For most high school juniors, March is the first time they’ll wrangle with the SAT. When those scores come back at the end of the month, they aren’t always as high as students (and parents, and guidance counselors) might have wanted them to be. Don’t let it get you down. Instead of feeling like you started off the standardized testing process on the wrong foot, let us show you how to use that first SAT experience as a springboard to testing success.
If your scores weren’t as good as you’d hoped they would be, the most important thing to keep in mind is this: you will take the test again. Short of a perfect score, most people choose to take the test twice, or even three times. March was your first race, your first time out of the gate, so see it for what it is: the beginning of a process, rather than the end result.
The March SAT really is the starting line for many people, and as such, the information you get from your testing experience, your scores, and your score reports is truly invaluable. This info will give you insight into your strengths and weaknesses, and will help you build a test prep program that fits your needs.
Your Test Day Experience
When you walk out of the room after taking an SAT, there are some things you know right away. Maybe you ran out of time on the math sections, and learned that you need to work on timing; maybe your handwriting on the essay was so big that you ran out of space, and learned that you need to write smaller next time; maybe you were distracted during the last two sections by the rumbling of your stomach, and learned that you should have listened to your mom and ate a good breakfast.
Your Score Reports
Some crucial information, however, is less obvious, and it’s helpful to know where to look and what to look for. The College Board offers two great sources of information on the March SAT: the SAT Online Score Report, and the Student Answer Service.
The SAT Online Score Report
This report is free, and is available on the College Board website approximately a week and a half after the scores come out online. This report gives you vital information that will help you identify your immediate needs and adjust your test prep program accordingly.
- It shows you how well you did in each section in regards to content and degree of difficulty.
- It gives you insight into what kind of content you need to focus on, such as vocabulary vs. reading passages, geometry vs. algebra, sentence completions vs. identifying sentence errors, etc.
- It allows you to read your essay online, so you (and your tutor) can decide where you fell down, and where you succeeded.
- It shows you how the scoring curves worked out on this particular test, and gives you an idea of where you fall in relation to other students who took the same test in your school, your state, and in the entire country.
The Student Answer Service (SAS)
- This report is not free—it costs $13.50—and you’ll have to wait six to eight weeks after scores are released before you receive it, but it offers more specific information than the Online Score Report does.
- The SAS report gives you your answer to each question on the test along with the difficulty of each question. You don’t get the questions, only the answers, but you can see exactly where you made mistakes, and get a sense of where your head was during the test.
- For example, the Online Score Report may have told you that you missed two easy math questions, but the SAS Report will show you that you actually missed the first question of both the first and the third math sections. If you see that, you have to wonder what that’s about—were you nervous at the beginning, but found your stride? Were you rushing through the first question without checking your work, because you assumed it would be the easiest? It’s worth figuring this stuff out.
Interpreting these score reports is incredibly important. Through them, you can gain clarity about where you are in the SAT process, and where you still need to go. Based on the information they provide, you may decide to take the test again in May, if you only have a few things to tweak, or you may decide to take it in June, if you have a fair amount of content to learn across all three sections of the test.
Regardless of your decision, The March SAT is your foundation; it will shape the way you approach the test over the next year. The score reports are your tools for building a test prep program that will allow you to reach your goals, and hit your target scores.