In tactic 3, you notice we said “worst case, get it down to 2 possible answers”. This leads us into our 4th tactic, which is learning how to guess. I know this may sound silly, but there is a “skill” in guessing! Everything we do is to stack the deck in our favor as much as possible. So when we “guess” we are really saying, “I feel confident that the answer is one of these two options”. There are two main tactics as far as guessing that we teach our students. The first, and most applicable, is to eliminate at least 2 answers that CANNOT be correct. By doing this alone, you have in effect doubled your chances to guess the correct answer.
Let's take a look at a problem to show how we use the first strategy. Remember, the goal is to ELIMINATE as many answers as we can.
Looking at this question, there are a couple of concepts that are being tested. For the sake of this example, let’s say that you don’t know ANY of the concepts. If you look at the 4 answers you will notice that each of them have two distinct “parts”. There is the coefficient, and then the part that is being raised to the power of t. Notice that there are really only 3 numbers that we are dealing with, 325, .87 and .13.
With this information we can begin to start eliminating answers, or at least narrowing down for our guess. As we read through the problem, there is a major hint in the question that can help us narrow down to 2 answers. The “hint” is in the last sentence, “the remaining amount”. So, knowing that the substance decays as 13% and they are looking for the REMAINING amount, we know that 87% or .87 MUST be represented in the equation. Without even understanding what the equations represent in the answers, we can feel confident that the answer must be either A or C. We can obviously take it further to logically come up with the answer, but this is a great example of how to eliminate answers without even fully understanding the question. Remember, our main focus is to get to the 600 score, so we are doing everything we can to get those 38-39 correct answers. By eliminating B and D, you have doubled your chances to get the right answer! The second tactic when guessing is to find one part of the problem that you feel confident answering and matching answers to your feeling. That may sound complex, but it actually can be used to take a complex problem and make it “easy”. Let’s look at another example…
While this may not be the most complex problem asked on the SAT, there are many pitfalls that a student could make that will sway their answer. Between distributing the negative sign to the 2nd part of the equation, properly completing the square, to simple addition and subtractions errors, you can see where many students would miss this problem. Let’s take the approach of putting together the best guess we can.
So, after we have read the problem, we want to take a look at the answers given. One thing that immediately jumps out to me is the similarity between A and B, and conversely between C and D. If you notice, the first term in the two sets (A and B or C and D) are the same. So immediately I know that if I can get that first term correct, then I’ve got a 50/50 shot at answering the question. The next thing is that the LAST term in each answer is different. Because the last terms do not contain a variable (x), the math is much easier for many students and cuts down on the number of careless mistakes that can be made. Without doing any of the math actually out, let me walk you through the thought process. Starting with the portion to the left… I know 2.4 is going to be squared and that when I multiply two negative numbers together I am going to get a positive. When I look at the 2nd part of the problem, I notice that I am going to have to distribute a negative (-) to the already negative -6.4. This means that I am going to be adding two positive numbers together. So very simply, I know that 2 squared is 4 and 3 squared is 9, so that first term is going to be somewhere between 4 and 9, closer to 4 because 2.4 is closer to 2 than 4. Next, I’ll add 6.4 from the second part of the equation. So, without actually doing any specific math, I know that the last term in the answer has to be between 10.4 and 15.4 (4+6.4 or 9+6.4). With that little bit of work, I can confidently eliminate answers A and D from the possible list. Now I’m working with a 50/50 shot again!
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Now that we have determined that the majority of our focus should be on the Multiple Choice sections, how do we approach these questions? Fortunately for us, the brains behind the SAT stack the questions so that the “easiest” questions are at the beginning, followed by “medium” and finally a few “hard” questions at the end of each section. So while our main focus is to get as many of the multiple choice questions correct as possible, we can break that down as well. Let’s take a look at the different difficulties of questions so we can identify which ones would be classified as easy/medium/hard. If you haven’t found them already, College Board has 8 practice tests that are actually old SATs. There isn’t much better practice than to look at actual test from the past. If we take a look at the practice exam #7, here are three different questions. They all test the same ability, but it should be pretty easy to see how the difficulty changes. All of these questions have similar instructions, “Which of the following is an equivalent...”. Hopefully you can see the varying difficulty and we can now use this to our advantage.
