As a general rule, home educated students far exceed their peers in academic preparation for college. Physics, Calculus, Literature – advanced courses often come early and with more intensity. Unfortunately, excellence in education is not the deciding factor for most college applications. It’s the SAT. Many home educators view this test as a necessary evil, one that must be suffered at the end of high school. This can be a big mistake! A test this important must be treated with respect. Putting off SAT considerations until the junior or senior year could lead to disaster. The testing style and format can feel foreign to many students, and waiting until the last minute can lead to uncharacteristic low scores.
The SAT is a critical thinking exam – not an IQ test. It is not a fact-based, content-intensive exam that requires students to regurgitate what they learned in school. When students attempt to tackle it like a normal test, they often fail. It must be approached with a logical foundation. Even the most excellent students can bomb it without the proper preparation! Test-makers design these tests to trick the untrained eye. Thus, learning to see the logic behind the questions is the key to success.
The SAT is almost four hours long without breaks and covers three main subject areas: Critical Reading, Math and Writing. Students can ace the test by learning the hidden recurring patterns found the on SAT. The questions are purposely misleading and the wrong answers look very appealing. In a nutshell, the three sections can be dissected this way:
The Critical Reading section is ironically not about reading but rather about knowing where to find the answer to each of the three question types. There are three types of passages and three types of questions: Line Citation, Vocabulary Use and Overall Passage. Once a student identifies the type of question, he or she will know where the answer can be located by the clues given in the question. Students can actually skip 70% of the passage and still get every answer right.
The Math section contains just basic math such as Algebra, Geometry and arithmetic. There is no calculus or trigonometry or college math. Fortunately, a student does not have to be a math whiz to score well. The questions are merely reasoning problems that use math as the medium. Long calculations and using the calculator can be eliminated once a student realizes that there is short way to work each problem and that every math problem can be solved in 30 seconds or less.
The Writing section offers one of the test’s biggest challenges: the essay. A student must write an essay (worth 30% of their writing grade) in 25 minutes, not knowing the topic ahead of time. The good news is that judges grade to a formula. The judges spend about 30 seconds grading each essay, so they look for a few key ingredients. Once students know the formula, they can write a perfect scoring essay with plenty of time to spare.
By making learning how to take the SAT a priority early, homeschool students can avoid the pitfalls of waiting until the last minute. Highly educated students will have an SAT score to reflect their dedication and abilities in the classroom. An excellent SAT score should be the mark of distinction on a polished high school resume, not a back-burner problem that is avoided.