13 Myths about the SAT:
Are you looking forward to the college adventure? You are only moments away from being out on your own and living the dorm room fiesta. . . and you can’t wait! As you get ready to go, you realize there is one big hurdle that you still have to face. The Standardized Assessment Test (SAT) is required by nearly every university in the United States for admission, and it can be a determining factor when it comes to college scholarships.
Admittedly, taking this test is daunting. The results could affect your college career and maybe even the rest of your life! This idea can easily cause anxiety and even panic. Even smart kids can do poorly on this test. What is the average student to do? The answer lies in gaining knowledge of the test structure. There are a lot of misconceptions about the SAT, and these misconceptions can damage one’s score. Hopefully, by clearing up some of these common myths, you will be better prepared to conquer SAT and PSAT/NMSQT.
Myth #1 – The SAT assesses a student’s knowledge.
False: This test is all about reasoning and logic. It contains universal questions that anyone can answer regardless of their academic background (public, private, or homeschool). So all that stuff about Abraham Lincoln and microeconomics, you can throw out the window. There are three sections: math, critical reading and writing, and these sections test your critical thinking and basic skill level, not your knowledge.
Myth #2 – Take the SAT in your senior year.
False: Don’t wait until the senior year! I repeat: this is not a knowledge-based test. You should be able to answer most of the questions by ninth grade. Universities generally take applications in the fall before you graduate, and most of these applications require SAT scores, so if you wait to take it, you may not be able to apply to the college of your choice. Also, you can take the SAT multiple times, so if you take it early, you can take it again if you’re not satisfied with your score. Give yourself some leeway room, and don’t add pressure to your final year of high school by waiting to take the SAT.
Myth #3 – The PSAT/NMSQT is a practice SAT and is not important.
False: The letter “P” actually stands for Preliminary, not Practice. The NMSQT stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This means that this test can actually earn you scholarships! If you do well, this one test can give you a free-ride to just about any college. Take this test seriously. It only counts in your junior year for scholarships, but take it for practice in ninth and tenth grades.
Myth #4 – You only have one chance at the PSAT/NMSQT test.
False: Although the PSAT/NMSQT is only offered once every fall. If the need arises, you can take the alternative testing method. You will need to contact The National Merit Corporation before March. Students would then take the regular SAT I and their score would be converted. Students will still be eligible for scholarships. By doing this method, the test can be taken several times since the National Merit Corporation will take the highest score.
Myth #5 – Students should guess on SAT answers if you don’t know them.
False: There is a penalty for guessing on a question and being wrong. One-fourth of a point will be subtracted from your raw score. This may not seem like a lot, but over the ten sections of the SAT, it could really add up. By understanding that the questions can point you to the answer, it’s a matter of eliminating all the wrong answers first and then being left with the correct one. If you aren’t able to confidently eliminate a few answers, you should probably skip the question.
Myth #6 – You must get every answer right for a perfect score.
False: People who have received perfect scores on the SAT probably skipped several questions, and may have even gotten a few wrong. However, their raw score was significant enough (that means they got enough questions right) to garner them a perfect SAT score.
Myth #7 – SAT questions are in order of difficulty.
False: As a general rule, the questions start off easy and get harder, but truthfully, a lot of them are mixed together, especially in the critical reading and writing section. You may find the very first question the hardest question on the test. Difficulty on this exam is not determined by higher level skills of math and verbal. Hard SAT questions are the ones that students consistently got wrong on a previous experimental section of the test.
Myth #8 – A student only needs a good SAT score in order to get into college.
False: Colleges are looking for well-rounded students. Admissions offices like applicants with plenty of community service, academic awards, volunteer work, and leadership skills. Students who have a proven track record of involvement and dedication are the most sought-after individuals. Regardless of their SAT score, they are looking for students who will be an asset at their school.
Myth #9 – All SAT prep books are the same.
False: There are good ones and there are some not-so-good ones. Some prep books have made-up problems that can be irrelevant to the actual SAT and PSAT/NMSQT. Try to find a book that only uses test materials from The College Board. A lot of books emphasize different things, so try to use several different books to prepare.
Myth #10 – The SAT essay was added because The College Board wanted to make the test harder.
False: The essay was added because colleges were finding that incoming freshmen were not able to write on the college level. In response to this, the essay was added so that colleges could measure a student’s ability to express ideas, develop a thesis, and use language effectively.
Myth #11 – The essay is graded by a computer.
False: All essays are graded by a real person who has several years of writing experience and is familiar with the rules of Standard Written English. For grading purposes, the essays will be scanned into a computer and sent to the respective judges electronically. Each essay will be graded by two judges and scored on a scale of 1-6. If the score differs more than a one point between the two judges, a third person will then grade it.
Myth #12 – You have to spend a lot of money to do well on the SAT.
False: Some prep courses cost from $2000 to $5000. Many of these courses contain a lot of busy work and some only boast a 200 point average raise in test scores. Learning a lot of content is not necessarily the key to doing well on the SAT. Each test generally has the same recurring patterns and hidden strategies that can be decoded. Take the initiative. Most of the information found at a prep course can be found in a book. If a student can find the motivation to study for the SAT without the nagging of a classroom, one can save a lot of money. However, if you are unmotivated, finding a class may be the best thing for you, but you need to shop around. There are classes that cut to the chase and actually teach how to understand and take the test and cost considerably less.
Myth #13 – You should only take the SAT if you are planning to go to college.
False: Plans can change. Even if a student delays college a couple of years, their SAT scores are generally held for two years by the College Board and most colleges will still accept them.
on’t be afraid – the SAT can be accomplished! Preparation is the key to doing well, so if you do your homework, you should do well. Start early. Learn all about the test, and then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Make this test a priority. This test could be the answer to a good scholarship and to admission into a great university, so don’t goof off. A good SAT score is something to be proud of, and that’s no myth.
This article is the work of author, Jean Burk. It is the property of Maven of Memory Publishing, and may be reproduced according to the following terms.
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