This is bigger than learning the structure of correct answers choices. Bigger than learning how to avoid the test designers’ favorite mistakes. This mistake derails the most carefully laid plans and keeps some of the smartest students from achieving their ultimate goal score:
SAT SCORE ≠ ABILITY ON TEST DAY
SAT SCORE = NUMBER OF QUESTIONS ANSWERED CORRECTLY ON TEST DAY
The difference between these two statements is subtle. Most students (and their parents) expect that the SAT scores earned on any given test day reflect the test-taker’s ability. But the fact is, the SAT exam is deceptive, and it preys on your anxieties. Taking the SAT is a high-stress, high-stakes experience, and it’s not made easier by the fact that the exam is literally designed to trick you. One SAT exam is not an accurate indicator of your ability, education, or intelligence.
The SAT is not a blood lipid test that gives the objective facts about your cholesterol levels. It’s a cross-country meet. A gymnastics tournament. A basketball game, or a wrestling match. Success depends on your preparation, but your preparation isn’t necessarily reflected in every performance.
Just like an athlete does not break his own records at every competition, test takers don’t achieve their best possible performances on every exam. An athlete increases her chances of success through the proper training, in hopes of reaching peak physical and mental condition on game day. But some days athletes exceed even their own expectations, and others not, and it can be hard to explain why. The same is true for the SAT.
On one exam, you may find the passages easier to understand, or the math problems easier to solve. And while there is some truth to the idea that different students respond to different exam content differently, the fact is that your state of mind as you sit down at the testing center is probably a far greater factor than the differences from exam to exam. Are you stressed out about other assignments you have due? Are you under the weather? Did you stay up too late the night before binge-watching your favorite show?
So, how do you avoid the mistake of expecting all your hard work to pay off on test day? Simple: have more than one test day. Give yourself multiple chances to get the scores you want, and bear in mind that a disappointing score doesn’t necessarily reflect how you’ll do on the next try. Knowing this in advance can help you maintain the positive attitude that is so important for success on these exams. Not this exam. These exams.
To learn more about how to map out your test and prep schedules, contact me.