Data Analysis, Statistics & Probability
The SAT is Not a NASCAR-Sanctioned Event
The SAT is a timed test, and some people take this to mean they should answer items as quickly as possible. They cut corners on items to speed through a section. This is a classic error, and it’s an especially disastrous policy on SAT Math, since the “easiest” items are at the beginning. If the last item had a fifty-point bonus attached to it, things would be different, but every item counts the same. Getting two hard items right won’t do you any good if you missed two easy items in your haste. You’ll be better off answering the easy items correctly and then using whatever time you have left to take an educated guess at the remaining harder items.
Accuracy counts more than speed. First, go through a section and answer all the items that come easily to you. Then:
  • Take the time to answer every one of these items correctly.
  • Take another shot at the remaining items during the second run-through. If you spend two minutes, and the item still doesn’t yield an answer, take a guess and move on.
To achieve the second point, avoid choosing the answer that looks “right” at first glance. On easy items, this choice may well be the correct answer. For items numbered 12 or higher, an answer that screams “Ooh! Ooh! Pick me and hurry on!” should also be handled like a live snake. SAT distractors are designed to catch students in a hurry. More often than not, an answer choice for a hard item that looks too good to be true is exactly that—too good to be true.
Remember, if you can safely eliminate one of the answer choices as being wrong, you should take a guess because you may beat the wrong-answer penalty.
For most students, the best method for picking up points in the Math section is by:
  • Answering all the easy questions correctly.
  • Slowing down and catching most of the medium items.
  • Getting 25–50% of the hard items.
This approach is not as thrilling as getting the hardest five items right (while making tons of mistakes along the way), but it does put you on the best path to a high score. Besides, do you really think the SAT can be thrilling?
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