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Improve SAT Scores: 7 Fixes For Low Scores


Answer sheet w pencil

“I just got my March SAT scores back – not good.  What should I do?”

It happens, even if you spent time preparing for the SAT.  I’d recommend you plan to retake the SAT in May or June and spend the time in between addressing the weaknesses from your last test.  Here are common areas to consider:

1.  Stress / Anxiety

If you studied or prepared for the March test, you understood how important your SAT score can be, but this may have worked against you.  A little nervousness can keep you sharp and focused during the four-hour test; too much stress clouds your reasoning and distracts you.  Usually students are more relaxed when they take the test again a couple months.  Additionally, you may want to work on positive visualization and stress reducing techniques.

2.  Answering Too Many

Look at your March SAT results.  How many questions did you answer?  How many did you get wrong?  Because the SAT deducts ¼ a point for every wrong answer, you might be hurting your score by attempting every question.  Only students planning to score 650 or above in a section should answer all the questions.  Everyone else should strategically leave a percentage of each section blank.  When you leave the hardest questions blank, you will have more time to work through the remaining problems.

3.  Not Answering Enough

Some people hear the SAT deducts points for wrong answers and they take an extreme approach and don’t answer enough.  Its true, you don’t want a lot of wrong answers, but you still need to earn sufficient points by getting questions right.  You need to answer more questions if you got almost all the questions on your March SAT correct, but still have a low score.

4.  Vocabulary

50% of your SAT reading score is based on your knowledge of vocabulary.  It’s difficult to answer sentence completion questions correctly when you don’t know any of the words in the answer choices.  Work on building a college bound vocabulary.  You can look to your PSAT or any SAT for a source of vocabulary words.

5.  Subject Review

Often key concepts covered in math and writing are things you learned, or should have learned, years ago.  You might have forgotten some content.  Ironically, some of my students who need math review the most are currently taking calculus, but it has been so long since they studied remainders, ratios, and exponents that they need to brush up on the subject matter tested.  Do you need a quick review of math or grammar basics?

6.  The Essay

Putting aside all the controversy surrounding the March 2011 SAT essay topic, how well did you write?  If your essay grade is dragging down your SAT writing score, you need to practice timed writing.  I was an official grader for the SAT essay when it was first introduced in 2005.  I can tell you the scores are very objective and evaluate WHAT and HOW you write.  Practice developing paragraph-length examples to prove your point and using language and sentence structure that show you can write like a college bound student.  Your essays should be more than a page and include effective variety in word choice and construction.

7.  Detailed Reading

I admit that most of my reading in a week is not much better than basic skimming.  I quickly read e-mails; I read articles to get the main ideas.  Rarely do I sit down and truly examine something I’m reading.  But the SAT is all about detailed reading, even on the math section.  Practice careful reading with old SATs and see if it doesn’t help your score.

Have any Questions or Comments?

2 comments on “Improve SAT Scores: 7 Fixes For Low Scores

These are all great tips to improving an SAT score. It might also be a good idea for the student to take an SAT prep course or hire a private tutor. After all, it’s a very important test and it’s best to be as prepared as possible.

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