What Is The SAT And Who Uses The Results?

          The SAT is a standardized test taken by millions of HS Juniors and Seniors across the country, as part of the admission process at most US Universities.  The SAT is recommended by HS Counselors to be taken in the spring of the student’s Junior year and again in the fall of Senior year.  Many “eager-beaver” students, who want to be accepted into one of the  UCs, Ivy League Colleges and many other highly sought-after Universities, start preparing for the SAT or ACT in their Freshman or Sophomore year of HS!!

          Some students in Southern California only take the SAT once, usually in October of their Senior year and with little preparation (their SAT scores suffer as a result!)  Some students and even more parents are unaware of the importance of “good” to “very good” SAT or ACT scores in the college admissions process, especially in the most sought-after Universities.  

There are several reasons for this:

1.      Many high school students, who have an excellent GPA (4.0 or above) think they will easily “ace the SAT or ACT. But, “...The SAT frustrates so many test-takers because it asks about very basic things in very strange (but repetitive) ways.  The simple reason many students struggle with the test is because they’re looking at it in completely the wrong way. That is why there are so many students who do so well in advanced classes in high school; but have a relatively hard time with the SAT.  The SAT tests simple stuff in a strange way.  It basically requires a totally different skill-set from high school or college.”Mike Barrett, author of The SAT Prep Black Book

2.      Most parents are unfamiliar with the SAT and the important role a “good” to “very good” SAT score plays in the college admission process.  Even if they are aware of the importance, they sometimes have a difficult time finding good SAT Prep help at a reasonable price.  Many companies charge the proverbial “arm-and-a-leg” for their services!

3.      Many high school students and their parents are so fanatically obsessed about sports, that seriously preparing for college acceptance to their desired University takes a back seat – a serious back seat.  Unfortunately, very few high schools in Southern California discourage this practice!  In fact, some coaches will not allow their students to take SAT or ACT prep classes during the week!  This situation caused a “light-bulb” to go on at Be SAT Wise!!   We developed our Weekend Boot camps in order to offer SAT and ACT prep classes for those students.

It is at these SAT and ACT prep Weekend Boot camps that we really put the Mike Barrett, (author of-The SAT and ACT Prep Black Book) method into practice.  Upon arrival on Saturday morning, the students take a full length College Board Mock Practice Test.  When returning from lunch, the students receive the test results.  As part of the afternoon’s 4 HR session, usually the English section, the teacher helps the students “tear apart” the mock practice test, similar to what a football or basketball coach would do, to both help the students see their careless errors or easy mistakes made on the test and to help them better understand the SAT.

     On Sunday morning (for 4 HRS) the Math Teacher helps the students “tear apart” the Math section of that same test, to again help the students avoid making careless errors and to better understand the test.

     On Sunday afternoon, the students take another College Board Mock Practice Test and hopefully they will now be able to “tear apart” that test on their own!  (The results of the 2nd Mock Practice test are mailed to the students on the following Tuesday or Wednesday.)

Who Administers the SAT?

The SAT is administered by a company called “The College Board”.  Google: The College Board and click on their website to become familiar with it.  The SAT is administered several times a year, from early October to early in June.   Students Register with ‘The College Board’ to take the SAT – not with their HS or any SAT Prep company. There is a fee for taking the test, but it can be waived for low income students.  Inquire at your HS administrative office about this.

How Important Are Good to Very Good SAT Scores in the University Admissions Process?

“The SAT has undergone several revisions to make it more relevant and useful; but, through all of these revisions, one thing has not changed. The SAT is and will continue to be an important part of the college application process.  While there are a lot of factors that admissions officers look at in an application, the bottom line is that“...your SAT score can make the difference between acceptance to and rejection from a college.”Up Your SAT Score,  Mandell et al 2016-2017 ed.

Admissions officers consider many factors: 

·       HS grades and courses

·       Work experience

·       Extracurricular activities

·       Application essay

·       Leadership qualities

·       The admissions interview (Ivy Leagues)

·       Disadvantaged/under-represented background

·       Athletic prowess

·       Legacy

“Many other things have an impact on whether or not you acquire your intended goal.  Although these other factors are important, your SAT score may be the most crucial. While the other factors on your application are subjective.  Your SAT score is a big, fat, hairy ‘objective’ number.  Even an admissions officer, who claims that the SAT score is not particularly important, is going to be subconsciously influenced by this number.  It categorizes your application in the admissions officer’s mind as smart enough or not smart enough. It has an impact on the way an admissions officer interprets virtually everything else on your application.”Up Your SAT Score,  Mandell et al 2016-2017 ed.


