Today, we’re hearing about Jen’s experience with the SAT. She has some great tips on studying (and on life as well!). Thanks, Jen! 🙂
About me: Hello! My name is Giang but everyone calls me Jen. I’m an exchange student from Vietnam and now living with my host family in McCordsville, Indiana. This cultural exchange program has encouraged me to come back to the United States in order to study Hospitality management. I will probably apply to Indiana University or Purdue University with acceptance of financial aid or a high scholarship. Of course, the SAT is one of the main factors to help me achieve this goal. Outside of school, studying, college, and a billion serious things in the “adult world”, I have tons of interesting hobbies. I love trying new things, outdoor activities, traveling, drawing (emphatically), playing piano and guitar. Helping people is a source of my happiness and spending time with my families (now I have 2) can’t be replaced by anything.
How did the SAT become my biggest enemy?: I can hardly hate anything in my life (I think my life is awesome!) until the SAT became the biggest challenge for me on the path to college. Seriously, I even cried before sleeping because my SAT score on the practice test was terrible. So the first challenge I had to overcome was my abhorrence for the SAT. The second one is probably the Critical Reading section (I mean…WHO DOESN’T struggle with this?). Before I came to the United States, I rarely read books in English. I would blame myself for being lazy. The challenge is I can’t comprehend what I just read or understand why the author mentions this or that, blah…blah… Sometimes the context or topic is not familiar to me so I had to reread it over and over again and still barely grasp the meaning of the passages.
How did the SAT become my teacher?: Each difficulty is an opportunity and I find it completely right in this situation. The SAT really requires persistence and a lot of determination if you want a high score. Critical Reading taught me to read actively. I would never force myself to pay attention to the detail and understand the reading if this section in the test had not challenged me. I understand that when I get into college, reading is an extremely important skill. This is a great opportunity for me to practice and improve my comprehension. Math taught me to use strategies to win because this section is sometimes very tricky. It’s a lesson of life. Writing trained me to focus on necessary parts – parts that give me points. As long as I understand what the graders need, I will write the right sentence that they look for. Also, I really like to write and express myself so learning new words helps me use a variety of vocabulary and sound smart. I can see the improvement in my writing over time. Oh, I forgot to mention that I really like the SAT essay questions (although the essay section intimidates me most). They are always important lessons or controversial problems in our society – worthy of thinking about.
How did I become a good student of the SAT?: I forced myself to stay positive and FOCUS (one of my biggest problems). Before the first time I took the SAT, I had several things to work on. First, I printed a pile of SAT new words which at the time I knew NONE of them. I set a goal of 20 new words a day, no delay. Because of my forgetful brain, I can’t memorize formulaic and boring things. I came up with interesting stories or related concepts to help me memorize new words. For example, “callow” makes me think of “low” so it means immature, inexperience, LOW. Another way that has helped me a lot is to learn prefixes, suffixes and the roots of words or ETYMOLOGY. Believe me, these are incredibly useful. Traditionally, students make flashcards or things like that but these ways make me die in boredom. SO, be CREATIVE with everything you do. With math, I studied formulas and did a lot of practice exercises. Except those who are math geniuses – they just do it. I can’t. The only thing that helped me is to believe working hard will pay off. The writing section is even really like math, even the essay. I recommend the book “How to ace the SAT essay even when you hate to write”. I raised 3 points in my SAT essay. Of course, I had to write almost 20 essays to practice, not only reading the book would give me such an improvement. (Duh!) As soon as you get familiar with the format of the test, types of questions, formulas, the length and time of the test, you will feel comfortable with it.
Okay. Just giving advice may not be persuasive enough. This is what I got on my first test: 1490. It couldn’t be worse. I’m not embarrassed to share this with you because it’s not about the score. It’s about how I overcame myself and made improvement. The second time I got 1720. It’s not high but not bad. I raised 230 points in almost 2 months. I practiced with the Magoosh one-month study guide and it was incredibly helpful. I was persistently doing the practice questions every single day and keeping track of my improvement data. I’m telling you: it was difficult but I did it. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Magoosh supporters are the most enthusiastic and conscientious people. However, remember to check carefully before asking. That way you will be able to kind of self-criticize a little bit.
Thank you for reading this super-long post. I hope students who have just started studying for the SAT test will not freak out and those who are trying to achieve a 2000 on SAT like me will get what they want eventually 🙂 WE CAN ALL DO IT.
Feeling inspired? Check out Magoosh SAT and find the prep plan that’ll help you become a better SAT student!