Break These 5 Rules To Improve Your SAT Scores

Improve Your SAT Scores Right Now

Students taking test
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Attention, rule-breakers. Did you take SAT and are not impressed by your SAT scores? If you still have time to retake, then you still have time to improve your SAT scores. It involves a bit of rule-breaking, but it's possible to get those SAT scores back into the impressive range.

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Read The Directions

Break The Rule: Don't Read The Directions

You've been reading the directions your whole life. Cut it out, already! On the SAT, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to read those little boxes prior to testing that tell you where to put your oval and how to answer. YES, you need to know what the instructions are telling you. That's why we make SAT prep books. You can memorize those bad boys before you get to the testing center, especially the directions for the Math Grid-Ins. Those suckers are complicated.

If you try to read every stinking set of directions, you'll miss out on 25 minutes of testing time, and obviously, if you're retaking the test because you didn't like your score, you'll need those minutes back. The directions in test prep books from reputable sources are identical to the directions on the test. Learning them prior to the test can help you save precious time on test day. 

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Answer Every Question

Break The Rule: Don't Answer Every Question

Unlike most of the tests you've taken in your life, you actually lose more points by answering a question incorrectly on the SAT than you would if you just skipped the question altogether. The kid that snoozes through half of the test and fails to answer seventeen questions will get a better score than the kid who guesses on seventeen questions and gets them wrong.

Here's the math:

  • You get zero points deducted from your score by leaving an answer choice blank.
  • You get ¼ point deducted from your score by answering incorrectly.

So, if you and a friend miss the same four questions (you left them blank and your friend answered incorrectly), your score will stay the same and your friend's score will go down a point. Before you blindly guess on a question, use a process of elimination, and get rid of at least two obviously incorrect answer choices. If you can't do that, then leave it blank. 

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Go In Order

Break The Rule: Don't Go In Order

You have no obligation to the SAT test to go in order; in fact, it probably cost you some points the first time you took it. Why? You don't get any more points for answering a difficult question correctly than you do for answering an easy question correctly. Bummer, I know.

Here's what you do. Grab an SAT prep book. Go through the whole thing, section by section, and figure out which types of questions are easiest for you. For example, for most people, the Writing questions that are easiest are the identification of sentence errors, but they can appear anywhere in the Writing sections of the SAT. So, it'll earn you more points to bypass improving sentences and paragraphs questions and get easier questions correct right off the bat. Go in the order of difficulty, not in the order that's presented to you. If you had to leave a number of questions at the end of each section blank, it's probably because you were wasting time on the tough questions when you should've been answering the easies.

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Write a Five-Paragraph Essay

Break The Rule: Don't Write a Five-Paragraph Essay

Any fifth grader can write a basic five-paragraph essay. Cutting your essay down from five paragraphs to four can actually improve your SAT score. 

Since each body paragraph covers a new topic in a standard five-paragraph essay, you have to come up with support for each one of those topics. With only 25 minutes to write, your support for those three topics will be cursory and shallow at best. It's better to cut one of those body paragraphs and spend more time developing your ideas, creating better support, and diving deeper into the material of just two paragraphs. Your essay will be more thought-provoking, and your score will be higher. 

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Use Your Own Brain

Break The Rule: Don't Use Just Your Own Brain

Two heads are better than one. There's a reason that's a popular idiom! It's true! If your buddy has taken the SAT and now realizes that he should've prepared more for the Critical Reading sections because they're difficult to understand in a timed setting, then steal his idea and practice CR a ton before you test. If your sister has an awesome SAT tutor, call and schedule a session. If your mom is a whiz at math, have her show you how to work out those two practice problems that are making you crazy. You lost points the first time around using just your own brain; get them back using someone else's.

Some people would call using other people's ideas for studying lazy; I call it industrious. No idea is unique. Capitalize on what's already been done and get a better SAT score next time.

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "Break These 5 Rules To Improve Your SAT Scores." ThoughtCo, Feb. 15, 2017, Roell, Kelly. (2017, February 15). Break These 5 Rules To Improve Your SAT Scores. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "Break These 5 Rules To Improve Your SAT Scores." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2018).