This is a guest post from Jung S. Rhee of Tapaprep.com. He offers a unique perspective on studying for the current SAT Math test.
Standardized testing has an inherent weakness: among every administration of the test, each must be of the same scope, style, and difficulty. Otherwise, it becomes an unfair test, let alone the fact that it can no longer be considered a “standardized” test. The current version of the SAT (to become obsolete as of the afternoon of January 23, 2016) suffers immensely of this malady – and I call it such for many reasons heavily debated among U.S. educators. If your child is registered to take the final administration of the current SAT on the 23rd of this month, here’s how I suggest he/she spend the next few days to maximize the Math score.
Yes, practice helps, but on the current SAT, blind practice may waste time. It’s because to an ill-prepared student, every problem seems distinct. This, precisely, is the biggest challenge for current SAT test-takers; you can’t study some review packet and expect to ace the test. So while tons of practice is good, there’s something your child should be doing prior to that.
Take one of College Board’s SAT practice tests (available here and answers here, or use any one of the 10 tests available if you’ve purchased their Official SAT Study Guide). You won’t need to time yourself for the purposes of this suggestion. The College Board’s tests are the only tests you should be using when you’re trying to study the test (as opposed to the content). Other publishers offer great problem sets which are advantageous for specific types of practice, but none have an identical scope, style, and difficulty as that of the College Board’s exams. Unfortunately, the College Board doesn’t offer any explanations to their questions, so seek help from peers, teachers, and me – I’ll respond to every email as quickly as possible during this final week of prep. Get access to the solutions to as many of the test questions as you can. Master this set of questions, even to the point of committing these questions to memory. All future practice should be based on your mastery of at least one official practice test. But even if your child does not have the time for additional practice, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the questions that your child answers this Saturday seem oddly familiar. Of course, the more official tests a student “masters”, the more questions he or she will find familiar. “Hey! But that’s not really learning math!” you say? Well, the contents of this test are not exactly fair to begin with.
Over the course of the last 12 years this version of the test has existed (Mar 2004 – Jan 2016), I’ve had the chance to test every aspect of the validity of this examination. To me, an average of 49 out of 54 math questions on every administration of the test seem “familiar.” But understanding the fact that most students don’t have as much time to study the test as I did, I collaborated with a self-admitted poor math student to see how well she could ultimately perform on this test. She was definitely a hard worker, but math wasn’t her forte and her SAT math score wasn’t an accurate reflection of her true abilities. When we first began our prep work, she was able to correctly answer a little over half of the problems in each Math section. We chose 30 tests to master. She wasn’t able to comprehend many of the questions, but she memorized the questions and solutions anyway. I knew she was doing the work because she came to me with a list of specific questions to address each week, and whenever I began to explain a question from her list, she would stop me midway, turn to a specific test, find a similar problem, and ask, “Is this the same problem?” In the end, she still wasn’t able to tell me why her responses made any sense, but she received a score of 730 out of 800. That was back in 2007. Since, I’ve been teaching all of my students both the test and the content to ensure maximum scores.
I wish everyone the best as you take one of the most important tests you’ll ever take. For anyone looking for last minute help, we’re offering our current SAT course at 40% off with the promo code TOPSCORE40, and we’ll also include the New SAT course (currently in development) free of charge in case your child decides to give the new test a shot.