Prepare as you might for a standardized exam, your test-day strategy will factor heavily into your outcome. Anthony Russo, a senior at Summit High School in New Jersey, has taken the SAT five times. He shared that the difference between his lowest and highest test scores could be explained by test prep and strategy.
“Taking Manhattan Review’s test prep course initially raised my SAT score by 60 points,” Russo shared. “But more than that, my private tutor gave me a plan for approaching the test more tactically.” Want to boost your SAT score just by shifting your behavior? Here are a few ways to maximize your test-taking potential. These tips have helped students, including Anthony, enhance their performance to achieve results in the 98th and 99th percentiles.
- Set the right pace. Think of the SAT like a long race, each question a short hurdle bringing you closer to the finish line. Stopping too long on one question can prove disastrous for the long haul. Each question is worth the same number of points. If a question becomes too time-consuming, don’t stumble and lose your stamina. Move on to the next question, and go back to re-try the most confusing questions. Continue moving forward, answering as many questions as you can with confidence. Accuracy will prove a much more effective tool than speed.
- Start with the easiest questions. Keeping with the SAT-as-a-marathon mentality, everything starts off easiest. Your mind is still fresh, plus the SAT is organized in order of difficulty. As you begin with the easiest questions, calibrate your pace to match the level of difficulty. Don’t allow yourself to become mired down early in the game. Don’t skip around, creating a confusing and disjointed course to follow. Knock out the easiest SAT questions first and stay focused for the more challenging questions to come.
- Never question common sense. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t just choose option B and hope for the best. Use logic to answer the harder questions by turning your guess into a formidable hypothesis. Eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can. As long as you are able to eliminate at least one wrong answer, you should make a guess instead of skipping the question. If you can’t make an educated guess, go ahead and skip the question. You don’t want to roll the dice on SAT questions when you are penalized for wrong answers.
- Master the material with test prep. Cramming won’t work. To prepare for the SAT – as with the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and TOEFL – strategic test prep brings the best results. At Manhattan Review, we offer a range of prep test courses customized to the learning needs of each student. Before making flashcards and memorizing countless math formulas, try the most efficient and effective study methods. Limit your studies to what actually shows up on the SAT, and you’ll conquer the curriculum in no time.
- Practice, practice, practice. We offer plenty of SAT practice tests because they are a sure-fire way to increase SAT scores. Develop test-taking strategies like internalizing your pace. Continue taking practice tests until you finish all SAT questions comfortably and with time leftover.
Anthony summed it up best, saying, “You want to find your test-taking comfort level before you go into the exam. Manhattan Review’s SAT practice exams made finishing the test easier. It probably helped too that I knew more of the answers.“
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The acceptance rate of the super-selective Ivy League is extremely low. There is a record number of high school students who are applying for college straight out of high school – more than 60 percent, according to David Hawkins, director at the National Association of College Admission Counseling. Meantime, the number of students applying for college is increasing each year. According to the federal Department of Education, this year will feature the highest number of high school graduates, 3.2, almost a million up from five years ago.
Recent admission trends indicate that even though you have a high GPA and good or perfect SAT scores, it’s not a given that you’ll get admission to your first choice school, so it’s wise to have as many back-ups as you can to optimize the final result of your college application process without waiting for another entire year. As a matter of fact, many students are applying to as many as 10 or 15 universities. This is primarily attributed to the Common Application form, which can be downloaded from the Internet and sent online to as many as 300 schools nationwide.
However, the results of this survey of first-year college students is relieving: 70% of these students say that they ended up at their first choice school, and most students are ultimately happy with their choice of college. At first this may seem surprising, especially since schools like Yale accepted fewer than ten percent of the 20,000 students who applied last year, and both Harvard and Columbia accepted just more than 10 percent, but there are many reasons why students end up at specific schools, as both the students and the college make great endeavors to find a right fit.
Colleges want students that have excellent grades and SAT scores, but these criteria are frequently not the make-or-break factors that influence acceptance, particularly at highly selective schools. Colleges have to work hard to keep or make their good reputations, just like students, and therefore need to choose the right students. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that qualified students don’t get accepted to particular schools – but that does not mean that these students are any less qualified than before they got their thin envelope!
Colleges want specific and unique individuals to attend their schools, not walking transcripts! But since colleges probably won’t come looking for you (you’re probably not worried about being accepted to college if they are!), you need to find your special niche yourself.
Remember, even when you get accepted to the school of your dreams, no college acceptance letter guarantees a good education, a good job, or a happy life. Even if you make it to Harvard, there’s no guarantee that your life will be perfect.
Who Gets Accepted?
Today, more students than ever are applying for highly selective colleges; more students overall are planning on attending college after high school, and more successful students are seeking diplomas from big-name schools. This means that many highly-qualified candidates are rejected from the most selective schools. Can you believe…
- Students with perfect SAT scores
- Winners of famous, private scholarships
… all can get rejected from the most selective (and even less selective!) schools?
The Game Plan:
How can you increase your odds of acceptance into a school that is not only prestigious, but that will give you the best shot at an exemplary education? Research colleges thoroughly; sometimes colleges are just looking for someone very specific – an oboe player for the orchestra, a star quarterback for the football team, a speaker of Korean to help improve the language department, or a student council star to take over campus government.
Use your Interview to find out whether your specific skill set is particularly desired by a specific school. Your interview is not only a great way to make a good impression on the admissions officers, but also the easiest way to find out about the kind of students that each college needs. Come prepared, and don’t be afraid to ask very frank questions about the student body. It will not harm your chances; in fact, your serious interest in finding the best match for you can only reflect positively on your application.
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