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November 13, 2019, 05:03:01 am

Author Topic: My Advise for Taking the SAT  (Read 1582 times)  Share 

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HotDamnItsLuke

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My Advise for Taking the SAT
« on: December 03, 2018, 09:19:50 pm »
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If you are like me you are probably also considering studying abroad in US for various reasons. Maybe your an athlete hoping for a scholarship. Maybe you want to get away from your annoying younger siblings asking you about their simple year 9 work (HOW DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND HOW TO DRAW A LINE?!). Or maybe like me you want to study at the best university's in the world (let's face it: there is a reason MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Yale and the other top institutes are so highly coveted). If you fit any of these categories then you my friend will need to take the SAT (or the ACT, can't help you if you sit that one though). After taking the SAT twice I think I can give just a little bit of advice for taking the exam, and its structure. So here goes.

The Structure of the SAT:

The SAT exam goes for 3 hours, but if you choose to take the essay section as well (which I would personally recommend) it will take 3 hours and 50 minutes. You also have the breaks included which will add up to 17 minutes total putting the test over four hours long and depending on how long the bureaucracy at the start takes you may spend up to 5 hours taking the exam. You spend the first half hour or so in the exam room filling out your personal details. The bureaucracy involved in the SAT is crazy compared to anything you will do for VCE.

The first section of the test is a reading comprehension test. This section goes for 65 minutes and there are 52 questions. You will analyse a series of texts. The texts are tough and can range from fairly complicated articles taken from scientific journals, to historical texts, to old American literature. The answers are also subtle with many questions seeming to have two or more possible correct answers.

The first section is followed by a ten minute break. I would recommend using the toilet, taking a drink and quickly eating some food during this time (just not enough food and drink that you'll need to go to the bathroom again in another 20 minutes).

The next section you will face is a "writing" section. It goes for 35 minutes and there are 44 questions. This section will challenge you to think like an editor. Their are underlined passages in the texts with a number corresponding to the question. The question will give you a series of possible changes you can make to the text that would make it grammatically correct or "flow" more easily. (NB: On the grammar sections, the Americans like the Oxford comma. So make sure you know how to use it). The other things on the exam are moving section into better positions (e.g rearranging a text so that sentence 4 is behind sentence 6 so that it makes sense.) or stating whether or not a passage should be added into the text at a given point and why/why not. (note these are all multiple choice questions).

After the "writing section you go to the math: no calc section. This section goes for 25 minutes and you will answer 20 questions: 15 multiple choice, 5 require you to write down an answer that you yourself must provide. In my opinion this is the hardest section, not because of the difficulty of questions but because of timing. Saying that though, if you do Further / General Math then you MUST brush up on your algebra. That is where all the math is mostly based around, so your gonna need it. To methods and further kids: take a look at imaginary and  complex numbers and get the basics down. It's not hard imaginary and complex number problems; usually just adding, multiplying, subtracting and dividing complex numbers but definitely get a basic grasp of them so you can breeze through those questions and not get freaked out seeing a new set of numbers for the first time. Specialist kids should be okay with this are but the timing is gonna be what gets you. This section goes really quick.

You will then have a 5 minute break. use this time to us the bathroom and drink. There is not really enough time to eat though if you must, eat a protein/energy bar or something small like that.

The final section for the regular SAT is math: calc ok. this section goes for 55 minutes and has 38 questions. You can have access to a scientific calculator. during this section. Other wise it is like the previous section, just the problems are that little bit harder because you now have a calculator (by that I mean the answers won't necessarily be clean and may be things like 2^1/2 (root 2)) .

If you do not choose to take the essay you can skip this next part and go to the bottom. If you take the essay, congrats! You just applied for another 50 minutes of exam voluntarily!

In between the final math section and the essay you have a two minute break. You cannot leave the test room in this time. I recommend standing up stretching and pacing for a little bit.

The essay as I said before goes for 50 minutes. The essay is a analytical response to an article you will read. There is no reading time but I still recommend planning, as it will make your response more structured and informative. This is literally exactly the same thing we do in VCE argument analysis so don't sweat to much on this section. It is also important to note that it does not contribute to your score though it is required for applications to many institutions (e.g. Stanford, Harvard, MIT, etc.) so it is for this reason I recommend taking the essay too. Institutions that don't require the essay will just look at you over all score. The essay just increases the number of colleges you can apply to.

Timing your responses:
The SAT is really, really intense. Like, more intense than any other exam I have ever taken.
here is a break down on how much time to spend per question on each section:

spend 1 minute 15 seconds on each question of section 1
spend  47 seconds on each question of section 2
spend 1 minute 15 seconds on each question of section 3
spend 1 minute 26 seconds on each question of section 4


About the SAT:

So some things about the SAT that I would recommend.

If you are in Yr 12 or just about to start and only just starting to think about taking the SAT, don't take it. You need your VCE and by year 12 it's too late. I would recommend stopping considering taking it at half way through year 11 at the latest if you are not properly invested and taking them actively. That is not to say don't take them in year 12. If you have already taken some go right on ahead. That's what I am doing.

Don't bother bringing a CAS or other graphing calculator unless you know how to use one of the ones on the allowed calculators list provided by College Boards. Link: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/taking-the-test/calculator-policy
If you can't use any of these acceptable calculators just use a scientific one. That's what I do.

Don't bother bringing in pens. The whole thing including the essay must be done in a number 2 pencil. A number 2 pencil is the equivalent of a HB or 2B pencil. Also don't have a mechanical pencil. You are not allowed those. A girl got her scores cancelled in my first SAT for this. Don't bring one in.

Don't bring your phone and if you do turn it off completely and hand it to the exam coordinators. You will have your scores cancelled if it goes off and you will be subject to investigation.

The coordinators are really strict (more strict that VCAA's people). Do exactly as they say.

Don't schedule an SAT the day of or the day before your birthday. I did this and it lead to a pretty stressful birthday, not exactly something you want.

The SAT is hard. you will need to prepare. I recommend buying the official study guide book that contains eight full practice exams. Start practising at least 8 weeks in advance and do a single SAT section a night or something like that. Make sure you take them timed and write your answers in a separate binder book or copy book so you can reuse the exams next time.

You can and should take the SAT multiple times. I have so far taken it twice and I am taking the SAT with Essay once more and I will be taking subject tests in Math, Physics and Biology.

Subject tests go for an hour and you can take three at a time.

On subject tests incorrect answers deduct a fraction of a mark from your score


The SAT is scored between 800 (the lowest possible score) and 1600 (a perfect score). A 1050 - 1060 will put you in the 50th percentile, meaning your score equals or is better than 50% of test takers, so that's the median score.

If you do choose to take the SAT, good luck. It is a really hard exam. I like to rank things that I have done on a scariness ladder and the SAT is easily the scariest thing I have done, beating out both bungee jumping and asking a girl on a date (which didn't turn out as badly as expected, still wasn't a success though). Even if you don't do well on the SAT it will give you an advantage in prepping for longer exams and for exam technique in general.

Once I take the subject tests I may add more but I'll be half way through year 12 when I take them so don't count on it.

Best of luck to any who are taking this exam.

Edit to add: I recently saw some research done by an MIT writing director from 2005 about the essay section. It found that the length of the essay is directly related to the grades the essay gets with longer essays generally getting higher grades than shorter ones. I'm not sure if this has changed but it might be useful to keep in mind while doing the essay.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2019, 10:47:24 am by HotDamnItsLuke »