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24 hours and counting: a guide to last-minute SAT preparations

By Emma Brodey and Madison Lewis

The SAT is an ordeal most high school juniors and seniors go through at least once, if not multiple times. East offers many resources including SAT prep classes, and lightly used SAT prep books can often be found at low prices. The fact remains, however, that juniors and seniors are notoriously busy, especially around testing time. Despite your best intentions, you may find one Friday afternoon that the SAT is looming the next morning, and you haven’t studied at all. These tips and tricks will guide you through the harrowing hours when you find that your test date has snuck up on you.

Math:

The 54 math problems on the SAT may seem challenging, but there are a few hints and tips that can help you score higher. For starters, the math section focuses on basic math skills such as algebra, geometry, data analysis and probability. Don’t waste your limited study time reviewing pre-calculus.

Ten of the math questions on the test are student-produced response questions. You will be expected to grid in your answer to these questions. These questions can be more difficult because they are not multiple choice, but there is no guessing penalty for student-produced response questions. Don’t be afraid to guess on them. Just make sure your guess makes sense for the question. Sallie and Bob are never going to have negative two and a half eggs.

Reading:

The most important thing for the reading section of the SAT is strategy. Plan the order in which you are going to read the passage and answer the questions. It is helpful to read the questions before you read the text, especially on shorter texts. Do not, however, read the answer choices to the questions. It also is always a good idea to annotate the text.

Remember that questions will almost always be in order according to the parts of the text they correspond to, and this may even help you answer them. If you find a question that is difficult, you should skip it and come back to it after you have answered the others for that passage.

Another important part of the reading section is vocabulary questions. When confronted with a vocabulary word you do not know, look at the roots in the word. Roots will often give you a clue about what the word might mean. Be sure to use the context clues in the selection. Even if you are pressed for time, it may be helpful to look up a list of 100 most-used SAT vocabulary words on the internet. Skimming through these, at the very least, will give you some familiarity should you see the word on the test.

Writing:

The writing section of the SAT is hard to prepare for in the short term, because it mostly tests grammar and organizational skills. There are still some things you can do to get the best possible score.

Always try to choose the answer choice that sounds the most natural. If two answer choices sound like they could be correct, try to choose the one that is more succinct. The SAT values clear and concise grammar and word choice, so the longest, most confusing choice is unlikely to be correct. Make sure you understand each sentence or passage that you are modifying. Keep an eye out for changes in tense, and make sure you know which verb you should be conjugating. If you use logic and choose the answers that make the most sense to you, the writing section should be no problem.

Essay:

Writing an entire essay in 25 minutes is a daunting task to say the least. Fortunately, the graders recognize that no one can write a perfect essay in 25 minutes. Your essay doesn’t have to be perfect to get a good score; it just has to have what the graders are looking for.

Plan out your thesis before you start. A well written thesis allow you to easily map out the rest of your essay. And, as unfair as it sounds, length will also play a role in the grading of your essay. Essays that are less than a page long tend to score worse than essays that are more than a page long.

As far as the actual content of your essay goes, be sure to include specific examples. Each body paragraph should include one specific example. If you can’t come up with any examples at all, make up a personal story. The graders can’t fact check what you write, so you can write about as many fake personal experiences as you see fit.

General Advice:

Taking the SAT is only as stressful as you make it. At this point, getting rest and having a clear head will help you more than any last minute studying, so get to bed early. Set your alarm for the morning and give yourself some time to spare. It is a good idea to wear layers, as you have no way of knowing whether your testing room will feel like the the Arctic or the Sahara.

Take time the night before the SAT to organize everything you will bring to the test. Make sure you have printed out your admission ticket, and everything listed there: if you forget an ID or the ticket itself, you will not be allowed into the building. A watch will be useful in keeping track of time; just be sure that all alarms are disabled. Don’t forget an approved calculator and extra batteries. Bring a snack: the SAT is a long test and you will get hungry. Mechanical pencils are not allowed, so don’t bring them.

Other than that, use common sense. Don’t forget that there is a penalty for every incorrect multiple-choice answer, so you should only guess if you can rule out at least one of the answer choices. Relax, take a deep breath, and have confidence. You can do this.

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