SAT For Dummies

Part VI

The Part of Tens


In this part . . .

The Big Day is a staple of many television series. Sitcom writers think it’s hilarious when the bride gets lost on the way to her wedding or the expectant father drives to the hospital without his pregnant wife. But on your own personal Big Day, these kinds of situations aren’t funny. In this part, you find out how to make SAT day as smooth, relaxed, and productive as possible.

As a bonus, I also include an appendix that shows you how to score your practice tests so you can get a feel for how you’d do on the real test.

Chapter 30

Ten Ways to Maximize Your Score

In This Chapter

 Making SAT day go as smoothly as possible

 Eliminating mistakes that sink your SAT score

In this chapter, I describe ten ways to make your SAT morning a little less painful so you can arrive at the test center in the proper mood to ace the test.

Stash Your Admission Ticket in Plain Sight

Before you go to sleep the night before the SAT — at a reasonable hour, not after an all-night SAT Stinks Party — place your admission ticket, car keys or carfare, pencils, calculator, watch, and everything else you need for the test in plain sight. Check out Chapter 2 for the lowdown on what you need for the test.

Keep Your Blanks in the Right Row

As you take the SAT, you may skip a question here and there. No problem. Just be sure that the answers you do fill in end up in the correct rows. As you fill in the bubbles for your answers, consciously match each question number with the number on the answer sheet. At the end of a section, recheck your answers to make sure you’ve finished at the right number.

Follow All Directions

When the proctor says, “Turn to Section 3,” triple-check that you’ve actually opened the booklet to Section 3. You’d be surprised what sweaty hands can do. If you work on the wrong section, the proctor may seize your exam booklet and send you home, scoreless and unhappy. Then you have to take the test again!

Face the Grid-Ins Head-On

When you come up against a grid-in question (the math torture chamber that makes you come up with an actual answer without supplying five handy choices), remember that you can’t grid in a mixed number (21⁄2, for example). The computer will read your answer as “21 divided by 2,” or 10.5. Instead, grid in 5⁄2. Also, don’t leave any grid-ins blank. You don’t lose points for a wrong answer on these problems, so give every grid-in your best shot. See Chapter 11 for more on grid-ins.

Order the Operations

In the heat of battle, you may forget to attack a math problem in the proper order. When you start a math section, take a moment to write PEMDAS at the top of the page to help you remember which steps you should take, in the right order. Then recheck the order of operations as you move through the questions. Turn to Chapter 12 for more on PEMDAS.

Give Them What They Want

No matter how much you understand about a topic, if you don’t give the SAT writers what they ask for, you won’t get a point for your answer. In fact, you’ll lose part of a point! For example, a question that asks about the number of people with orange ties may be chock-full of information about people with purple, tie-dyed, spaghetti-stained, and other ties. One of the answers will undoubtedly be the number of people with tie-dyed ties. Always double-check to make sure you’ve answered the question being asked.

Stay in Context

Once upon a time, before you started preparing for the SAT, you may have had a real life. And that life gave you some experience and knowledge that may help you on the SAT (Synchronized Awesome Tawdriness). But be sure to answer reading comprehension questions in the passage’s context; don’t ignore what’s in the passage and substitute something from your life experience. Real life can help, but don’t let it distract you from the material provided on the test because all the questions on the SAT are based on that material.

Scrap the Meaningless Scrap Paper

The SAT-scoring brigade (mostly a machine, with minimal human help) doesn’t read the scrap paper you use as you truck through the test. Be sure that all your answers actually make it to the answer sheet. Otherwise, you may be unpleasantly surprised when you receive your test score.

Erase Your Errors

You may (shocking as it may seem) make a mistake from time to time. Before you sign off on a changed answer, take care that you’ve fully erased the wrong answer. If the scoring machine detects two answers for one question, it marks you wrong.

Write Legibly

Okay, your essay doesn’t have to look like a work of art, but it does have to be readable. If your handwriting resembles the flight of a drunken chicken, the scorer won’t be happy. And you definitely want a happy scorer. Recheck your essay and neatly rewrite any illegible words. If you have to scratch out a few words to make them legible, do so. You don’t lose any points for strikethroughs, but you may lose points if the reader can’t read enough of your essay to understand your ideas.