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10 Things You Should Know About the SAT

There are many misconceptions that students have when it comes to the SAT. From sticking to a specific letter to questioning the importance of the SAT, it’s important that we clarify any of the misinformation that is spreading around. In this article, we’ll debunk 10 of the most common SAT myths, making sure that you know the truth, and nothing but the truth.

Studying for the SAT
It's important to clarify any of the misinformation that is spreading around in order to get a good score on the SAT.

1. Signing your name earns you 400 points

While it is true that the minimum score you can earn per section is 200 points, for a total minimum score of 400, it is not the signing of your name that earns you these points. In reality, it is impossible to score lower than a 400, making a score of 400 more like a 0, rather than extra credit.

2. Always guess ‘C’

You’ve probably heard that ‘C’ is the most common letter on multiple choice exams, but on the SAT, every letter choice has a 25% of being the correct answer. However, it is a good idea to prepare your “letter of the day” in advance, in which you choose the same letter for every question you need to guess on. Remember, every letter should appear roughly the same amount (roughly, not exactly).

3. You can’t get any questions wrong in order to get a 1600

Despite its label of “perfect score”, getting a 1600 does not mean you answered every single question correctly. The College Board designates a curve for every exam, in which it calculates your “raw score” (the number of questions you got correctly) and your actual score (the curve applied to your raw score). For instance, 2 questions wrong on the Math section can earn you a 790 on some tests. This also means that each question is not necessarily worth 10 points— depending on the curve, a question can be worth more or less.

4. The PSAT doesn’t matter

Although the name indicates that the PSAT is a practice SAT, juniors who score well on the PSAT can be selected as National Merit semi-finalists or finalists. Being selected as a finalist is a great honor, as National Merit is among the most prestigious scholarship awarders. So, the PSAT does matter to an extent, as it gives students the opportunity to earn a scholarship, but it does not matter in the sense that your scores are not sent to colleges.

5. The SAT orders its questions by difficulty

This myth is not entirely false, as the SAT Math section has been proven to be set in difficulty order, in that the problems get increasingly more difficult as you progress. However, in the Reading and Writing sections, because the questions correspond to passages, there is no correlation to difficulty. Different students will find different passages more difficult and others more straight-forward.

6. It’s impossible to improve your score by a lot

Improving your SAT score is by no means an impossible feat; however, it does take some work. According to the College Board, studying as little as 6-8 hours can increase your score by 90 points, while studying for 20 hours can improve your score by 115 points! The key is personalized SAT prep, in which you focus on the topics that you most frequently miss, rather than dividing your time equally between all sections.

7. If you don’t know an answer, leave it blank

The SAT does not deduct points for incorrect answers, so you should always, always guess. At minimum, you have a 25% chance of getting the question correct, but your chances are usually higher because you can almost always eliminate at least one answer. If you’re running out of time, make sure to at least check that all of your questions have answers bubbled in, as you do not want to miss out on any extra points.

Blank sheet of paper
The SAT does not deduct points for incorrect answers, so you should always guess.

8. Depending on when you take the SAT, the tests vary in difficulty

Some say the August SAT is the most difficult and has the worst curve, while claiming that “the tests get easier throughout the year”. While certain tests may be easier for you, depending on the questions that appear, the curve is predetermined, meaning other students’ scores do not affect yours. You should schedule your test based on when you feel ready, not when others say the curve is better.

9. Schools are going test-optional, so my scores don’t matter

While in post-Covid-19 times, many schools are indeed test-optional, this notion tends to only apply for those who are able to pay full-tuition. Schools look at test scores for scholarship opportunities, so if you are looking to apply for any scholarships, submitting your scores may be your ticket in. In addition, your SAT score may be the determining factor that gains you your acceptance. Think about it this way: If you and another student have a nearly identical GPA, with similar accolades and extra-curriculars, a high SAT score can be what distinguishes the two of you. Standardized scores help to provide colleges with more information on what kind of student you are. So, while the test-optional policies certainly lower the importance of standardized testing, they are not entirely obsolete.

10. The SAT tests my intelligence and indicates how well I’ll do in college

SAT scores are more a measure of how well you can ace the SAT than anything else, meaning there are techniques specific to the SAT that you won’t necessarily need anywhere else. Studies have shown that it is possible to answer over 40% of the questions on the reading section without actually reading the passages. If you didn’t get a score as high as you wanted, don’t fret. Many of the qualities needed for a college-level education cannot be tested by the SAT, such as your persistence or creativity.

Final Note

Hopefully, this list provided you with some insight on the reality of the SAT. Perhaps the next time you hear someone spreading misinformation, you can correct them and provide them with the cold, hard facts. Best of luck on your testing endeavors!

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