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Lucas Fink

Why Wrong Answers Are Good for Your SAT Scores

No, of course wrong answers on your SAT aren’t going to get you any points. SAT scorers actually take off a quarter point from your raw score for each incorrect bubble, so be very careful. It may be strange, but that’s how the College Board calculates SAT scores. Falling for a trap or making a dumb mistake doesn’t mean just that you miss out on possible points, but also that your previous correct answers are worth less.

But the title of this post isn’t meant to be a troll. I really mean it; wrong answers are a good thing. Specifically, they’re really, really important when you’re studying.


Challenge yourself during SAT practice

The SAT is not like a school test—almost nobody gets a hundred. Certainly, average SAT scores are well below perfect. It’s hard. So maybe some of the questions are easy, but even if you think most of them are, there will be a few questions in every single section that make 99% of students tilt their heads in confusion.

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If you want to get better at those kinds of questions, you have to try them. Doing difficult practice is the only way to improve.

Think about it like weight training. How do you get stronger? You lift heavy weights. If you just kept doing what you do in a regular day, your muscles would stay the same. It’s no different with your SAT scores. You won’t know just how hard SAT math is if you’ve never even seen the tough questions. If you want to improve, you need to try doing the questions that you’d get wrong on the big Saturday.


Spend time with your wrong answers

When you’re doing practice SAT questions, you’re on the hunt. Specifically, you’re hunting for wrong answers. If you don’t get questions wrong, there’s no point. You don’t grow. So you dig and dig through questions, looking for the ones that cause you trouble. When you find one, celebrate. That wrong answer is ten times as valuable than a right answer.

But you have to make it valuable. Find where you went wrong. If you just have the answer without an explanation (like in the official College Board book), do your best to analyze where you went wrong on your own. If you can’t figure it out, get a second opinion. A friend, a teacher, a parent…whoever is willing to help.

It’s better if you have explanations, though. Unofficial practice—like Magoosh—usually gives them. Spend time really understanding how you should have tackled the problem. Don’t move on again until you’re clear on where you went wrong and how to avoid doing that on your actual SAT. For a more structured plan, check out the 1 month study schedule for SAT.


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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