Thursday, September 28, 2017
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I am a junior planning to take the SAT in January. I have been a straight-A student since first grade. I expect to score well on the test since math and English are my favorite subjects. However, I am getting two different opinions on how much or whether I should study for the test. My guidance counselor says my grades indicate I am a good test taker so I shouldn't need to prepare. My older sister at the University of Chicago tells me I should study hard in preparation for the test. Who is correct?
The average composite score on the SAT for the entering freshmen at Notre Dame last year was 1490/1600 according to PrepScholar.com. The breakdown: Math 750, Reading 37 and Writing 37. Scores for the most elite colleges are even higher. The composite scores for entering freshman at Harvard was 1540. Breakdown: Math 770, Reading 39 and writing 38. While the numerical differences between Notre Dame and Harvard are small, they may well determine your chances of admission.
Do I have your attention? You may well be a good test taker, and studying for the exam will not necessarily guarantee that your score will be higher compared to that of someone who did not study for the test. You have invested 11 years in your education. Are you willing to take that chance? Here is the unvarnished fact — studying for the SAT will get you better scores than you would have gotten without studying. The key to understanding SAT is that it doesn't necessarily test the knowledge that you learned in high school. It's more like an IQ test. It asks theoretical questions not based on prior knowledge. You must glean information from a given set of facts in much the same way as you are required to do on law school examinations. This is called convergent vs. divergent reasoning. It is not how many possible answers can you come up with, but arriving at the single right answer! You are looking through the facts with a microscope, not a telescope. It can be pretty daunting if you have not encountered this kind of reasoning before in a test. It works like this. There is a story. There is a question. There are the five possible answers. Only one answer is correct. The other four answers are not correct. Three of them are fairly easy to spot assuming you have a strong vocabulary.
The problem is that the answer that is almost correct is agonizingly close to being correct. You think it is the right answer but it is not. There is a nuanced piece of information that is easy to miss. You argue with the test and slavishly defend your answer over the right one. You finally figure it out but it is too late. The test is over and you missed the right answer. Not everybody has the ability to score a perfect score but everyone can improve their score through concentrated preparation. The more you prepare the better you will score. My advice is to take a prep class. Study like your future depends upon it. It may very well. A tutor who scored 650 in Reading isn't qualified to help you crack the new 750 barrier. Remember that you are in a race with other thoroughbreds and cannot afford to waste time.
How should you study? Like it's Marine Corps boot camp. No TV, music, munchies. Most students have never studied this hard. It's like going to the gym to lose weight — miss a day and it take two days to make it up.
The SAT is like no test that you have taken before and I tutored it for 15 years. After a lapse of a few years I recently took the test and was shocked that I missed a few questions. It brought back all the memories of everything I hated about the SAT. The subtleties are maddening so beware!
Tags: Colleges and Universities SAT Preparation
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
866-687-8129 (toll free)
+ 219-781-2372 (cell)
Colleges and Universities, College Consulting, International Students
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