SATs – Avoid Traps and Trust Yourself

Just so you know, that as with any sport, the opposition uses traps and tricks on occasion. Indeed, on some of the harder questions, it would seem that the SAT question writers are out to get you. However, if you have the right attitude, that’s okay. It’s just part of the game.

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 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 can confuse you.

Again, your job is to watch the trap and be careful not to let them get you. The good news for you is that the current SATs / PSATs use traps and tricks much less often than the previous versions. So don’t overreact and think that every question is a trick question.

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 harder. So, if you are clobbered by a question, don’t give up. Skip it and go on to the next question, which may be easier for you.

A trap you can count on is built into the subtest that starts with multiple-choice questions and finishes with student response questions. It’s 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 as 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 response questions, they’ll get easier again. Be prepared to skip the harder questions and go on to the easier ones, which appear in the middle numbers of that subtest.

Develop Trust

When you do real SAT / PSAT questions, as opposed to non-official questions, you can trust them. The questions are do-able. 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 problem really can’t be done. This is the reason you need to practice real SAT / PSAT questions whenever possible. When you sign up for SAT or PSAT test prep courses, be sure to ask if they use real or non-official questions. You want to know that at least some real SAT questions are on the prep tests. The more the better.

Trust yourself that you know enough math to do the test. Don’t let self-doubt get in your way of doing well on the exam. Stay calm and don’t panic when a question comes along that you don’t know, just move on to the next question.

A positive attitude goes a long way to getting a good score. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast before the exam. This will help you have both energy and a good attitude for the test. No matter how well you’ve prepared for the exam if you’re hungry and sleepy, your SAT score will suffer.

If you know other SAT traps or have questions about the tests, please leave a comment.

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