Does High School prepare you for the SAT?

High School and the SAT

High School and the SAT

One of the critical phases of your high school academic career comes in the beginning of your junior year of high school. This is the time you should begin to look ahead and consider when in the upcoming months you’d like to take your first attempt at tackling the SAT.  It can be a daunting choice, as it is the rare person who enjoys or relishes the opportunity to take a standardized test.

Adding to the anxiety of taking this standardized test is all that is unknown about it.  Most people have little sense going into this time of what material is covered on the SAT or how the SAT test is formatted.  Unlike so many other tests – the Regents and the APs included – your teachers are not teaching toward the SAT test, nor do they often cover the specific questions on the test.  This places a student in a hard spot, having to seek out the SAT exam and educate his or herself on the SAT outside of the classroom.  From the sound of this, it may seem that high school does little to prepare you for the SAT test, but this actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

All of the material that the SAT bases its questions on most students will have completed by the end of the 10th grade.  You will have had enough experience in your English classes reading and analyzing literature and expanding your vocabulary to begin to tackle the reading sections of the test.  You will have written enough persuasive essays and learned enough grammar to dive into the writing sections of the SAT, and, finally, if you have completed Geometry and Algebra II you will be more than ready to understand how the SAT tests math.  All in all, by the end of 10th grade most students will have the information to answer most of the SAT test problems.  The real question becomes how to use that information.

The tricky part of the SAT is that it is not a test of intelligence, or even really a test of your command of the material you have covered in school.  Finally, the SAT is a test of how well you take the SAT. It defines its own rules and asks questions in its own ways.  The core skill to develop for the SAT is to understand how the SAT tests you.  The SAT phrases questions in intentionally confusing ways and frames its problems in a manner that you will not have seen at school.  The College Board, the people who make the SAT, are designing a test that they want a majority of people to score a 1500 on, and so they intentionally try and mess you up.

This is the part of the SAT that high school doesn’t prepare you for, the particular nuances and contours of the SAT questions themselves.  The process of decoding questions and understanding what is really being asked of you takes time and practice.  This is where an experienced SAT tutor can come in handy.  SAT tutors are specially trained to show you the ropes of the test and help you maximize your score by allowing you to bring the full force of your knowledge to bear on the test.  Another way to prepare yourself for the SAT is to take frequent mock tests. The best way to learn about the test is to practice taking it. CATES offers free mock tests every weekend, so come on by and take one as soon as you can.

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