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Ace the SAT Monster


Yes, that’s the dreaded standardized test that most students bomb—even really smart ones. Colleges not only use it for entrance exams but also scholarships—the higher the score, the bigger the scholarship money. It is even looked at more than a student’s GPA since every school has a different standard for calculating grades. For the homeschooler, it demonstrates their academic prowess and validates their transcript since it is often homemade.

Unfortunately, most students approach this test like a normal test they take at home or school. (memorizing information and regurgitating it back out on a test). But the SAT/ACT is a test of logic and critical thinking and the questions are designed to trick the student. Once students learn the hidden recurring patterns that are found on the test, they can learn to find the right answer quickly and not fall for the wrong answer.

Here’s an overview of the test:

Critical Reading


  1. Passage-Based Reading: This section contains three types of passages and three types of questions (Line Citation, Vocabulary Use and Overall Passage). The irony is that this section is not about reading but about knowing where to find the answer to each question type. A student can actually skip 70% of the passage and still get every answer right.
  2. Sentence Completion: This section contains sentences that contain one or two blanks, and the student has to find the perfect word for each blank. Students tend to pick an answer that sounds good but that is usually a wrong answer. Finding correct answers is based on finding the key elements found in the sentence (i.e., Scope Words and Cause and Effect Words).


  1. Multiple Choice: This section contains math problems with five answer choices. The good news is that a student doesn’t have to be a math genius to ace this part. There is no calculus or trigonometry, just basic math such as Algebra, Geometry and arithmetic. It is merely a logic test using math as the medium. They are not testing how smart students are in math but testing their critical thinking skills on a math problem. Every math problem can be solved in 30 seconds or less.
  2. Student Response: This section contains no answers, and often, more than one answer can work. The grid-in box that is used to transfer these answers must be understood. Many students get the answer right but often bubble-in the answers incorrectly.



  1. The Essay: Clearly the most dreaded section of the test (even more than math) because a student must write an essay in 25 minutes, won’t know the topic ahead of time and this section is worth 30% of their writing grade. This puts lots of pressure on the student, but the good news is that it is not hard to write a perfect scoring essay in only 15 minutes—and this will give them 10 minutes to spare. The judges are only looking for a few key ingredients on the paper because they only spend about 30 seconds grading it.
  2. Sentence Error: This section contains a sentence with four underlined parts. If there is a problem with one of those parts, that’s the error. There are only a limited amount of concepts that are used, so when students know what to look for, they can answer these very quickly.
  3. Improving Sentences: This section contains sentences with an underlined part and students have to determine if it is the best restatement for that sentence. There are recurring patterns in this section that occur 50-75% of the time; once students learn this, they can usually eliminate 2-4 wrong answers immediately!
  4. Improving Paragraphs: This section contains a passage with numbered sentences, and students will be asked four question types. Fortunately, this section is simply a combination of two previous sections, so students learn to combine them for the answer.

With college entrance and scholarships all riding on one test, students can become confident test-takers when it comes to the SAT/ACT. Preparation and knowledge of the test are the keys to lessening test anxiety and scoring high.

Acing the SAT/ACT is not hard or scary—you just have to know how to do it.

Jean Burk is a homeschooling mother and author of College Prep Genius: The No Brainer Way to Test Success! She has been the featured SAT expert for FOX, CBS, NBC, and The Homeschool Channel. Both her children received full-ride scholarship offers because of their SAT and PSAT scores. Her revolutionary program is taught in schools and homeschool co-ops across the country and helps thousands of students raise their SAT/ACT scores as much as 600 points.

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