Juniors who plan to take the SAT should definitely take advantage of at least one of these opportunities. To help you prepare, The Princeton review will be offering free practice SATs, both in-person and online, throughout the month. Additionally, I’ll be posting proven SAT tips right here on this blog.
Yesterday I posted some great info on how to use the process of elimination to boost your score. Today’s advice—adapted from The Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT, 2011 Edition—is about your rights as an SAT taker. Specifically, your right to write all over your test booklet. You can boost your score if you put that blank space to use.
Always Put Pencil to Paper
At school you probably aren’t allowed to write in your textbooks, unless your school requires you to buy them. You probably even feel a little peculiar about writing in the books you own. Books are supposed to be read, you’ve been told, and you’re not supposed to scrawl all over them.
Because you’ve been told this so many times, you may be reluctant to write in your test booklet when you take the SAT. Your proctor will tell you that you are supposed to write in it—the booklet is the only scratch paper you’ll be allowed to use; it says so right in the instructions from ETS—but you may still feel bad about marking it up.
Don’t Be Ridiculous!
Your test booklet is just going to be thrown away when you’re finished with it. No one is going to read what you wrote in it and decide that you’re stupid because you couldn’t remember what 2 + 2 is without writing it down. Your SAT score won’t be any higher if you don’t make any marks in your booklet. In fact, if you don’t, your score will probably be lower than it should be.
Own Your Test Booklet
You paid for your test booklet; act as though you own it. Scratch work is extremely important on the SAT. Don’t be embarrassed about it. After all, writing in your test booklet will help you keep your mind on what you’re doing.
- When you work on a geometry problem that provides a diagram, don’t hesitate to write all over it. What if there’s no diagram? Draw one yourself—don’t simply try to imagine it. Keep track of your work directly on the diagram to avoid making careless mistakes.
- On sentence completion questions, you will often need to come up with your own word or two to help you answer a question. Write it down! Trying to retain information in your head leads to confusion and errors. Your test booklet is your scratch paper—use it.
- When you use POE to eliminate a wrong answer choice, physically cross off the answer choice in your test booklet. Don’t leave it there to confuse you. You may often need to carefully consider two remaining answer choices. You want to be clear about which answer choices are left in the running.
- Similarly, mark up other answer choices to indicate how you feel about them. Put a check mark next to an answer you like. Put a squiggle next to an answer you kinda like. Put a question mark next to an answer you don’t understand. You can come up with your own system—just be consistent. Marking up choices will prevent you from forgetting your conclusions about the problem, particularly if you leave it and come back to it later.
- When you answer a question but don’t feel entirely certain of your answer, circle the question or put a big question mark in the margin beside it. That way, if you have time later on, you can get back to it without having to search through the entire section.
You probably think of scratch paper as something that is useful only for math questions, but you’ll need scratch paper on the SAT Critical Reading and Writing sections too. The Critical Reading sections of your booklet should be just as marked up as the Math ones.
Transfer Your Answers at the End of Each Group
Scratch work isn’t the only thing you should do in your test booklet—you should also mark your answers there. Mark each one with a big letter in the margin beside it. For every group of sentence completions, transfer your answers to the answer sheet when you come to the end of the group of questions. For all other questions (except grid-ins), transfer your answers one page at a time.
Doing this will save you a great deal of time, because you won’t have to look back and forth between your test booklet and your answer sheet every few seconds. You will also be less likely to make mistakes in marking your answers on the answer sheet. However, be sure to give yourself enough time to transfer your answers. Don’t wait until the last five minutes.
The only exception to this rule is the grid-ins, the ten non–multiple-choice math questions. You will need to grid each answer as you find it.