In my last post I encouraged you to have a target score for each of the SAT sections. Once you’ve pinned that down, let’s see how you can use that target score to inform your test-taking strategy.
Your Raw Score
Let’s say that you’ve researched your university, and you’ve decided that a 620 in the Critical Reading is your goal score. In order to get useful information, you will need something called an “SAT Score Conversion Table” (like this one here), so that you can reverse-engineer your data.
At the top of the table are the following column titles: “Raw Score,” “Critical Reading Scaled Score,” “Math Scaled Score,” and “Writing Multiple-Choice Scaled Score.” Find the “Critical Reading Scaled Score” column and slide your finger down until you find your goal score. Then slide your finger to the left to the “Raw Score” column. If you do this for a goal score of 620, you’ll see that the raw score that you need is a 49.
What Does This Mean for Me?
If the Critical Reading test has a total of 67 Critical Reading questions, and you need a score of 49, that means that you can skip up to 18 questions. If you page up and see the “Correct Answers and Difficulty Levels for the Official SAT Practice Test,” 14 of the Critical Reading questions were difficulty levels 4 and 5; 53 were difficulty levels 1, 2, or 3. If you remember that the College Board deducts 1/4 point for every incorrect answer and zero points for skipped answers, it is in your best interest to skip difficult questions.
In other words, in this scenario, you can skip every one of the difficult questions and still do better than your goal score of 620.
But Doesn’t That Put a Lot of Pressure On Me to Get All of Them Correct?
Which scenario would you prefer?
Scenario 1: You open your booklet to Section 3, and you have 25 minutes to answer 24 questions. If you’re a fast-ish reader, it will take you about 4 minutes to read an 800-word long passage. That leaves you with 21 minutes to answer 24 questions. Fifty seconds per question. The pressure is on. Your scalp sweats a little. Your eyes scan quickly, but you’re having to read sentences over again. There. You just finished in time. Crap. You have to start another section now.
Scenario 2: You open your booklet to Section 3, and you have 25 minutes to answer 17 questions. If you’re a fast-ish reader, it will take you about 4 minutes to read an 800-word long passage. That leaves you with 21 minutes to answer 17 questions. Seventy-four seconds per question. You answer the six easy questions within a few minutes, then you take your time on the medium questions, making sure that all your answers are correct. You finish with a few minutes to go, checking everything once more. You are relaxed and ready to take the next section.
So find your target score. Develop a skipping strategy. Reach your goal.