How to Study Your Practice Test
How to Study Your Practice Test
After grading your test, you should have a list of the questions you answered incorrectly or skipped. Studying your test involves using this list and examining each question you answered incorrectly, figuring out why you got the question wrong and understanding what you could have done to get the question right.
Why’d You Get It Wrong?
There are four reasons why you might have gotten an individual question wrong:
  1. You thought you solved the answer correctly, but you actually didn’t.
  2. You managed to eliminate some answer choices and then guessed among the remaining answers. Sadly, you guessed wrong.
  3. You knew the answer but made a careless error.
  4. You left it blank.
You should know which of these reasons applies to each question you got wrong. Once you figure out why you got a question wrong, you need to figure out what you could have done to get the question right.
Reason 1: Lack of Knowledge
A question answered incorrectly for reason 1 pinpoints a weakness in your knowledge. Discovering this kind of error gives you an opportunity to fill the void in your knowledge and eliminate future errors on the same question type.
For example, if the question you got wrong refers to factoring quadratics, don’t just work out how to factor that one quadratic. Take the time to go over the fundamental techniques that allow you to factor all quadratics. Additionally, this enables you to see when a quadratic exists in an equation (those suckers can be hard to find sometimes when the SAT tries to disguise them).
Remember, you will not see a question exactly like the question you got wrong. But you probably will see a question that covers the same topic as the practice question. For that reason, when you get a question wrong, don’t just figure out the right answer to the question. Study the broader topic that the question tests.
Reason 2: Guessing Wrong
If you guessed wrong, review your guessing strategy. Did you guess smartly? Could you have eliminated more answers? If yes, why didn’t you? By thinking in a critical way about the decisions you made while taking the practice test, you can train yourself to make quicker, more confident, and better decisions.
If you took a guess and chose the incorrect answer, don’t let that discourage you from guessing. If you eliminated at least one answer, you followed the right strategy by guessing even if you got the question wrong.
Reason 3: Carelessness
Here it might be tempting to say to yourself, “Oh, I made a careless error,” and assure yourself you won’t do that again. Unacceptable! You made that careless mistake for a reason, and you should figure out why. Getting a question wrong because you didn’t know the answer reveals a weakness in your knowledge about the test. Making a careless mistake represents a weakness in your test-taking method.
To overcome this weakness, you need to approach it in the same critical way you would approach a lack of knowledge. Study your mistake. Retrace your thought process on the problem and pinpoint the origin of your carelessness. Were you rushing? Did you fall for an SAT trap? If you pin down your mistake, you are much less likely to repeat it.
Reason 4: Leaving the Question Blank
It’s also a good idea to study the questions you left blank on the test, since those questions constitute a reservoir of lost points. A blank answer results from either
  1. A total inability to answer a question, or
  2. A lack of time.
If you were totally unable to answer a question, learn the material or at least try to identify a way you could have eliminated an answer choice in order to turn the guessing odds in your favor. If you left an answer blank because of time constraints, look over the question and see whether you think you could have answered it correctly. If you could have, then you know you need to speed up as much as possible without making more careless errors. If you couldn’t have answered it correctly, then you’ve just identified a weakness waiting to be overcome.
Ready to overcome your SAT weaknesses? We’ll start with the Writing section.
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