Basic Rules of SAT II Test-Taking
There are some rules that apply to all SAT II tests. These
rules are so obvious that we hesitate to call them “strategies.”
Some of these rules will seem more like common sense to you than
anything else. We don’t disagree. However, given the cruel ways
a timed test can warp and mangle common sense, we offer this list.
There are two types of carelessness, both of which will
cost you points. The first type of carelessness results from moving
too fast on the test, whether that speed is caused by overconfidence
or frantic fear. In speeding through the test, you make yourself
vulnerable to misinterpreting the question, overlooking one of the
answer choices, or making a logical or mathematical mistake. As
you take the test, make a conscious effort to approach the test calmly
and not to move so quickly that you become prone to making mistakes.
Whereas the first type of carelessness can be caused by
overconfidence, the second type of carelessness results from frustration
or lack of confidence. Some students take a defeatist attitude toward
tests, assuming they won’t be able to answer many of the questions.
Such an attitude is a form of carelessness, because it causes the
student to ignore reality. Just as the overconfident student assumes
she can’t be tricked and therefore gets tricked, the student without
confidence assumes he can’t answer questions and therefore at the
first sign of difficulty gives up.
Both kinds of carelessness steal points from you. Avoid
Be Careful Gridding In Your Answers
The computer that scores SAT II tests is unmerciful. If
you answered a question correctly, but somehow made a mistake in
marking your answer grid, the computer will mark that question as
wrong. If you skipped question 5, but put the answer to question
6 in row 5, and the answer to question 7 in row 6, etc., thereby
throwing off your answers for an entire section . . . it gets ugly.
Some test prep books advise you to fill in your answer
sheet five questions at a time rather than one at a time. Some suggest
that you do one question and then fill in the corresponding bubble.
We think you should fill out the answer sheet whatever way feels
most natural to you; just make sure you’re careful while doing it.
In our opinion, the best way to ensure that you’re being careful
is to talk silently to yourself. As you figure out an answer in
the test booklet and transfer it over to the answer sheet, say to
yourself: “Number 23, B. Number 24, E. Number 25, A.”
Know What’s in the Reference Area
At the beginning of the SAT II Math IIC there is a reference
area that provides you with basic geometric formulas and information.
THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS FOR YOUR
REFERENCE IN ANSWERING SOME OF THE QUESTIONS IN THIS TEST.
Volume of a right circular cone with radius r and
Lateral area of a right circular cone with circumference
of the base c and slant height l:
Volume of a sphere with radius r:
Surface area of a sphere with radius r:
Volume of a pyramid with base area B and
You should know all of these formulas without the reference;
don’t neglect to memorize and understand the formulas just because
you have the reference area as a crutch. Instead, view the reference
area as a guide to the formulas that will likely be on the test.
If you know those formulas without having to flip back to the reference
area, you’ll save time, which puts you one step ahead.
Write All Over Your Test Booklet . . .
Draw diagrams or write out equations to help you think.
Mark up graphs or charts as necessary. Cross out answers that can’t
be right. The test booklet is yours to write on, and writing can
often help clarify your thoughts so that you can work more quickly
with fewer mistakes.
. . . But Remember That the SAT Rewards Answers,
Having told you to write in your test book, we’re going
to qualify that advice. Doing math scratchwork can definitely help
you avoid careless errors, but doing pristine work, or more work
than necessary, can be more time consuming than it’s worth. You
must find a balance between speed and accuracy. You need to be able
to follow and understand your work, but others don’t. Nobody will
see your work, so don’t write it out as if you’re being judged.