6 SAT Prep Mistakes

Preparation is key to any test, right? So all the prep I’ve been doing for my SATs must be helping me somehow, right? This is actually untrue! Although preparation is important for the SATs, there are actually mistakes we can make and things we should not do to prepare for the SATs.


[Continue reading to find out what these 6 SAT prep mistakes are…]

MISTAKE NO. 1: Obsessing over vocabulary. This is probably one of the most common SAT obsessions! Vocabulary is, of course, important in the SAT, but there is no need to spend an overzealous amount of time obsessing over it. You don’t need to learn thousands of words to get a high Critical Reading score. Moreover, quality is more important than quantity with regards to SAT vocab, so learn a reasonable number of words from a well-tailored list of vocabulary.

MISTAKE NO. 2: Doing multiple practice tests but not absorbing mistakes. If you are spending too much time taking tests and not enough time reviewing those tests and learning from your mistakes, then you are just wasting your time. Each practice test is meant for you to learn the tricks of how to ace the SATs and to learn where you are most careless, etc. If you are just taking each test without thinking about your errors, then you are simply left with the same amount of knowledge at the end of the test as you had in the beginning. Check out this post to learn about a tool to help you easily identify your errors.

MISTAKE NO. 3: Being overconfident and not practicing enough on a certain section. In contrast to mistake no. 2, you can also feel overconfident in a certain area, perhaps math, and focus only on practicing your verbal and writing sections while neglecting the math section. This is actually incredibly dangerous because the SAT does not only test how much knowledge you have on a certain subject, but it also tests how quickly and accurately you can solve the problems. Hence, even if you are normally good at math in school, you still need to be able to solve the SAT math problems rapidly and without making mistakes!

MISTAKE NO. 4: Relying on calculator techniques. Many expensive calculators can solve algebraic questions using cool calculator techniques and keying in all the variables. However, although such techniques may seem to provide an advantage, they might actually prove to take up more time than if you just did the calculations one by one. The SAT math section does not often ask you to simply solve algebraic equations for just one variable. Instead, common questions include asking you to solve for one variable in terms of another or to use a simple set of rules such as geometric ratios.

MISTAKE NO. 5: Disputing the test answers. The SAT Reading section is made up of passage-based reading comprehensions that require students to understanding the passage and question before making the best and most reasonable inference from the passage to answer the question. However, because different people perceive things differently, there are times when one student’s inference may be completely different from the ‘correct’ inference. Yes, there are often times when you are positive that your answer is closer to the best answer than the answer provided by the SAT. However, instead of disputing the test answer and just deeming it as ‘lame’ and incorrect, try to understand why that answer was chosen as the most accurate one in the SAT. This will help you more in the actual SAT than trying to justify why your original question should be the correct one!

MISTAKE NO. 6: Fixating on the SAT. Lastly, the SAT is only one aspect of the college admissions process so don’t fixate the three months, or more, of your high school life on preparing for it. I have seen many people stop their extracurriculars, their after-school music lessons, and even their weekly family dinners to have more time to study for the SATs. Yet, preparing for the SATs shouldn’t consume your life. Remember that being well-rounded matters in college admissions as well!

About the author: Shimin Ooi is a junior in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs department. She has a strong interest in economic and health policy and has recently returned from a semester of study at Hertford College, Oxford. In high school, her extensive research on standardized tests helped her achieve a near perfect SAT score and perfect scores on each of her SAT Subject tests. Through these blog posts, she hopes to help others achieve test-taking success as well!

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