform well on your test day. This period is crucial and might be what makes or breaks your SAT score.
Your goal for this month is to minimize the number of surprises you might get on test day and tune your body to focus on taking the test and nothing else. Here are a couple of things you could do well in advance to tune your body for D-day.
To begin with, let’s start revisit the SAT exam structure. If you’ve spent time preparing for the SAT you probably already know this, but there’s no harm in going through it again. There are three sections to the SAT – the Math, the Verbal and the Essay. The math and verbal section technically make up your SAT score. The essay section is scored separately, but we’ll talk more about that later.
The sections on the SAT are as shown above. The verbal section and the math section are scored from 200 to 800 and make up your SAT total on 1600. The test starts with the verbal section, which has two parts – the reading part and the writing & language part. You will get a 10-minute break after the reading section.
The Math section also has two parts, the first part has questions that you can solve without the help of a calculator and the second part consists of slightly more difficult questions for which you can use a calculator.
The essay section is scored differently from the other two. This part requires you to write an essay on a given topic, usually 500-600 words. And you receive a score from 2 to 8.
Now that you’ve revisited the components of the SAT, it’s time to focus on the preparation for the final month, assuming that your test date is August 29, 2020. It’s important to keep in mind a couple of things and know the mistakes that students often make while preparing for their SAT, especially in the last month. The point of this article is exactly that, to open your eyes to the kind of slip-ups that you might be making and to help you avoid them.
Stick to section-wise time limits
We’ve discussed how the SAT progresses. Sure, you might be finishing the entire test on time, but are you completing each section on time? You must follow the specified sectional time limits while taking your mock test. Do not use the break time as part of the previous part and cross the given time limit.
Try to stick to the schedule and if possible, try to finish ever before the time limit. This will give you the self-assurance that you are well prepared and you’ll have time to spare during the exam. So set alarms or have someone to time and supervise you to finish each section on time.
Use a 2A or HB type pencil instead of a pen, even while writing the essay. Whether you’re used to writing with a pencil or not, we know for sure that on the test day you will have to write everything with it, so try to get accustomed to that.
Use an actual calculator, not your phone. Phones aren’t allowed during the test and there is more harm than benefit if you use a phone while practicing.
If you don’t have a calculator, there is no better time than now to get one. You’ll need it on the test day and you’ll need to get familiar with it before the test day. You don’t want to go into the exam hall with the equipment you are unfamiliar with and waste time experimenting during the test, do you? So, start using a calculator well in advance, use it for your mock tests and use it while practicing. Learn how all the functions work beforehand, so you don’t spend time during the exam trying to figure it out.
Use an OMR sheet instead of just ticking your answers on your booklet. You can find the OMR used for the SAT on the college board website. So just print one out or maybe print ten out and use them while taking your mock tests to train your mind and your hand to get used to it.
A common mistake that students make while taking the SAT is filling the OMR sheet incorrectly. Many students have the habit of marking the correct answers on the question booklet and filling out the OMR sheet towards the end of the test. Often, this can cause mistakes and consequently cause you to lose marks, possibly in more than one question. So, try to get habituated to marking your answer as soon as you solve it and to marking your answer against the right question number. In fact, after every ten questions take a minute to go back and check if the answers you’ve marked are correct.
If you think this is taking up too much time and you’re better off filling the OMR at the end, at least put a dot on your OMR next to a question as soon as you solve it, this won’t take more than a millisecond.
While we’re on the topic of filling the OMR sheet, students often make mistakes while filling answers in the math section.
Some math questions require you to fill in an answer instead of pick out an option. It is necessary to know the right way to mark these answers. On the OMR, you will find the division sign, the decimal point and numbers, make sure you fill in the correct symbols and numbers according to your answers. Another point to remember is that you can leave columns blank at the beginning and the end, but not in the middle.
Pro tip: You don’t necessarily have to convert your fractions into decimals, so save some time on the test by not doing that.
It’s crucial to manage your time during the test. It’s never ok to not answer questions towards the end or rush through the last couple of questions and get them wrong.
Or what if you left all your answers to be marked at the end? The horror! Now, do you see why we urge you to mark your answers on the OMR as soon as you solve them?
Most students struggle with time management in the reading section of the SAT. It’s understandable as some passages are on unfamiliar topics and you only get about 13 minutes per reading passage. Give yourself 12 minutes to solve each one, and if you feel like a certain passage is too hard to understand, skip it and move on to the next. Come back to the hard ones towards the end of the section, so you don’t waste too much time and stay on schedule. If you’re stuck with a passage that is difficult to understand, try reading the questions before it, so you know what to look out for. Another tip is not memorizing the passage but keep an eye out for keywords, important points, emotions of the author and the overall intent of the essay.
Start putting these things into practice as soon as possible and definitely in the last month of preparation.
For Math: When you’re sure that your concepts are clear, start maintaining a time log and try to stay within the time per question limit (about 1.2 minutes per question)
The admission into a college of your choice doesn’t depend only on your SAT score. Universities value a holistically developed profile. A variety of extracurriculars, an ability in writing essays, exceptional academic records and people who can vouch for you in letters of recommendation can make your profile stronger.
Academic performance is a significant factor, as it helps the admissions committee know how valuable you are as a student to them. Universities consider your 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade and the mid-terms of 12th grade while evaluating your application. Hence, it is necessary to do well consistently at school.
You must also be able to showcase your extracurriculars. Ask yourself, how can you take it to the admissions committee? Say that you play basketball, how will you prove it? You can’t play a game of ball with your admissions team from halfway across the world, right? Do you have a certificate from a competition, a letter from your coach or a team photograph?
Do you have a blog, if you’re a writer? Have you won any competitions as a photographer? Try to have your extracurricular activities in a digital format as things like these make your claims more credible.
Let’s conclude with a typical profile. Say you’re a student in 12th grade. For you, the ideal time to take the SAT would be latest by October and the best time to apply would be in December. If possible, take the SAT well beforehand (maybe August), so you have a chance to retake the test and improve if your score does not meet your expectations.