Ahmad's SAT Journey to 1500!
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
SAT is one of the most important exams for those who plan to attend college, as it makes up a crucial part of your college application. Therefore, some amount of panic and anxiety is inevitable. In the beginning, it is easy to be intimidated by the plethora of books and resources available. I made the mistake of buying a couple of thick books that sat on my desk, haunting me daily as I woke up and went to sleep. Then I joined Tutoria and started to compare content of those books with Sir Talal's manuals, which I found to be more straightforward and concise. With Sir Talal's guidance, I managed to save a lot of time and practiced only the things that actually mattered.
Most of the time, I have seen my peers get demoralized when their scores become static, and, despite their hard work, do not improve. Sir Talal's planned schedule, uploaded on his portal, helps you to tackle one section at a time without getting overwhelmed and provides you with a clear pathway to follow.
I feel that it is imperative to address the question of when to take the SAT. From my experience, the best time for the first attempt is in first year of high school. This allows you to have plenty of time for a retake if you fail to get your desired score. And if you do get the score you were looking for, then you can focus your energy towards college essays or other extracurriculars.
Another general tip I would like to give is to analyze your mistakes. You are not gaining anything by doing loads of practice tests without stopping and watching where you went wrong. Keep a diary with a list of questions that completely deceived you for the Math and Writing section. You will soon begin to understand how the SAT tricks you. Moreover, making a separate table of your test scores for each section is a helpful tool as it allows you to review your progress.
This is, undoubtedly, the hardest section of all. The time given for five passages might seem ridiculous at first, but soon you will get used to it. There are numerous techniques that you can follow here. Sir Talal introduced us to a technique called, ‘Mark-up and summarize’ each paragraph as you read. This makes it easier to comprehend the passage. Some students tend to read questions first before the passage. What I found helpful was to attempt ‘Words in Context' questions first and ‘Main Theme' ones at last as they require a proper understanding of the passage aa a whole. Your job is to find what works best for you.
You will come across four different types of passages: Science, Social Science, Literature and History. Identify your strengths and weaknesses here and my advice would be to attempt the most difficult passage at the very end.
Reading can be a quite boring task for many, including me. This tip may sound dumb but it definitely worked for me: read the passage's title and tell yourself that you are excited to explore this topic, even if you are not. This changes your mindset and attitude towards the passages that, otherwise, may seem tedious and exhausting. I would also suggest to develop a habit of reading novels, magazines or any sort of book you like, for it will not only help you in this exam, but also in the future.
On my first attempt of actual SAT exam, I got 13 wrong answers in this section, which was more than what I got wrong on reading one. But, this time I got only one wrong. The key is to memorize the grammar rules by heart. For practice, even if you complete half of the numerous tests provided by Sir Talal, you will start finding this section a piece of cake.
Strategy that I used was to do each question as I came across it. Although, some may prefer to read a whole paragraph and then do 3-4 questions together. After exhausting all of Sir Talal's material, go to Khan Academy for practice. It is one of the great, free resources available and the best part is that the website identifies your weaknesses for you and then gives you questions accordingly.
Like Writing, this is another section you must be aiming for a perfect score in. Sir Talal's manuals cover all the topics you need to study and his set of ‘Must Do Questions’ proved to be really invaluable. This is not as tough as the reading section and you will most likely be done before time. Use the rest of your time (and I cannot stress this enough) for rechecking. You might be tempted to skim over questions, but try to be as thorough as possible while rechecking. The most effective strategy I came across is the ‘Plug-in method'. You can solve many questions just by plugging in values in place of unknown variables.
This is all I have for you guys here on the SAT Exam. Just be confident in your abilities and go on the test day with your head held high.