Welcome back to the second installment of our 10 tactics to score over a 600 on the math section of the SAT. If you have not already read the first tactic, HERE it is.
Thinking this way, we want to focus the majority of our time on the multiple choice questions. I know it may seem obvious, but the number one reason we want to focus here is that THEY GIVE YOU THE ANSWER!!! I will talk more about the fill in the blank sections in a future post, but with the multiple choice, you have a guaranteed, worst case scenario, 1 in 4 chance of getting the answer correct!!!
If you have not already read our post on Percentile vs Percentage then please read that before this post. It will be extremely helpful in understanding the concepts moving forwards.
#1 . Building off of the percentile vs percentage post, hopefully the difference in those two terms is very clear. Ultimately, our goal when applying to Colleges and Universities is to be "more desirable" than others who are applying to the same school.
So, how to we give ourselves the best opportunity to get the score that will help us stand out and be more desirable? It may sound simple, but we focus on getting 38-39 questions right. While we would all love to score an 800 and not miss a single question, for most of us that is not going to happen. Sorry if this comes across as harsh, but it’s the truth. The good news? Getting a 600 is very attainable and if you focus on getting just 39 questions right then you will almost assuredly get over a 600! Think of it, if you can get 68% of the questions right, then you should have a SAT score that will place you in the top 75th percentile and elevate your chances to get into your first choice school. (please note, if Harvard is your first choice school, this score will most likely not get you in). Check back each week as we introduce the next tactic to help you get in to your first choice school or email me and I'll get you the full list out ASAP!
In my past career as a sales leader, one of my responsibilities was to train new and existing sales representatives. I won’t bore any of you with the actual sales training, but one thing that I emphasized was learning and mastering a process. There were certain steps that needed to be completed in order to advance to the next step. Each step got the sales person closer and closer to getting that sale.
This is one of the reasons I love working with athletes as much as I do. They tend to understand that there is work that needs to be put in, in order to reach their next milestone or accomplishment. Think about it, do any of you know someone who picked up a golf club for the first time and shot even par? (not putt putt) Or how about swimming? Anyone jump into the pool for the first time and expertly execute the butterfly stroke? No, there were steps to learn the desired action, repetition and practice to perfect it. Then, after time, the performance can be counted on during a game or match.
So, I wanted to write this post and the accompanying video to highlight the process that we teach and help our clients with. The problem we are going to work through is consistently rated as one of the most difficult SAT math problems. While there are some difficult parts to the problem, when you have a strong process, you can see how the difficulty fades.
One thing I want to point out is that there will be subtle variations to our “process” when we attack different problems, just the way a baseball swing varies depending on if the pitch is a fastball or a curve. Let’s get into it…
The first step that we take is to “translate” the problem into actual figures. In this problem specifically we can see that the step is to draw out the two triangles and label the figures appropriately. Remember, the SAT is not only testing if you can do the computational math, but if you can understand and comprehend the material they are presenting. So take an extra few seconds to make sure that you have the problem set up the right way. This is the foundation for solving the problem.
After we have drawn, labeled and gotten the pertinent information written down regarding the problem, our next step is a very simple one but one that is missed by many students. As simple as it sounds, it is to figure out WHAT the question is asking you to solve. You can set up the problem perfectly, expertly execute the actual math, but if you are giving an answer that the test ISN’T asking, then you will not reap the benefits of all your hard work. In this light, the problem we are talking about is asking for the Sin(F). This is HUGE as it gives a really strong hint to the student as to what steps need to be taken to solve the problem. Using this problem as an example, and remembering back to our trig classes, we know that we will be using SOHCAHTOA. (for those that don’t remember, this is a memorization technique to help remember what sides of a triangle are involved to find their respective angles, Sin is the opposite side divided by the hypotenuse) Just by identifying WHAT the question is asking for, we know that we must find the length of side DE and DF. Please note, we have not done ANY actual math yet…
The next step we take is to figure out with the information given, what steps do we need to take to find the information we need to solve the problem. In this problem you’ll notice that given sides BC and AC, we can find side AB. It doesn’t matter if you recognize the triangle as a “special 3/4/5” triangle as mentioned in the video, or if you simply solve it using a^2 +b^2=c^2. As you can see in the video, once you have found side AB, then you can apply the part of the problem that states “each side of the triangle DEF is ⅓ the length of the corresponding side of triangle ABC”.
Last but not least, and I cannot emphasize this enough, we answer the question that is asked! I’m making a big deal on this because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a student work through a problem, execute perfectly, only to get an answer that isn’t what the question was asking for! I hate to see folks do all the hard work and not get the credit they deserve! I hope this helps to see how having a strong process to solve problems breaks down a very difficult problem into easier to manage pieces.