Tuesday, February 10, 2015

SAT Magic Tricks!

Reading and interpreting an SAT score report isn't as magical or as complicated as it looks.

 Let’s look at the score report itself.

You’ll see that the test was divided into 3 sections: 

  • Critical Reading
  • Writing 
  •  Math

Next to each of the section titles of the test, you’ll see scores ranging between 200 and 800 for each section. You’ll also see an essay score that ranges from 00 to 12. These scores provide you with a general, holistic review of how your student performed on the test compared to her peers.

Who are your student’s peers?
Each year approximately 2 million students sit for the SAT. Each student takes the test an average of two times. Of those students who take the test, the average score for each section is: ·         
Critical Reading: 501      
Writing: 493
Math: 515

The elusive perfect score is rare. A mere 493 students achieved this score in 2013. That’s only 1/3 of 1% of all test-takers!
While the holistic score provides one measure by which your student can improve, it’s the actual breakdown below that’s the key to understanding how your student truly did on the test.

Of the three sections we mentioned above, you’ll also see that each section was divided into sub-sections.

Critical Reading breaks down into sentence completion (C) and reading passages (R).   

Writing breaks down into identifying sentence errors (E), improving sentences (S), and improving paragraphs (P). There’s also an essay component of writing that represents one-third of the writing section.

 Math breaks down into numbers and operations (N); algebra and functions (A); geometry and measurement (G); and data analysis, statistics, and probability (D).
It’s important to identify each of these types of questions because they’ll help you make better sense of the score that your student received in each section. Once you understand exactly where you child did well in the test and where your child did not perform as well, you’ll be able to better target where to improve.

Most students score between a 6 and 10 on the SAT essay. This number is pretty cut and dry; the essay is scored holistically, so it’s impossible to tell why your student achieved the score she did without seeing the essay itself. A writing consultant or SAT writing tutor would be able to quickly analyze a sample of your student’s writing to identify areas of improvement for bumping her score up in that section.

But let’s move down to the types of questions and their difficulty levels. Note how your student did in each particular type of question.

Let’s look, for example, at the Critical Reading section, and within that section we’ll only look at the questions labeled C. Those are the sentence completion questions otherwise known as fill-in-the-blanks. You’ll see that these vary in difficulty from a 1 to a 5. If your student correctly answered most of the 1’s and 2’s, several of the 3s, less of the 4s, and even less of the 5s, that’s a pretty good place to start. This means that your student likely rushed on some of the level 1 and 2 questions; these are easy areas for improvement. The same is likely true of the level 3 questions. The level 4 questions were likely more challenging for your student, and the level 5 questions could probably have been omitted.

Yes, omitted. The SAT is a reasoning test. One measure of a student’s intelligence is the student’s ability to reason and identify if she absolutely does not know the answer to a question. Given how challenging the level 4 and 5 question words are for this section of the SAT, a little practice can help a student easily determine which questions are too challenging to attempt to answer. By choosing to omit, the student does not lose points; if the student does choose to answer, but answers incorrectly, then she loses points. Guessing, unless it’s a truly educated guess by a student with a strong repertoire of test taking strategies to draw from, is not advisable. One too many of such guesses will clearly be reflected by a large smattering of incorrect responses to level 4 and 5 questions. 


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