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Upasana Gupta -

5 Tips for Acing the SAT

Understanding the Significance of SAT

High school students' across the country spend months each year preparing for The Scholastic Aptitude Test or SAT, a
college entrance admission test for majority of colleges and universities in the United States. These educational institutions require applicants to submit their SAT scores as part of their college application process. College admission boards look at these scores as a predictor of how well a student can handle the academic challenges and pressures of college life. In simple terms, the higher a student's score on the SAT test (scores range from 600 to 2400), the better is their chance of getting into the college of their choice.

"In our college selection process, we give a lot of emphasis to good GPA's and standardized test scores like SAT," says Phil Betz, director of admissions at Monmouth College, a private, liberal arts institution located in Illinois. "SAT scores give us the evidence that a student is serious about education and willing to put in the work needed to meet the requirements of a degree program."

It's extremely important for every student who are graduating high school to take the SAT. Even when colleges don't require students' to submit SAT scores, they may still look at the scores and report them in their school statistics. Also, employers, special student organizations and scholarship programs all need SAT scores to determine eligibility for different programs. For example, state universities offer academic scholarships to students with a certain GPA and SAT score.

But acing the SAT requires serious preparation and hard work. Here are few tips to do well on the test.

1. Taking the SAT: For most high schoolers, taking the SAT three times is about the maximum. In some special cases, four times may be needed, but that should be the exception. Most students take the SAT three times by the time they are high school seniors. This does not include the PSAT, which students take as sophomores and juniors.

To prepare well for SAT, students typically should take up SAT early in their junior year and essentially wrap up their SATs before the start of senior year. Doing so will allow students to focus exclusively on other college admission requirements such as the application essay, financial aid, recommendation letters and much more during senior year.

Take the case of Suchita Bose, a freshman in New York's Stern Business School- she had appeared twice for SAT in her 11th grade, but wanted to fare better in her test scores. So she decided to take up the SAT exam in the beginning of her 12th grade. She found that focused study for SAT during the summer helped her ace the test.

(Read: A Student's Journey into Selecting the Right College)

2. Regularly taking prep tests :
The best way for students to increase their SAT scores is to take regular SAT prep tests and courses available online. These practice tests help students identify their weak areas and target them for improvement. Students' can also purchase study guides which list actual SAT questions from older tests (such as the College Board SAT). It’s important to develop regular study habits and it is best for students' to start preparing for SAT as early as sophomore year in high school.

3. Responding to the test format:
The SAT consists of three main focus areas- math, reading and writing. Each section starts out easy and gets progressively harder. It’s important to remember that the easy questions are worth just as much as the hard ones.  So in each section, students should focus in completing the first two-thirds of the section perfectly. Then they can afford to skip a few hard questions in each section, if the need arises, because students are penalized much more for wrong answers rather than they are for skipping questions altogether. Students' must avoid guess work.
Getting a multiple-choice question wrong deducts a quarter to a third of a point from their score.

4. Understanding the emphasis in SAT essay:
The test includes a 25 minute essay on a topic. Majority of students' stress about spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but it’s not that important. These are minor aspects of the essay writing assignment. The most important thing students' should keep in mind is to have a proper essay format with introduction, body and conclusion.  Also, students' need to take a firm stance on a given topic and support their view-points with clear, well-organized ideas, and examples based on their experience and observation. Students must understand that their essay structure is the most significant element in essay writing .

5. Understanding the scoring in SAT:
It’s important to understand that the SAT is a comparison test. It doesn’t matter if you do well, but just how well you do in comparison to others is significant.  The average overall score (50th percentile) in the United States for 2012 was a 1498:

•Critical Reading: 496
•Math: 514
•Writing: 488

If students' want to get into one of the top-ranking schools in the U.S., they will need to score around the 90th percentile, which would mean a score of 2100 or above.