In the first math section(section 3), there are 15 multiple choice questions. For this tactic, we are going to focus on the first 12 questions asked. These should encompass all of the “easy” and “medium” level questions. Once you get to question 12 and beyond, start asking yourself, “Do I know what they are asking for in this problem?” If you have no idea, that is a good sign that you are at the “hard” section of questions. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t know how to do the questions moving forward in this section. It is much more important that we focus on nailing those first 12. If you can answer questions like #13, then that is just gravy! ***One item to point out here, many students have issues with timing in section 3. The obvious reason is that we only have 25 minutes to answer 20 questions. Don’t focus on that. Remember, our big goal here is to get those first 12 questions right. Focus on knocking the first 7-12 out as quickly as possible with as much certainty as possible. From there we should work through the last 5-8 questions, but not get so focused on one question that we don’t get to finish the exam. In this last 5-8 question portion we should read the question, if it is something we know how to do GREAT, but if not, try to get it down to 2 possible answers . For questions where you don’t even know where to start, just skip it and make sure that you leave yourself enough time to come back and make an educated guess. You want to do the same thing on the second section(section 4), just understanding that there are 30 multiple choice and 8 fill in the blank. Using the same logic as we did on section 3, we really want to focus our time on the first 24 questions. Again, this should be all of the “easy and medium” difficulty level questions. If we follow this strategy, then we should be sitting with 36 total correct questions (12 from section 3 and 24 from section 4). This means that to reach our goal of 600, all we have to do is get 2-3 correct answers out of the following 22 questions! Considering that the first 2 questions of each of the fill in the blank sections are “easy”, I hope you can see how we’ve set ourselves up to win! One big note before we finish up, what is “easy” for some will be “hard” for others. The great news is that an "easy" question gives you the same number of points as a "hard" question. I’ll talk about this a little later on, but please understand that you should be focusing on answering whatever questions YOU find easiest! 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. One concept that a lot of families miss out on is the difference between percentages and percentile. This is huge as students begin to apply for college and prep for the SAT. I wanted to write this post to illustrate the differences and why your family should be focused on percentile instead of percentage. Once you understand and grasp this concept, I hope you will understand why scoring at least a 600 is so important for you to get into the school of your choice. So, what is the difference between percentage and percentile? Percentage, at its core, is simply a measurement of the number of answers you got correct divided by the total number of questions on the test/quiz/etc. As an example, if a test had 100 total questions and you answered 75 correctly out of the 100, then the score would be 75%. For the most part this is the way we are graded in school. Percentile is measured relative to EVERYONE who took the test. This is a tough adjustment for many people to comprehend. While we cannot for certain say that if you get 40 out of 58 questions correct you will be in the 80th percentile, we can utilize past data to give a good range of percentile based on the number of correct answers. As students finalize what schools they want to apply to, it’s natural to look at your scores relative to others. I wanted to give a visual representation of percentiles. I’m sure most of you have seen a bell curve before, but let’s break it down a little more. Moving left to right…
1)The first vertical mark at 25th percentile. If a score is here then 25% of the scores are lower than that mark. 2) As you move towards the right and to the middle line, that is the 50th percentile mark. Again, this means that compared to EVERYONE’s score, 50% scored lower than this mark. 3) Last but not least, the next line moving to the right is the 75th percentile. This is the “magic” mark that we are going to focus on regarding acceptance into school. Not to beat a dead horse, but this means that 75% of scores are lower than this mark. If you look at this blog put out by PrepScholar regarding SAT scores for 2017, you can see that students in the 25-75th percentile score between 470-610. That means that 25% of students applying to college in 2017 scored lower than 470, and 25% of students scored over a 610. The 50th percentile sits at 530. Increasing your score by as little as 80 points can, in effect, make you “more desirable” than another 25% of students applying to school! Remember, schools are basically “gambling” in their admittance process. So the better “odds” they have that you are going to be a successful student, the better your chances are to get accepted. Think of it this way…
