We know, you don’t actually want to get a bad score on the SAT®. No one does. But, oddly enough, despite all of the incredible resources out there, there are still a lot of students who go about their test prep all wrong. Here are the 4 best ways to get a bad score on the SAT® (aka things you should definitely NOT do).
1. Cram For It The Week Before
I mean, it’s just one test – what could be so hard? There’s not even that much “material” on it. Grammar? Reading? The math doesn’t even go up to pre-calc…this should be easy. Well, not so much.
While it’s true that the content itself isn’t overwhelming, concept mastery is only one part of doing well on the exam. Even if you know everything there is to know about semicolons and linear functions, the SAT® (and ACT®, for that matter) takes those concepts and tests you on them in ways you’ve never been tested before. And not only are they asking questions in tricky ways, but they’re asking them of you in a stress-filled, time-crunch of an exam unlike anything you’ve ever taken.
Test strategies and stamina are vital to getting a good score, and those just aren’t things you can easily pick up with a few days of studying. They need to be built up and practiced over time. Just like training for a marathon, you don’t want to go out and run twenty-something miles for the first time on race day – and you certainly don’t want to be tiring yourself out the week before the race pushing your limits well beyond where they’ve gone before. So no matter how good you are at cramming, you don’t want to cram for this one. Most students start working 8-10 weeks before the test date: right now is actually a pretty great time to get going!
2. Wing It Without A Study Plan
Okay, so you’ve decided against cramming the week before. You’re going to get started a few weeks out and build up your stamina slowly and smartly. You even bought one of those books with a bunch of full tests and practice problems – ready, set, go!
Uhh, now what? Diving in without a plan is not only daunting, it’s a bad way to improve your score. “Work smarter, not harder” is a phrase we like a lot – and just blindly taking practice tests and answering practice problems without a good idea of how to pace your studies, where to concentrate, and what concepts you need to review is a bad recipe. That’s a lot of hard work that isn’t necessarily going to pay off with the score you’re looking for.
And even if you’re someone who’s great at making study guides or laying out a time management plan, the SAT® is unlike any test you’ve ever taken. You need an expert study plan tailored to your learning style and test-prep needs to keep you going in the right direction – and to keep you from burning out! Remember, even professional athletes need a coach, so take advantage of our test prep experts!
3. Don’t Take Any Full Practice Tests
We’ve talked about building up stamina and having a good study plan – and a huge part of that is taking practice tests. How many 4-hour exams have you taken in your life? And how many of those ranged multiple subjects? And how many of those accounted for 35% of your college admissions decision? You don’t want to walk in on test day and do this thing for the first time.
Taking practice tests that simulate the test-taking environment are essential to preparing for the real thing. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a stuffy classroom on a Saturday morning with twenty other nervous, tired kids tapping their pencils; even taking a practice test in the comfort of your own room with your cellphone as a stopwatch doesn’t get the same effect. Check with your high school guidance department – or reach out to us here at Revolution Prep – to ask about how and when to take a full-length practice test under test conditions. Going into the SAT® without ever sitting for a full-length test…that’s a great way to get a bad score.
4. Rely On Just Being Smart
Have we made it clear that the SAT® isn’t like other tests yet? Is that point coming across? Well, the SAT® isn’t like any other test you’ve taken. It’s longer and trickier, and it tests you in ways you’re not used to being tested. Simple concepts like solving for X or where to put a comma get asked asked in confusing ways, and timing and pacing are big components. If you just rely on being smart or a good test-taker, you’ll only get so far. There’s actually a lot of room to get better at this test and improve your score from the first time you sit down with an SAT® book – you just have to put in the effort.
Research shows that students with a “Growth Mindset,” who understand their abilities to be flexible – able to grow and improve – rather than just fixed at “being smart,” have a lot more success. So having the right mindset, knowing that you can (and have to) prepare rigorously will lead to better results than just resting on your laurels. So whatever your test prep plans are – self-study, private tutoring, or an online SAT class – make sure to NOT do any of those 4 things above.