Taking Advantage of the Test’s Regularity
One day an eleventh grader named Marie Pasteur sits down
at her desk and takes an SAT II Biology practice test. Because it
makes this example much simpler, imagine she takes the entire test
and gets only one question wrong.
The question Marie missed dealt with mitosis. Because
she doesn’t have the best grasp on mitosis, she mistakenly thought
that anaphase preceded metaphase, when it’s the other way around.
So she takes a few minutes to study up on cell reproduction and
sorts out when the different phases take place and what happens
in each. All this takes about ten minutes, after which Marie vows
never again to miss a question involving mitosis.
Analyzing Marie Pasteur
Marie wasn’t content simply to see what the correct answer
was and get on with her day; she wanted to see how and why she
got the question wrong and what she should have done, or needed
to know, in order to get it right. She spent a little time studying
the question, discovered her mistaken understanding of mitosis,
and learned the subject thoroughly. If Marie were to take that same
test again, she definitely wouldn’t get that question wrong.
Skeptical readers might say, “But she’ll never take that
test again, and she’ll never see that particular question again,
so wasn’t figuring out her mistake a waste of time?”
No! It’s definitely not a waste of time.
If you take the time to learn why you got a question wrong and to
learn what you need to know to get it right, you’ll probably remember what
you learned the next time you’re faced with a similar question.
And chances are excellent that you will be faced with a similar
Marie and You
So what if you take a practice test and get 15 questions
wrong, and your errors span many of the major topics in biology?
Do exactly what Marie 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 can’t figure out your error, find someone who can.
A wrong answer on the SAT II Biology identifies a weakness
in your test taking, whether that weakness is an unfamiliarity with
a particular topic or a tendency to be careless. As you study each
wrong answer, you are actually learning how to answer questions that
will appear in similar form on the real SAT II Biology. You are
discovering your exact weaknesses and addressing them, and you are
learning to understand not just the knowledge behind the question,
but also the way that ETS asks questions.
True, if you got 15 questions wrong, studying your first
practice test will take some time. But if you invest that time and
study your practice test properly, you will be eliminating future
mistakes. Each successive practice test you take should have fewer
errors, meaning you’ll spend less time studying those errors. More
importantly, you’ll be pinpointing what you need to study for the
real SAT II Biology, identifying and overcoming your weaknesses,
and learning to answer an increasing variety of questions on the
specific topics covered by the test. Taking practice tests and studying
them will allow you to teach yourself how to recognize and handle
whatever the SAT II Biology throws at you.