In late March, high school students across the country rejoiced when the College Board released the first in-depth details of its 2016 revised SAT. Media sources reported on its elimination of the required Writing section, its return to a 1600-point scale, and its promise to test content that students already know and must master to succeed in college.
Unfortunately, if you are a high school sophomore, junior, and senior, this revision has little or no practical relevance to your college application. Sophomores, for instance, will be in their second semester of senior year in the spring of 2016. If you think you may apply Early Action or Early Decision, you may already have an acceptance in hand when the revised SAT is first offered. In short, there is no way around it — the majority of current high school students should still focus on preparing for the “old” SAT.
You may rightfully question the importance of this version of the SAT. Even David Coleman, the president of the College Board, has admitted that the SAT could better reflect how and what students learn in their classrooms. But the current exam does assess critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, and colleges and universities highly value these traits. More importantly, the SAT is an extremely common and reliable measure that schools across the nation rely upon to compare applicants.
This system will not radically change. And while certain colleges and universities do not require test scores, it is still in your best interest to take advantage of every opportunity to dominate the SAT-including admitting to yourself that there is just no way to avoid studying. Here are three pieces of advice that are less painful than you may imagine, as well as excellent ways to begin:
1. Include SAT vocabulary in your day-to-day life
SAT vocabulary is dry. The average high school student simply does not use terms like “adulation” and “ephemeral,” which can make the Critical Reading section of the test difficult to conquer. You may gravitate toward relying on flashcards and lists-or, in a word, memorization-to study, but you are as liable to lose interest and motivation with this technique as you are to increase your vocabulary. One of the best methods to earn extra points in Critical Reading is to interact with these words in their “natural habitat.” Visit Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day webpage, and then correctly incorporate each day’s term into your speaking and writing. Actively utilizing vocabulary allows your brain to form associations and connections to the words. You are more likely to accurately remember their meanings and employ them correctly.
2. Complete your review without a calculator
We as a society are deeply dependent on our calculators. While they are helpful for certain tasks, the SAT relies on your obsession with your calculator to steal precious points from you. On the SAT, seemingly complex calculations are frequently simpler than they first appear. Take 4,068 divided by 13, for example. You can reach for your calculator, or you can ask yourself these questions: “Is it possible to estimate or round? Can I substitute smaller numbers?” The answer is yes. 4,068 is a multiple of 12, which is likely close enough to 13 to eliminate all but one answer choice. Using a calculator can actually sometimes slow your progress through the Math section. To maximize your likelihood of scoring well, avoid using a calculator on all but the most difficult questions during your prep.
3. Invite your competitive side to join you
Appropriately preparing for the SAT admittedly has its challenges. It can be frustrating, lonely, and time-consuming. But humans are competitive and social by their very natures, so why not involve both personality traits in your review? If your friends are also studying for the SAT, create a game that awards points for correct answers on practice problems (or completed review sessions) and rank your respective performances. Decide on an ultimate prize for participants who finish with a certain number of points. You may find it easier to push through the most difficult stages of your prep with a tangible goal to strive toward and a support system (your friends) in place. And doing so increases your chances of earning the best possible prize-a competitive SAT score.