Taking Advantage of the Test’s Regularity
Taking Advantage of the Test’s Regularity
One day an eleventh grader named Molly Bloom sits down at her desk and takes a SAT II U.S. History practice test. Because it makes this example much simpler, imagine she takes the entire test and only gets one question wrong.
The question Molly missed dealt with the Populist movement. Looking over the question, Molly realizes that she answered the question wrong because she had mistakenly believed that the Populist Party wanted to raise protective tariffs, when in fact they wanted them lowered. She thinks about why she got the question wrong: she knew that the Populist Party arose among farmers in the 1890s, primarily because of falling prices for agricultural produce, and had assumed these falling prices were the result of foreign competition. Good logic, wrong answer. Molly realizes she didn’t have a good grasp of what was going on in the 1890s, and she turns to her books figure out the truth. She studies up on the Populist Party, learns what policies they stood behind, and studies why they stood behind those policies. All this takes her about 10 minutes, after which she vows never to make a mistake about the Populists again.
Analyzing Molly Bloom
Molly 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 the Populist movement and the issues facing 1890s America in general, and learned the truth of the historical situation. If Molly were to take that same test again, she definitely would not get that question wrong.
Skeptical readers may 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 question.
Molly and You
So, what if you take a practice test and get 15 questions wrong, and your errors span a number of different eras? 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 can’t figure out your error, find someone who can.
A wrong answer on the SAT II U.S. History 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 U.S. History. 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 important, you’ll be pinpointing what you need to study for the real SAT II U.S. History, 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 U.S. History throws at you.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error