Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cracking The SAT: More Like Cracking Open Your Head

SAT is a nightmare. And that is an understatement. But wait, there’s a technical error in the opening sentence. SAT isn’t a nightmare, preparing for it is one. The kind where you run in circles with a four-armed Cyclops after you. The Cyclops is named SAT and the four arms are math, grammar, essay and critical reading.

A 700-page book, a DVD and online resources seem to be the only weapons in my arsenal against the mighty beast. I hesitate. Maybe I’m not ready for this, I have still got a whole year before applying for college. But then I wont have another summer with so much time at hand to master the skills needed to take the test. So I take a deep breath and plunge headfirst into a whirlpool of explanations and drills.

As I get started, it’s actually a lot of fun. The math, the only subject I detest, is surprisingly easy, requiring only basic concepts that one usually studies in eighth or ninth grade. I breeze through the arithmetic, algebra and geometry without encountering a single speed breaker. The best part about SAT math section is that a majority of the questions are multiple-choice questions. Then what’s the problem, you may ask. The problem lies in the fact that even though the answer to the question is right there on your question booklet, all the options seem equally attractive. That is where the test designers set the traps, for every right answer you gain a point but for every wrong one you lose one-fourth of a point. Daunting, eh?

It is challenging but there are ways to grab this bull by the horns and steer it your way.
And having the right resources and a lot of practice helps make it easier. But math isn’t the only thing you need to know to take SAT and gain admission in a good college. Your language skills have to be all buffed and polished too. You might write like Faulkner and Tennyson but still struggle with SAT. All you need to ace the test are a few basic concepts and some techniques to tackle the questions.

And then comes the essay. A two-page essay in just 25 minutes, and the examiners expect it to be well written, well structured and organized. That is just too much to ask. But the examiners aren’t the ones who need to go to college, you are. So you have to play by their rules. It’s tough but the guidelines are easy to understand and once you get the hang of it you will produce exactly the kind of essays the examiners want.

This is what I learned about the SAT when I first went through my guidebook and I’ve been stuck ever since. So all those of you who are about to or are planning to deal with this Cyclops better get your pencils and calculators ready, for its going to be a long and grueling battle.

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