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Every year high school students take the SAT not just once but sometimes multiple times because this is one of the deciding events in their school life. A great score on the SAT will place them in the college of their choice while a low score will mar their chance of fulfilling the dreams of getting into a big college.
How is the SAT Scored?
SAT is a paper-pencil test. The scores on these tests range from 400 – 1600. This comes from the Math and the verbal sections each contributing 200-800. Now the question is what is a good score on the SAT? This depends on the course and the school the student chooses. Some of the top colleges like the Ivy League demand close to the perfect score. This means the student should aim for a near-perfect score on both math and verbal. The Reading and the Writing and Language sections contribute equally to the verbal score. A big score on the SAT can result only if the student can crack the reading section.
The Reading Section on the SAT:
The SAT Reading section has 52 questions from 5 passages. The student has 65 minutes to work on these passages. The passages are from literature, history/social, and science. These passages are 500 to 750 words. One of the passages will be a dual set. Two of the passages will contain a chart or graph. The different question types on the SAT reading include general questions that talk about the purpose, structure, and main idea of the passage, vocabulary in context, inference, purpose, best evidence, and chart-based questions. The SAT Reading score ranges from 10-40.
Along with the structure and scoring, the student should remember that the SAT is not a test of memory. There is no need to memorize the names of authors, texts, and dates. The arcane vocabulary is also not part of the test anymore. All the information that is needed to answer the questions come from the passage.
The SAT prep should always begin with an SAT mock test. This test has to be taken under real test conditions. The diagnostic test will reveal details about the timing and accuracy. This test will allow the student to set a realistic score.
The next step is to set a timeline to achieve the target. The SAT Reading scores cannot be improved by last-minute cramming. The student should set achievable short-term goals and slowly inch towards the target. This achievable target could be measured in terms of the number of questions the student needs to get correct to reach the target.
You have to choose the right course and materials for preparation. If you choose to get trained for the SAT, make sure the course you choose teaches you time-tested techniques which not only improve your accuracy but also the pacing. There should be regular test-taking and review of the tests by the teacher who could help you identify your strengths and guide you through further practice. The practice materials and the tests should be as close to the actual test as possible. It is not just about the difficulty level or also the trickiness of the test.
Start thinking like the test makers. They want the students to answer in a predictable way. They want the students to spend time inefficiently and fall for the traps. If you could identify the tricks that the test makers have up their sleeves, SAT will become conquerable.
Prioritize what passages and question types you would want to work first. With practice, you will understand your strengths and weaknesses. Save the harder passages for the end.
The College Board gives the same question types in all the tests with almost the same frequency. Identify these question types and learn how to approach them.
There is always one correct answer on the SAT Reading. The correct answer should be supported by the text. Read the passage carefully with the intent of answering the questions.
Learn to identify and eliminate the trap answers. These answers sound very close to the correct answer but with a word or two making it wrong. After you find the answer for the correct answer in the passage, look to eliminate the answers which do not match the prediction. If you are down to two, see if one of the answers is extreme, not supported by the text, or is true according to the passage but does not answer the question. That is your trap answer. Eliminate it and choose the other one.
For the Dual passage, work on questions from the individual passages first and identify the main purpose of each passage. Then look to proceed with the questions that ask about both the passages. Here too, there are specific question types that talk about both the passages. Know them. Look to eliminate the partial answers that are supported by one of the passages.
Use the line reference to answer the specific questions. Read a little above and below the line reference to get the context before you answer these questions. For the evidence-based questions, use the line reference in the second question to answer the first question.
Though the College Board claims that there is no need for prior knowledge about the SAT Reading topics, it makes sense to read old literature and history topics. Make yourself familiar with the historical terms. This will help you tackle the harder sections.
Do not spend too much time on a difficult question. You will lose time on easy questions that will appear later. Learn to guess on the harder ones as there is no negative marking on the test.
Practice often with the right kind of source. Make sure that you are using the right material for practice. Do not allow any distractions while practicing or taking the mock tests. Sit in a quiet place and keep away from phone calls or social media distractions. After taking the test, review the score report. See where you have made mistakes. Identify if it is a conceptual mistake or a random one. Work ruthlessly on the mistakes and make sure you do not repeat them in the next test.
Remember your verbal scores have another component: the SAT Writing and Language score. Make sure that you work equally well in this section and learn how to tackle the grammar, punctuation, and expression of ideas. Also, make sure you learn all the math concepts and maximize your score in that section too.
Few Test Day Tips:
Don’t learn anything on the day before the test. Review the approaches and concepts. Relax watching a movie or hanging out with friends. Sleep early as you have to start early the next day.
Keep the photo id, admission ticket printout, 4 pencils, eraser, sharpener, and calculator.
On the day of the test, have a light breakfast. Carry some snacks and water with you to consume during the break.
Reach the center before time.
While taking the test, do not panic. Complete the test even if you cannot work on every question. Guess on questions you plan to skip.
If you plan to cancel the scores, you can do it right at the test center or do it online before the next Wednesday.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ques.1 Are the SAT passages specifically written for this purpose?
No, these passages are taken from high school and college-level sources.
Ques.2 Can I annotate on the SAT?
Yes, use your pencil to underline the main idea and the predicted answers.
Ques.3 Can I come back to the Reading section if I have time left on the W&L or the math sections?
No, you cannot return to the section after the stipulated 65 minutes. But within that time, you can move back and forth through the section.
Ques.4 Do I need technical knowledge to answer the questions from science based passages?
No, the information in the text is enough to answer the questions.
Ques.5 What are the Great Global Conversation Passages?
The Great Global Conversation (GGC) involves U.S. founding documents, such as the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers, and the works of authors responding to these documents and engaging with the issues they raise.
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