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The Learning Zone

Strategies for SAT Success

Do you have a student that plans to take the SAT in the future? Here are some tips to help them prepare:

1. Visit the College Board Website 
This website offers some free online resources including a free practice test, sample test questions, emailed question of the day, and tips for preparing for test day. In addition, this is where you go to register for the SAT and get your student's scores.

2. Familiarize Yourself with the Format of the SAT Test
Here is some general information to get you started: The SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes long and there are three ten minute breaks. The exam is mostly multiple-choice, and it's divided into three Math, three Critical Reading, three Writing sections, and an experimental section. The essay is always first. Sections 2-7 can be in any order, Sections 8 and 9 are either Critical Reading or Math, and the last section is always writing multiple choice questions.

The Writing Component: This part of the test consists of an essay prompt and multiple choice questions. The essay directions usually ask you to write a persuasive essay typically responding to a quotation. The multiple choice questions test the students' ability to spot errors in grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph structure or organization.

The Critical Reading Component: This section is made up of sentence completion and reading comprehension type questions. Sentence completion questions test the student's ability to determine how words or ideas work together to create meaning in a sentence. There are short and long reading comprehension passages which test the student's ability to understand what they read. At least one selection will contain two related reading passages.

The Math Component: The math portion of the test contains regular math multiple choice questions with five answer choices and grid-in problems that are not multiple choice that require students to supply an answer. The math questions ask about geometry, algebra, or statistics topics.

3. Know How the Test is Scored
Knowing how the SAT is scored will help your student to develop an effective test-taking strategy. You gain one point for each correct answer on the SAT and lose ¼ point for each incorrect answer, except on grid-in math questions. You do not lose any points for the questions that you leave blank. Scores on all three sections range from a low of 200 to a high of 800 for a total possible score between 600 and 2400.

4. Learn the Ground Rules
There are certain things that are never allowed on SAT test day. Your student should be familiar with these before the day that they go to take their test.

You are not allowed to jump back and forth between sections.
You cannot return to earlier sections to change your answers.
You cannot exceed the allotted time on any section.
You can choose the order in which you complete your questions within a section.
You can flip through the section you are on at the beginning to see what types of questions are coming up and formulate a strategy.

5. Strategize
Learning general SAT test-taking strategies and tactics for each particular section can greatly improve a student's score. In addition, many students find it very beneficial to learn some strategies for time management since timed tests are not frequently given in schools and many students are not accustomed to this type of pressure.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Students should make SAT practice a regular part of their day. There are at least four years of math concepts to be reviewed (Algebra, Geometry, and Statistics); reading strategies to learn and practice, and frequently occurring vocabulary words to study. In addition, most students will benefit from taking practice tests, including practice writing prompts, and reviewing the results with someone who can explain their mistakes to them.

Julie Baldassano, one of the Montgomery County perfect scoring teens, said something in the article that is very true for most students. She said, "I wasn't getting anywhere near 2400 when I started practicing, but the more you do the better it'll go and the easier it will get." It seems like the lesson here is, Practice makes perfect or Hard work pays off; a good lesson to learn for the SAT test and life in general.

If you have an ideas or helpful strategies for the SAT, please comment and leave them below. I look forward to hearing from you! Please visit our website for more information about the SAT or to attend a free SAT information session: 

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Should Your Student Be Preparing for the SAT Now?

I was half-listening to the news a few days ago when I heard a story about three high school students who recently made a perfect score on their SAT: This sparked my interest because a perfect score is uncommon, (only 360 last year), but in addition, all of these students went to the same school in Montgomery County. These kids had something else unusual in common as well. They all spent years studying and preparing for the SAT. As one student, Benjamin She said, "Taking a standardized test like the SAT is just like doing a skill like poker. It's all about what you need to do to analyze the questions." Even if it is not your child's goal to make a perfect score, this is good advice. Making a high score on the SAT has a lot to do with skills and strategies that can be learned, and the more time that you have to practice, the better.test taker

The season for taking the SAT test is fast approaching, and preparations should start now. Many students wait until a month before the test to prepare, severely limiting their ability to make significant progress. However, adequately preparing for arguably the most important test your student has taken thus far takes time. Most students take the SAT at least two times: in the spring as a junior (January, March, or May) and in the fall as a senior (October or November). It is a good idea to have your student take the SAT test as a senior, if they did not take the test twice as a junior, because most students improve their score the second time around, according to the College Board (the folks who administer the SAT test). Some students may even want to consider taking the SAT test a third time if more score improvement is needed. However, it is unlikely that a student will see a difference in their score unless they change the way that they prepare by studying daily, seeking out tutoring, or enrolling in an SAT prep program.

In my next blog, I'll address how the test is scored and share some valuable strategies for successful test-taking. In the meantime, please share any comments you may have or helpful strategies for the SAT, below. I look forward to hearing from you! Please visit our website for more
information about the SAT or to attend a free SAT information session:

Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC 
(540) 999-8759

Some information for this article was obtained from Kaplan SAT Strategies, Practice, and Review 2012. The information provided on the College Board Website was also used as a resource.

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About Nina

nina parrish

Nina Parrish graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Following graduation from the University of Mary Washington, she received the Project PISCES scholarship to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she completed her certification in Special Education for K-12 students with learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbance. After obtaining her license, Nina earned a Master's Degree in Education for School Counseling in grades Pre K-12 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Nina taught in the public schools in North Carolina and Virginia for 7 years. Nina currently owns, Parrish Learning Zone, a K-12 local tutoring service with her husband Jay, who is also a teacher. They live in Spotsylvania with their daughter.


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