Take a look at a sample score report. They’re confusing and overwhelming. When looking at a score report for the SAT, ACT, or PSAT practice tests it is important to consider not only the questions you missed but a variety of other factors that can indicate overall trends. Looking at the “big number” or overall score can give you an idea of where you are but doesn’t tell you much as to where you you can improve. Breaking down common trends in these score reports and beginning to understand what they may indicate about your test taking performance can help you work toward your goal score.
Here are the top 3 most common trends in missed questions on practice exams (and what you can do to prevent them.)
1. Not Too Fast, Not Too Slow
Did you miss a large number of questions toward the end of any section? One of the most common obstacles we see students struggling with is pacing. Ironically, this may not necessarily be a bad thing! In math sections, questions actually get progressively harder as the exam goes on. This means you should spend the time checking and rechecking your work on earlier questions to avoid careless errors.
Try to not get bogged down on one question. Some of the most common errors on exams are easy mistakes like adding instead of subtracting. (Remember: Add a little time; Subtract a lot of errors!) Take the time to check your work and ensure your answer is correct on concepts that you are confident you understand.
2. Getting in the Test Zone
Missing a stretch of questions in the earlier or middle parts of a section can often be related to a lack of focus. When your confidence goes down because you are uncertain about your answers, it can cause a downward spiral that impacts subsequent questions. Staying in the “test zone,” is important to maintain focus throughout the exam. You don’t want to slip into a “test funk!”
Remember that these exams are a marathon and not a sprint. For most, this is the longest test you will take as a student and it is important to be prepared for it. Just as you would prepare for an intense athletic competition, it is important to make the same considerations for these exams.
3. Beware of the “Distractors”
Did you know that test makers term hard questions, “distractors?” Yep, these questions are actually created to drain your time and energy as you go through the exam. Looking out for these questions and understanding the concepts behind them can help you drastically do better on a practice exam.
Your testing expert can help guide you around these distractors, give you tips on how to identify them, and pinpoint areas where you should spend additional time focusing your preparation efforts..
Your advisor will help you look at patterns in the questions missed on your practice exam and help you develop a plan for improving in these areas. There are many strategies to get you to your goal score including one-on-one tutoring. Each of these offers their own advantages in helping you increase your test performance and your advisor will help you decide which makes the most sense for you.