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09/04/2019

Is it reasonable to improve from a 1640 to a 2000 on the SAT?

QUESTION
Is it reasonable to improve from a 1640 to a 2000 on the SAT?
I’m a junior. I originally got this earlier in the year:
MATH: 690
WRITING: 520
READING: 430
COMBINED: 1640

I was very disappointed with the writing score, I did much better on practice tests. I might have just been off that day.

I’m thinking I can improve them to the following scores:
MATH: 690 —> 750
WRITING: 520 —> 650
READING: 430 —> 600
COMBINED: 1640 —> 2000

I think I may be well on my way to this, as I’ve improved my reading so much since when I took that test. I just took one a few days ago but haven’t gotten results back yet, but I felt much better than I did that first time. Are these suggested improvements not plausible?

ANSWER
It will be lots of work, but definitely not impossible 🙂

As far as the Critical Reading goes, you have two types of questions to consider: sentence completion and passage.

For the sentence completion, I would use a website like Quizlet that has SAT vocabulary lists already programmed in it to help expand your vocabulary.

When you do these questions on practice SAT and actual SAT exams, MAKE SURE TO COVER UP THE ANSWER CHOICES and read the question first. I write that in big letters because people tend to ignore this. I highly HIGHLY recommend physically covering up the answer choices, and trying to get an idea of what you think the answer might be before looking. This will usually help you eliminate 2 or 3 answer choices right off the bat. I promise, no matter how good you are, this will help you. The SAT is mean, and there are traps built into the answer choices that throw off very smart students.

Furthermore, these questions are in order of difficulty. This can and should affect your pacing strategy for optimal scoring (more about this in a moment)

The passage questions are not in any order of difficulty. Most of the questions can be answered without reading the passage. All you have to do for most of them is skim the passage or read just a few lines. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the details.

As far as the math goes, either you know it, or you don’t. If you don’t, I would go to about.com or get the Princeton Review book “Math Smart” to brush up on the concepts. Also, I highly recommend using a program like hs.beestar.org to test yourself on the concepts you learned. Beestar has paid and unpaid programs, but their regular math is always free. (Please list my e-mail: [email protected] as your referrer if you do sign up)

As with the sentence completion questions, the math sections are in order of difficulty. You get one point for every correct answer, zero points for a skipped answer, and you lose 1/4 of a point for every incorrect answer.

Keeping this in mind, you may want to skip the last few questions in each section, and spend the majority of your time on the questions at the beginning and end of each section. Only after you feel confident about those should you proceed to the harder problems at the end. This will save you a LOT of time, and help you earn more points in the long run.

To recap:

-sentence completions: arranged easy -> difficult

-math questions: arranged easy -> difficult

-passage questions: no order of difficulty (but simply skim the passage for questions about tone/subject or purpose, only read a few lines for questions that ask about definitions or specific details from the passage, and save the harder questions with words like “infer”, “imply”, and “suggest” for last)

-grammar questions: no order of difficulty

Hope some of this was helpful to you, and good luck! 🙂

P.S. If you want to watch a video I made for my students that compares various test-prep resources, feel free to check out:

Pros and Cons of 8 Top Online Test Prep Programs (Part I): http://youtu.be/R6n50W0LkNU

Pros and Cons of 8 Top Online Test Prep Programs (Part II): http://youtu.be/nx9EvbPyJno

P.P.S. Consider taking the ACT as well. Many colleges prefer the ACT to the SAT these days. It is entirely multiple choice (minus the essay, which you do need to take if you are using it for college admission) and you are not counted off for guessing. The only real difference is that the ACT has slightly more difficult math (a few trig problems), and a science section.