Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Aiming for a higher SAT score

When conversing with my fellow peers, champions of the teenage spirit, replete with the youthful hubris that their young age entails, I find myself astonished at the amount of indifference they have regarding to standardized tests such as the SAT. This would be remarkably surprising if one held to the rational view of mankind, which states that Man mostly acts in a way that can be recognized as rational within the context of his aspirations, given that SAT scores play a huge role in college admissions. But under the oft-confirmed model that humans seldom act rationally, this phenomenon makes perfect sense. But for the benefit of those who deviate from their brethren in taking these tests seriously, I will elect to spell out some useful tips for improving one's score. If applied properly these tips can yield you a bonus of at least 300 points.

Before I get into the meat of this post, it is first necessary for me to categorize the different areas that the SAT tests, and thus the areas that we should study to enhance our scores.

Reading: Reading speed, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and forensics, which is defined as "the art or study of argumentation and formal debate." I include the latter one because it is important to be able to "argue" for one answer in favor of another based on logical and documentary evidence.

Math: Algebra, Geometry, Statistics

Writing: Grammar, diction, writing.

I divide the different sections into various subsections because just like in every field or skill, focusing on specific goals is necessary for dramatic self-improvement. No generalization. While it may help to a certain extent, it is much less effective than concentrating on specific oriented goals.

That being said, let us proceed to the reading sections. Reading speed can be increased through many techniques, I suggest you get a book on it. But a few rudimentary tips are as follows: focus on the space above the words so you can glance at more than one word at a time, reading one word at a time can be useful for developing one's sense of the authors writing style and helps one's spelling, but it costs unnecessary time for the SAT; just read a lot, not only will this improve your overall reading speed but it will familiarize you with more information that could potentially be presented on the test, and thus making your reading easier. For example, one article I had to read was about dualism, and because I was already well-versed on the topic, I was able to blast right through it. Reading comprehension: Again, read a lot. Also, improve your ability to concentrate, this allows your mind to become more actively engaged in the material, which accelerates learning and growth. Vocabulary: This is one of the more straightforward ones. And like everything, diversifying your methods is the best way to develop. Ways to broaden your vocab: Read material that uses a broad vocabulary, look up any word that you are unfamiliar with and write it down along with its definition, making it subject to future reference; Get a SAT vocabulary book and carry it around with you at all times - in the car, bathroom,etc... - and study it. I got one that had 500 words on it and learned about 250 of them in a month in a half. Now I have one with 3000 words, and once I get through with it I will have a master vocabulary (not that I don't already, you see). Additionally, one can make note cards with, say, 5 words on it and focus on those 5 words all day; the next day have 5 more new words. I don't bother with flashcards but they are beneficial. If you can do at least 3 of the aforementioned 5 methods, your doing good.
As for forensics, read books and blogs that debate about topics and then joy a debate team yourself. Whats also beneficial is looking up all of the logical postulates and fallacies. Run a Wikipedia search on a logical fallacy, then on the bottom of the page they will have a huge list of them.

Math: The math section is perhaps the least coach-able of the three, but it can still be taught. Focus on your math textbooks, try to get to at least pre-calculus. Make sure that not only do you learn the relevant math lessons, but that you learn the reasoning behind it. Exposing yourself to its foundations is the best way to enhance and deepen your reasoning skills. Bonus: if you have the time, try different textbooks.

Writing: Pickup a grammar book, particularly one that focuses on SAT relevant grammar.

In fact, I would wholly recommend getting an SAT prep book. The best one in my opinion is Barrons "SAT 2400, aiming for the perfect score."

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