NY SAT Prep and PSAT Prep Advice
Whether your New York based SAT test preparation consists of working on your own, in a group or class, or one-to-one with a qualified SAT tutor, the following advice will help you get the best scores possible.
SAT Prep Advice: Think of the SAT’s as just a game.
It is a mindset that helps keep the SAT’s and PSAT’s in perspective. It also helps you keep the pressure off yourself. In fact, if you think about it, doing SAT / PSAT questions is a lot like doing puzzle games, you know, like the ones on the placemats in fast food restaurants. It goes without saying that you’d rather be eating your burger than doing placemat puzzles, but other than that, they’re interesting, and maybe even fun.
SAT Prep Advice: Avoid being hard on yourself.Thinking of the SAT’s as a game is not quite enough; it still hurts too much when you miss what seems like a slew of questions. You need some way to protect yourself from the self-defeating thoughts that take over your thinking. The solution is to think of the SAT Game as a sport. This way, when the questions get real hard, you can consider them sporting as opposed to difficult.
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Here’s how it helps. First, while winning in a sport is important, it wouldn’t be fun for you to play against a team of grade school kids; you’d always win; it wouldn’t be sporting. So, by getting into this mindset, you can let yourself welcome and embrace the challenge.
Even more importantly, this mindset helps keep you from dragging yourself down when you miss questions. Instead of being mad at yourself—negative thoughts, which drag you down, you can frame your loss in more positive thoughts, praising your opponent, the one who wrote the question. Thinking to yourself, “Good for you, you got me on that one,” is a lot less damaging to your psyche than “I’m so stupid.” It may feel even better to assign your opponent a colorful nickname, so you can think, “Your point, you nasty blankety-blank.”
Also, speaking of feeling bad, don’t believe it when you hear that the test questions are written by high school and college kids for summer jobs; that can only make you feel worse when you miss questions. Once you get into the SAT game, you’ll see that the Real SAT questions (as opposed to the non-official ones presented in many SAT prep courses and books), are far too brilliantly written.
SAT Prep Advice: Avoid the traps. Be forewarned, that just as with any sport, the opposition uses traps and tricks on occasion. Indeed, on some of the harder questions, the SAT question writers are out to get you. However, if you have the right attitude, that’s okay, it’s simply part of the sport.
Here are a few examples from the math test. The question might contain extra information that you don’t need. Many of the diagrams are not drawn to scale, which they tell you. For example, a right triangle may be drawn with nearly equal legs, which may lead you to believe falsely that they are equal in length. On rare occasions, the questions might even contain something to play games intentionally with your mind.
For example, SAT questions have been known to use traps such as using the letter “d” to represent the radius of a circle instead of “r,” which is downright confusion-provoking. Again, your job is to watch for and catch the trap, and be extra careful not to let them get you. The good news for you is that the current SAT’s / PSAT’s use traps and tricks much less often than the previous versions.
Another trap consists of occasionally placing a difficult question among easier and moderate ones. That can throw you off because the order of questions generally goes from easier to difficult. So, if you are clobbered by a question, don’t give up. Skip it and go on to the next question, as it might be much easier for you.
A trap you can count on is built into the subtest that starts with multiple-choice questions and finishes with student-produced response questions. It is a test-within-a-test. That means, even though the questions are numbered sequentially, they go from easier to harder and then easier to harder again when the type of questions change. So, don’t let them psych you out by the multiple-choice questions getting difficult quickly. As soon as you reach the student produced response questions, they will get easier again. So, be prepared to skip the harder questions and go on to the easier ones, which appear in the mid numbers of that subtest.
SAT Prep Advice: Trust the questions, trust yourself. When you do real SAT / PSAT questions, as opposed to non-official questions, you can trust them, that the questions are do-able, and you can trust yourself, that you know enough math to be able to do them. When you are stumped while doing non-official questions, you have no way of knowing if you are stumped because you don’t get it, or because the question is defective.
This is the reason I encourage students to practice using real SAT / PSAT questions whenever possible. Therefore, when signing up for SAT, PSAT, or SAT subject test prep courses, be sure to ask if they use real or non-official questions. Be sure they use at least some real SAT questions.
Note: SAT and PSAT are registered trademarks of The College Board.