Pretty simple huh? I know if someone gave me the choice, I’d be in group 2 100% of the time! As a part of our diagnostic approach, we offer admissions counseling where we focus on the student’s colleges of choice, then focus on the specific percentiles and scores that will give the greatest probability of acceptance. If you’ve spent some time on our site, I’m sure you’ve seen the term “diagnostic approach” mentioned quite a few times. So, what exactly is a diagnostic approach compared to a standardized approach? STANDARDIZED APPROACH When I think of a standardized approach, I think of an assembly line. An assembly line is broken down into specific pieces or processes that when added together creates a larger machine. Think of a car being made… there are thousands of individual pieces that are put together to get to the final product of the car that we see at the dealership. This is a great method for mass production and will give predictable results. The issue arises if you want something different than what comes off of the assembly line. What if you want more horsepower, run flat tires or your windows tinted? Many times you have to take the car to a specialty shop. The assembly line simply isn't equipped to satisfy those unique needs. Understandably, this is the way our education system is set up. Teachers get a new “batch” of kids each year. They have their lesson plans and instructional materials that they are to teach each semester or year. They move as many kids through the content as possible while doing what they can to help those that are either falling behind or need extra help. Obviously their goal is to help as many students as possible, but how can they possibly provide individual attention to each student in their class? No matter how good the teacher is, there just isn’t enough time in the day. However, this is the way the modern school system is set up. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of people out there who don’t “fit” into the assembly line approach. DIAGNOSTIC APPROACH When I think of a diagnostic approach, I think of a visit with a doctor. Think of the last time you were at the doctor’s office. Did the doctor come in and start giving you every prescription available? Or, did they take the time to ask you questions regarding your ailments, dive deeper down into what is hurting and THEN give you a solution to the problem? I know this may seem like a silly example, but that is the biggest difference between the two approaches. The doctor takes the time to talk to the patient. See where the biggest areas of concern are. Uses their experience and education and then gives a solution to the problem and action steps to make sure that it doesn’t continue to bother the patient. This is the biggest difference in the way we approach helping students with the SAT. We understand that each student is different and has different needs. Some people we speak with just need help in one specific section while others need ongoing help. With this in mind, this is how we approach each relationship. The last thing that we want is to be going over material that the student has mastered! That is why we start all of our students out with a 40 question “pre-test”. This will allow us to do a couple of things:
Coming from a family of educators has given me a unique perspective on our school system. While there are some amazing teachers out there who have dedicated their lives to helping kids, the fact of the matter is that 51% of young people graduating from high school are NOT ready for college level math. With the job market as difficult as it is, a college degree is no longer a differentiating factor in the job market, but a necessity. On top of that, the average college graduate is making $6-$20,000 more per year than their high school counterpart!
With so much importance on higher education, why are our school systems not set up to help kids get into college? Let me be very clear, I don’t blame the teachers. Let’s call it what it is, the system is set up to fail. With most classes sitting at over a 20:1 ratio (student to teacher), how are the teachers supposed to give those who need extra help that personal attention? Instead of teaching individual comprehension and application, they are forced to feed a memorization and regurgitation model in order to impact the highest number of students. There is obviously a need for individual help, and fortunately there are a ton of resources that are available to us. There are some amazing paid sources out there. There are also some great free options (coming soon!). This is the beauty of technology. Now more than ever, we have resources available to us that were once only for a select few. And while the free resources are a great place to start, many people still need and deserve that personal attention. So, that’s why we are here. We want to provide a free resource for those that need help. We want to create an online community where people come and share their experiences. To give those that have the desire to help, a medium to reach people. In my 13+ years in corporate America, I’ve learned that the power of collective learning will ALWAYS win! At the end of the day, that is want to create. A community where people come to seek and share knowledge. We want this to be a fun environment where people are growing and helping those that might be in the same position they were in. Learning should be fun right? Remember when you were younger and you would learn something new and you could feel that excitement washing over you? If just one person walks away from this with that feeling, then we have done our job. We are going to approach this a bit differently. There are quite a few subjects that we are going to be posting on shortly that we KNOW will help you score higher on the math section of the SAT. There will be everything from basic test taking tactics (standardized tests have some hard fast rules), breaking down the sections of the test, strategies to maximize scores, and much much more. That being said, we want to hear from each of you. This is all about you and the more we know about what will help YOU, the more focused we can be on your specific needs. So feel free to reach out on Facebook, Instagram Twitter or Pinterest. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad question and the likelihood is that if you have a question there are thousands of people out there that have the same one! I can’t wait to go on this journey with each and every one of you. |
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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