FAQ #1: Could you share some tips on how to tackle the reading passages and how to know you're picking the right answers?
A. Read the passage fast(ish), and the Q & A slooooowwwwwly. Make sure you have a good, birds eye view, high level idea of what the passage is about.
When you get to the answer choices, you can often knock out 3 of them, just on the basis that they are silly, stupid, or obviously not right, which then gets you down to two answers to choose from.
If you have time to go back to the passage and clarify, do so. The experts say, "the answer is always in the passage" (I'd add to that, think synonym or "word find"). But, if you're anything like me, racing the clock is a legit challenge (and I'm an avid reader) -- which then lead me to the "educated guesses" department.
If you are taking more than a minute to figure out the answer, skip that question and come back. But, be sure to circle it in your test booklet so you don't forget to come back. I found that the answer would often clarify itself as I answered the other questions (does that make sense?!).
And, if you get back to that question, and time is running out and you still can't figure it out, but you've got it down to two answers, choose the most innocuous one (i.e. the least restrictive). i.e. Imagine that the test makers don't want to have any problems with a definitive answer that might not be definitive.
Steer clear of confining words such as "every," "always," "must," etc. -- and veer more towards words like "sometimes," "usually," and "often." And, usually passages about artists, educators, minorities are sympathetic/positive in tone -- so if they ask a question about tone, consider this SAT propensity.
But, this is a strategy to be used only if you can't find the answer in the passage, and you are down to the wire on time. It's not foolproof, and they could do just the opposite on the very next test. But, I'd call this an "educated guess."
Oh, and here's one more: When you see one of those "what does this word mean in context" questions in the Critical Reading passages section -- replace the word in the passage with the words from the answer choices, one by one.
Just slot them right into the passage and see which one works. I found this made the answer super obvious and only one word seemed to fit each time. This turns this type of question into a 5 second q instead of a 30 second one.
FAQ #2: What's the best month to take the SAT with regard to "the curve?"
A. Don't worry about the curve.
Yes, I know, I know...there are some months when the test is easier or harder, and Erik the Red has posted everything there is to know about the history of such months, though I can't find any pattern....
Personally, I don't think it's a good use of one's most precious SAT resource (i.e. attention).
I did plot my SAT scores from 2011 on "the curve," to if there was any light to be shed from firsthand experience. You can see the results in this post.
The short answer though, is that there isn't (though if you see something relevant that I missed, please let me know).
And if you still need more convincing about this curve thing, read PWN the SAT's post on the matter.
FAQ #3: How can I find out my old SAT scores?
A. Click on this College Board link and follow the directions.
FAQ #4: What's the deal with Score Choice and Superscoring?
A. Thank heavens for reliable sources.* I can never remember the answer to this question.
Here's hoping it sticks this time.....
1) Score Choice:
This means that *you* can pick which scores to send. Most schools will let you do this, but a handful (GW, Georgetown, Stanford, and Yale come to mind offhand) will not.
Say you take the SAT three times. Score choice means that you can choose to send one, two, or three of those scores. Say you blew the first test completely, did best on Math on test #2, and did best on CR and W on test #3. You would ignore #1 and send two and three because of......
This is what *colleges* do to position themselves best in the rankings. So if you submit scores from tests #2 and #3, they'll take the highest M, CR, and W from those two tests and look only at those. They'll see the other scores you got on those tests, but they won't count them. And yes, they really do ignore the other scores, unless there's clearly something very weird going on. It's majorly in their interest to do so.
*Thank you Erica!
Original FAQ, posted in April 2010 when I was still blissfully optimistic.
Q. Do you really think you can get a perfect SAT score?
A. Yes, I do, though I have been accused of being an optimist on numerous occasions.
Q. What happens if you don't get the perfect score?
A. It's about the journey (my way of rationalizing, maybe, but it's what I really believe).
Q. Does your son feel more pressure to get the perfect score now that you are doing this?
A. I wish. No, he doesn't. That said, he has become more interested in the SATs now that I've climbed into the trenches with him. In fact, he said to me last night "Mom, when can we do SAT work again?" (I swear to you. This is an honest to god quote from April 10, 2011)
Q. Do you study all the time?
A. No, I study for an average of 2 hours per day. You can track my hours on the Project Diary on the site. I do my best to log the truth every day.
Q. How did you do on the SATs in high school?
A. Abysmally. Witness my scores on this blog post.
Q. What happens after the year? Then what?
A. The ACTs! (Kidding. I'm actually not sure yet.)
Q. What do you think the SATs are testing?
A. Critical thinking, reading skills, basic core knowledge (i.e. math, vocabulary, grammar, etc.).
Q. Do you think they are a good measure of how well a person does?
A. No! Listen to this Hash Hags interview for proof that low scorers can still do well in life. That said, what's the harm in learning more?
llustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis