If you’ve made it to this point in our 10 tips to score over a 600 on the math section of the SAT, I hope that you feel like you have a good game plan (if you haven’t, start HERE). In our previous posts we not only talk about the strategy for preparing for the test but also what you should be focusing on during the test. Well, what happens when our best laid plans are thrown a curve ball by the test makers? Our 9th tactic goes over a test taking strategy that not only can be used on the SAT, but for the rest of you classes (and not just math!). So, when we read through a question and our “normal” train of thought doesn’t make sense or work for the given problem, where do we go? I’m glad you asked, we go to the answers! When multiple choice questions are given, there tend to be trends in the answers. Once you’ve identified the trend you can then go back to the problem with more information on how to solve it. This is not only crucial for figuring out how to solve the problem, but also to save time. I probably don’t have to tell you this, but time management on the exam can be just as difficult as the actual problems. Let’s look at a couple of examples… For most students I work with, when they have a problem like this, they immediately go into trying to figure out how to FOIL this problem out. It makes sense and the majority of these types of questions are asking us to do exactly that. So, a student then can start to try to figure out HOW to get this problem to work out. The issue? They are actually looking for you to use the quadratic equation to find the answer. When you look at the answers, I hope you’ll see what I am talking about. Knowing that the quadratic equation above, we can see how similar the form is to the answers given. This immediately tells me that my “normal” process isn’t going to be the correct way to get the answer. I can then quickly shift and save myself time, get the right answer and move forward. Here is another example... This question is tough enough as most students have not done a lot of work with imaginary numbers like “i ”. When you come across a problem that isn’t familiar or throws a variable at us that we haven’t worked with much, looking to the answers can be crucial in determining what steps to take. Seeing these answers immediately tells me that I need to try to eliminate the i in the denominator because there is no i in the denominators of any of the answers. I know that if I multiply the given fraction by (82i) / (82i) that the i will fall out. From there it is just about executing the math and making sure that I don’t make any careless mistakes!
As you work through practice problems make sure to look at the answers when you don’t immediately know how to get solve them. This should help train your eyes and brain for the exam. If you don’t immediately know how to solve the problem, this should help get a strong foundation under you and give you the steps to start getting the right answer.
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Hi, my name is Matthew Beattie and I’m a control freak. It’s taken me years to finally come to grips with this and while it is still something I have to work on every day, I’ve learned how much of a double edged sword this can be. The great things about being a control freak is that I plan (probably over pan if you ask my wife) for as many possibilities as possible. So if/when I get into a difficult situation I don’t have to spend the extra time to problem solve because I have already done that in my head. The biggest issue is that I waste a ton of time and emotion planning for things that most likely will not happen. The reason I bring this up is I have heard the question asked, “What do I need to study to improve my SAT score?” more times that I can count. I actually hit on this in a previous post “Where do you want to go?”, on the high level topics that a student can spend their time on to improve their scores. When I hear this question, what I really hear is people reaching out for help and struggling with the uncertainty that is the SAT. So for the first time I am going to go ahead and make you a guarantee…. Ready…. There will be AT LEAST one chart, graph or table problem on the math SAT section and the probability is that they will be in the 4th section of the test. After going through hundreds of actual SAT problems, it is the only section that I can 100% say for sure that you are going to see. The other great thing is that there are only a handful of concepts that they can test with this type of question. Again, this is why it is so important to be able to tackle these types of problems, because you KNOW that it is going to be there! If you are following the mentality of trying to get 3839 questions correct, these are ones that you can count on. What topics can these questions cover? I’m glad you asked… Charts and Tables I’m grouping these together as they display information very similarly. Here are a couple of examples from our pretest You can see that they present data relative to a specific group or on a distinguishing characteristic. I don’t really care what they are talking about, all I care about is using the data to get the correct answer. Herein lies the importance of preparing for these questions. They can only ask you to interpret the data in so many ways.
Graphs (and data plots) There is a bit more variety on the types of questions that they can and will ask you regarding graphs and data plots. The reason why is they can include a lot more information and then ask you to utilize that data in multiple ways. Here are some of the top questions that are asked off of graphs and data plots
While graphs and data plots obviously give a bit more leeway with the actual questions, it is really about the ability to interpret the data given. So in your preparation spend some extra time reading through and really understanding what these types of problems are presenting and asking you to do. The more you know about WHAT will be asked on the test, the better you can prepare yourself before you actually sit down to take the test. Welcome back!!! In this week's post I've brought in an expert in the wonderful world of Admissions. After spending 35 years in academia spanning from Director of Curriculum for Charlotte Mecklenburg, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Technology at The College of Charleston, to Director of Admissions at Providence Day School, Dr. Susan Beattie is able to provide a unique insight into the admissions process. How Does the College Admissions Process Work? It depends on which school you ask!!! If you are the parents of a student in high school, there have likely been several discussions about “college admissions”! You’ve wondered  What is the process? How does it work? What does my child need to do to get accepted? And so your family is on the journey to have their son or daughter get accepted by the “college of their choice’”. A question that families may not think to ask is about the process that happens inside the college admissions office. HOW do they select the applicants that they do? WHY do they choose the applicants they do? Do all admissions committees operate the same way? As a former Director of Admissions of a K12 school in Charlotte NC, I can give you some insight into our admissions process. Educational institutions are different from one other. The differences may be minor or substantial. Some colleges are recognized for their excellence in math and engineering, innovative technology, medical research, a great journalism reputation, or a great athletics program, etc. The admissions process is integral in building and maintaining the school’s mission statement and what makes them “different” from other schools. Now let’s sit at the table with the Admissions Committee: Colleges receive a significantly larger number of applications than they can accept, due to limited instructional space and personnel. As a result, the admissions committee reviews thousands of applications, searching for applicants who are most likely to excel academically and flourish in their “different” college environment. The following table shows the number of applications received, acceptances offered and the final enrollment numbers for 6 random colleges in the southeast. The Admissions Committee reviews the following:
In my experience, while test scores are very important, they are not always the sole determinant of an acceptance. When students have ‘similar’ test scores, the student’s additional accomplishments (in school, the community, or church) can have a critical impact for one student over another. So don’t be shy in telling the admissions committee who you are and the things you’ve done that make you different and desirable! For example: There is no right or wrong answer to the following question…. but if you had only one spot open, which student would get your vote? The “difference” between schools might cause the admissions committee to vote one way versus the other.
So while the discussions around your dinner table have been about the colleges that are the best match for your child, there will be similar discussions around the admissions conference table this fall about which applicants are the best match for their school. My hope is that every student finds a college that wants you as much as you want them!!! Of all the previous tactics (read them before this one), I’m most excited to discuss our 7th tactic. I hope the other tactics have given y’all a good game plan and items to focus on both in preparation for the test and taking the actual exam. Let’s get into it!

AuthorMatthew Beattie is the founder and owner of SAT Master Key, the Greater Charleston area's most innovative SAT prep and tutoring company. Archives
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