Teaching the SATs

Daniela’s heading into her junior year next year, and that means it’s time for another of my kids to take the SATs. I didn’t do too much prep work with Tomas, but I want to do what I can to help Daniela. Test taking is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved, and it was something I was pretty good at, back in the day. Of course, it’s been almost 30 years since I last took the SAT, so I wasn’t too sure if I had a good enough idea of where it is today for me to be able to adequately help Daniela.

Luckily, there are practice tests you can take online. My plan was to just have her take some of those and then go over the answers she got wrong after the fact. Yesterday, I took some time to figure out how to take the tests (you install the actual program that’s used to administer the tests). Once that was done, I saw it only took 2.5 hours to take the SATs . . .

So I went ahead and took one.

I really just wanted to blow through it as fast as I could so that I had knowledge of how it works. I didn’t need to do well, I just needed to be able to teach Daniela. So I didn’t check any of my answers, and I went at a fast clip. My big takeaways? Reading and Writing have some very densely written writing selections to analyze that I needed to reread a few times to really get a handle on what they were saying. The Math section had only a few questions where I was totally at sea. (I can’t remember what SIN and COSIN and all that stuff do for the life of me, so that was one question I knew I wasn’t going to get, as it wasn’t even multiple choice.)

However, I also learned you can see how many questions you have left to go on the bottom of the screen, you can mark questions you’re not sure of, to come back to later, the test has a built-in calculator, and I was reminded again that it goes out of its way at times to try to trick you. You have to pay close attention to what it’s actually asking you to answer. There were a couple of math questions that I got wrong simply because I wasn’t paying attention.

Once I was done, it gave me the results. On Reading and Writing, I got a perfect 800. No questions wrong. That was kind of a relief, as you’d figure with how much I use language every day in my job and my writing, that I’d be pretty good at it compared to a high school level. For Math, I got a 640. 13 questions out of 44. If I slowed down and actually boned up on a couple of the different techniques, I’m sure that would be higher. Still, a 1440 isn’t too off from what I had in high school when I’d just learned all the stuff, so I was pretty happy with that score.

The good news is that I feel like I really can help Daniela be as prepared as possible now. Taking it myself reminded me of a whole slew of things, and it was also reassuring that you don’t really need to know that much outside knowledge to be able to succeed. No fancy formulas or equations, for the most part. Just solid, normal math. We’ll get to work on creating a practice regimen this evening. (I’m sure Daniela is thrilled . . . )

My other main takeaway is that I still enjoy taking tests. Yes, I’m strange. I get it. But it really feels like a series of puzzles to me, where I get graded by how well I do at the end of it all. For some reason, that’s something that really appeals to me. (Will I take the test again, to see if I can get that math score up? I’m not saying I will . . . but I’m not saying I won’t, either.)

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