Using the Predictability of the SAT II
Math IIC for Personal Gain
One day an eleventh grader named Sylvie Pascal sits down
at her desk and takes an SAT II Math IIC practice test. Because
it makes this example much simpler, imagine she takes the entire
test and gets only one question wrong.
The question Sylvie missed dealt with parabolas—she had
misidentified the vertex. Sylvie realizes she doesn’t have a firm
understanding of how to graph parabolic equations, so she takes
a few minutes to study up on coordinate geometry. She learns the
basics of conic sections and what causes a parabola’s vertex to
shift from the origin. All this takes about 10 minutes, after which
Sylvie vows never again to miss a question involving parabolas.
Analyzing Sylvie Pascal
Sylvie 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 parabola
graphs, and learned the subject thoroughly. If Sylvie 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 question.
Sylvie and You
So what if you take a practice test and get 15 questions
wrong, and your errors span a number of different math topics? Do
exactly what Sylvie 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
A wrong answer on the SAT II Math IIC 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 Math IIC. 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 Math IIC, 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 Math IIC throws at you.