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.
Instead of just showing you how to solve one question,
our explanations help you focus on your broader testing tendencies
and adjust your strategies accordingly.