Improve steadily and perform consistently
Are you on the right track?
I have now discussed two sub-sections of the SAT – Improving Sentence Errors and Improving Sentences. Most students who have never studied any SAT materials will gain a noticeable leap after reading these tips and applying them. Yet, many get stuck after this quick initial improvement. Are you one of the few who can keep improving steadily and performing consistently? This does not count minor or drastic fluctuations from time to time, but considerable improvement and consistent performance from week to week. If your answer is “yes”, you are preparing the test in the right way. Otherwise, try the following strategies.
What sounds right may not be correct
Do not rely on your ears even if your English is close to native level. SAT is taken by all Americans who are applying colleges in the United States and many of them are native English speakers. If the SAT standard had been casual, everyday spoken English, most Americans would have scored high easily in both critical reading and writing sections. SAT requires that all answers follow standard written English, rather than spoken English in daily conversation. Thus, do not simply choose an answer that sounds right. Do analyze the question in terms of standard grammar rules and effective sentence constructions. In particular, pay attention to those commonly tested areas.
Articulate the explanation
Have you noticed that I always provide an explanation for the answer of each example? Being able to pinpoint why a choice is correct as well as why each of the others is incorrect suggests that you confidently know the specific problems of a sentence. You are not picking a choice by wild guess, intuition or how it sounds. You are an educated English language user who has the ability to analyze complicated sentences and improve them. Each of your test results becomes a reliable predictor of your next score. In short, the ability to articulate the explanation is the key to consistent performance.
Analyze and interpret your performance in terms of:
- Again, it is most worthwhile to note if you steadily improve over a period of time and perform consistently. You do not want to see fluctuating rises and falls.
- You can be much more motivated when you have set a target. Based on the SAT raw score conversion tables, calculate at most how many questions you can afford to miss in each section so that you can secure your target score. Below is a link to a set of conversion tables for your reference:
(Note that the essay score is not included. The essay accounts for 30% of the writing score.)
The score report only tells you how well you perform at each sub-section. Merely knowing you have to put extra effort at a certain sub-section is not enough, you need to know exactly which commonly tested areas you always miss. Do you often overlook, say, “illogical comparison”, “incorrect tense”, or “incorrect preposition”?
How do you know which commonly tested areas you always miss? And how do you increase your awareness of all these areas
1) Focus on practicing one sub-section at a time. Follow below steps and do 10 sets of a sub-section intensively over a week or two.
2) Before you attempt each test, remind yourself of the list of common errors you need to look out for. Of course, pay more attention to your weak areas.
3) It is unnecessary to race against time during your initial practice. Take the time to mark beside each choice why it is correct or incorrect. In the later stage, you can do this marking after you have checked your answers.
4) Mark “?” beside those questions that you are unsure of.
5) Check the answers and write down your score. For example, 15/18 (-3). This shows clearly the proportion correct and the number of wrong answers.
6) Go back to study BOTH the incorrect and uncertain answers. Make sure you know which areas you have overlooked and how you can be more careful.
Do not go crazy doing one whole set of SAT after another! This will not help you improve significantly. Be strategic! Pay attention to the areas that you need to improve.
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(Next Tue: Improving Paragraphs)