Learn From Your Mistakes on the SAT

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This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Jake Davidson at Veritas Prep.

When preparing for the SAT, one of the best things you can do is get questions wrong. As strange as that may sound, the process of incorrectly answering questions and then reviewing them is instrumental in helping students reach their target scores. I’m not saying it is a good idea to purposely pick wrong answers. What is important is to embrace the idea of getting wrong answers.

Don’t get stressed out if you don’t answer every question correctly on practice tests and preparation sections. That’s what practice tests are for: to practice. Getting questions wrong helps identify your weaknesses so you can strengthen them prior to the test. When studying, it’s a lot better to incorrectly answer a difficult question than to blindly guess and get lucky with the right answer. The reason behind this is that during review, you might skip over that difficult question if you assume you know it cold. On the other hand, if you got it wrong, you will pay extra special attention to both the problem and the concepts tested. This will allow you to master this particular area of struggle and be ready come test time.

Practice tests are for working on your weaknesses. As in sports, when athletes use practice to get ready for the game, you are using preparation time to get ready for the test. Here are two tips that will help you make the most of your wrong answers and ensure you won’t repeat them on the test.

Identify the concept being tested. Pattern recognition is huge on the SAT. While you most likely won’t see the question you got wrong on the SAT, there is a high probability that the same type of question will be asked. Whether it is testing you on your knowledge of subject-verb agreement, the area of circles, or the tone of the author, it is important to understand the concept behind the question. Knowing the answer to a specific circle question won’t help you in the long run. What will help you is understanding the steps to solve any type of problem that tests you on the arc or area of a circle.

Devote time to studying the concept. Just identifying the concept is not enough. It is essential to dedicate the requisite time to ensure that you will get all future problems that test you on this concept correct. There are two ways to do this.

Use your test prep booklet to find similar problems that cover the concept. Also spend time reviewing the instructional material that covers the specific concept. Sometimes seeing material a second time helps the brain process information better. Take notes on the concept and continue to do problems and review the material until you feel you have a firm grasp.

After this, go back and look at all your old tests. There will be a multitude of problems that are very similar to the one you got wrong. Identify all of them, even if you got them right earlier. Work on solving them again. This time, don’t just solve them. Also write out what you are doing each step of the way.

For example if it is a problem relating to circles and arcs, do the following. When you find the radius, write that the first step was to find the radius. Then, after finding the area, write the same. If you used an angle to calculate the area of one segment, write that as well.

Understanding how you solve problems is an invaluable part of excelling on the SAT. You want these problems to become second nature, and the best way to do that is through practice. If you tackle the problems you got wrong using these two tools, they won’t be an issue when the real test rolls around.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free SAT resources, including free SAT video lessons.

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