Jump to a New ChapterIntroductionThe Discipline of DisciplineSAT StrategiesThe SAT Personal TrainerMeet the Writing SectionBeat the EssayBeat Improving SentencesBeat Identifying Sentence ErrorsBeat Improving ParagraphsMeet the Critical Reading sectionBeat Sentence CompletionsReading Passages: The Long and Short of ItThe Long of ItThe Short of ItSAT VocabularyMeet the Math SectionBeat Multiple-Choice and Grid-InsNumbers and OperationsAlgebraGeometryData, Statistics, and Probability
 4.1 The Practice Test As Personal Trainer 4.2 The Practice of Taking a Practice Test

 4.3 How to Study Your Practice Test
The Practice Test As Personal Trainer
One day, an eleventh-grader named Molly Bloom sits down at the desk in her room and takes an SAT practice test. Let’s say she takes the entire test and gets only one question wrong. Molly checks her answers and then jumps up from her chair and does a little dance, shimmying to the tune of her own triumph. But after her euphoria passes, she begins to wonder which question she got wrong and returns to her chair. She discovers that it was a math question about parabolas.
Molly looks over the question and realizes that she had misidentified the vertex of the parabola. Since she got the question wrong, she studies up on her coordinate geometry. She rereads all the material she needs to know on parabolas, including what causes a parabola’s vertex to shift from the origin. All this takes her about ten minutes, after which she vows never to make another mistake on an SAT question involving parabolas.
Analyzing Molly Bloom
All Molly did was study a question she got wrong until she understood why she got it wrong and what she should have done to get it right. So what’s the big deal? This: Molly answered the question incorrectly because she didn’t understand the topic— parabolas—that it was testing. The practice test pointed out her weakness in the clearest way possible. She got the question wrong.
Molly wasn’t content just to see the correct answer and get on with her life. She wanted to understand how and why she got the question wrong and what she should have done or needed to know to get it right. So she stopped her dance party, spent some time studying the question, improved her understanding of parabola graphs, and nailed down the concepts she needed to know. If Molly were to take that same test again, she definitely would not get that question wrong.
True, Molly never will see that exact question again. But remember, the SAT is a standardized test, a conformist. When Molly taught herself about parabolas and their graphs, she learned how to answer not just the question she got wrong but all the similar parabola questions that are bound to show up on the real SAT she eventually takes.
Every practice test precisely targets your weaknesses. You only get questions wrong when your knowledge of whatever that question tests is weak. By studying the results of her practice test and then figuring out why she got her one question wrong, Molly used the practice test to identify her weakness and overcome it.
Molly and You
Molly has it easy. She took a practice test and got only one question wrong. Fewer than 1 percent of all people who take the SAT will be so lucky.
So, what if you take a practice test and get fifteen questions wrong, and your errors span a number of different topics in Math, Critical Reading, and Writing? You should do exactly what Molly did. Take your test and study it. Identify every question you got wrong, figure out why you got it wrong, and then teach yourself what you should have done to get the question right.
If you got fifteen questions wrong, it’ll take a bit of time to study your mistakes. But if you invest that time and study your practice test properly, you will avoid future mistakes and guarantee yourself better scores. So to make this method work, set aside two blocks of time when you take a practice test: the first to take the test, the second to study your results.
SparkNotes Practice Tests Make It Easy
The practice tests in our books were specifically designed to help you study your practice tests. Every explanation of every question in our practice tests has a heading that gives you all the information you need to help you pinpoint your weaknesses. Each question is categorized by its major subject, such as geometry, by specific subject, such as circles, and by difficulty level.