SAT Tips from Veritas Prep

SAT Tip: Avoiding Practice-Test Panic

This tip on improving your SAT score was provided by Vivian Kerr at Veritas Prep.

Nervous about how to best “train” yourself to get more SAT questions correct under the test’s time constraints? Here are some basic tips to avoid “practice test panic.”

Remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The SAT has 10 sections, and you have just under four hours to complete it. Try not to get overwhelmed on your third or fourth section. The good news: The test itself doesn’t get any harder as you go. Section 8 isn’t any more challenging than Section 7. However, within each section, the problems get harder as you go along.

Check your answers if you finish early. Use the full time for each section. If you finish early, do not move on to another section. (During a real test, that could get your scores canceled.) Instead, check your answers again or go back to problems you left blank.

Trust your gut on sentence-error questions. Even if you haven’t had any time to review grammar rules, you can still get questions correct. If four of the answer choices “sound” bad to you, then pick the fifth and quickly move on. Remember to guess only if you can eliminate two or more answer choices.

Use the “word charge” system for tough vocabulary questions. On sentence-completion questions, don’t feel you’re stuck if you don’t know a certain vocabulary word. Try to assign (+) or (-) charges to the word based on how it “feels” subjectively (positive vs. negative connotation), then use that prediction to eliminate answers based on the keywords from the sentence.

For reading passages, do questions with line numbers first. If you find yourself running out of time within reading questions, go straight to those that cite specific line numbers. Read a little above and below the line for context and do the best you can. You probably won’t be able to do all the questions in your first practice exam.

Use an answer grid to mimic the test. Practice bubbling in your answers as you go. You can download free practice grids online, or photocopy them out of the official SAT guide. Fill in the bubbles neatly and fully but don’t waste too much time making each bubble perfect. Check the answer grid against your test booklet periodically to make sure you’re answering the right question.  Also, try to bubble one page at a time rather than one question at a time. This will save time from having to flip back and forth between the test booklet and answer sheet.

In general, try not to put too much pressure on yourself during your first few practice tests, and don’t set unrealistic expectations. The first few SAT practice tests you take are designed to give you an idea of the format and content and allow you to “feel out” the pacing. Don’t beat yourself up if your scores aren’t strong at first, or if you find the questions difficult. It’s all totally normal.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Sign-up for a trial of Veritas Prep SAT 2400 on Demand.

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