            The SAT score is the one real “objective” on a student’s college admissions application.  The ACT score is equally the same.  You can see then how both excellent SAT or ACT scores can have an enormous positive impact on Student College Acceptance.

          “SAT Scores can make or break a College Application” – US News and World Report

How is the “New 2016” SAT scored?

            The maximum score is 1600.  “Old SAT” was 2400.

The Critical Reading and Writing sections are combined for a maximum score of 800.  The two math sections (one with a calculator and one without) are combined for a maximum score of 800.  Both scores are combined for a final score of 400 (lowest) to a final score of 1600 (maximum).

The 50 minute Essay (which is now optional) is scored separate from the rest of the test.  It is scored in the following three areas:

A.    Reading    

B.    Analysis

C.    Writing

Each of these areas receives a score from a low of 2 to a high of 8.

What Areas will the SAT Test?

“The SAT is and always has been a reasoning test.  This means that the College Board is looking to test your ability to puzzle through, reason with, and analyze a problem. They are not testing your knowledge of facts.  The big change in 2016 is that the SAT is redefining what they mean by reasoning.”- Up Your SAT Score,  Mandell et al 2016-2017 ed.

There are 5 areas in which the SAT tests:

  1. Critical Reading (English) 52 questions in 65 minutes
  2. Writing and Language – 44 questions in 35 minutes
  3. Math without a calculator – 20 questions in 25 minutes
  4. Math with a calculator – 38 questions in 55 minutes

E.     Essay (which is now optional) – 50 minutes

Strategies to help you score well on the SAT?

1.    If you make an answer change, be sure to erase well.

2.    Do not make any marks on the answer sheet – other than the bubbled in answers.

3.    Bubble in answer completely.  A blunt #2 pencil is better for this than a sharply pointed pencil. Bring several pencils and an eraser to the test.

4.    Read the test questions carefully and pay attention to details.

“At every turn the SAT is obsessed with details in a way that HS and college courses are not.  Doing extremely well on the SAT isn’t just a question of having proper strategies.  It’s also a question of being almost fanatically obsessed about the tiniest details.” 

“This strong orientation to detail is exactly the opposite of what most teachers in most high schools reward in their classes.  Generally speaking, teachers are more interested in things like participation, an ability to defend your position and willingness to think of the big picture, especially in humanities classes.  On the SAT, those things rarely come in handy.  What matters on the SAT is your ability to execute relatively simple strategies over and over again on a variety of questions without missing small details that would normally go overlooked in a classroom situation.  For this reason, the attitude that most test-takers have towards so-called ‘careless errors’, which is – they don’t matter as long as you basically understand what the question was about. This is very destructive and needs to be corrected.  On the SAT, ‘careless-errors’ must be taken very seriously.” -  Mike Barrett, author of The Sat Prep Black Book

5.    Only use College Board Mock Practice Tests.

“I want to impress something upon you that is extremely important.  It is absolutely critical that you practice with real SAT questions written by the actual College Board itself – only the real questions by the actual College Board are guaranteed to behave like the questions you’ll see on test day.  Questions written by other companies (Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barron’s or anyone else) are simply not guaranteed to behave like the real thing.  For our purposes then, fake SAT questions written by any company except the College Board are garbage.  They are useless.  If you want to learn how to beat the SAT, you have to work with real SAT questions. I really can’t stress this enough.” -  Mike Barrett, author of The SAT Prep Black Book  

 In our Be SAT Wise 3 and 4 week SAT prep classes and also in our SAT prep Weekend Boot Camps, we only use College Board Mock Practice exams.  There are 4 mock practice exams in the new 2016 Official SAT Study Guide ­- by The College Board.

6.    Reviewing College Board Mock Practice Tests

          “I really want to emphasize that if you don’t make a serious analysis of your practice work after you finish it, then you’re really wasting the time you spend practicing. I also wouldn’t recommend that you do practice tests on sections without doing a full post-mortem on them, in which you go through all the questions, try to understand why the College Board wrote each question the way it did, what you could have done to answer the question correctly as quickly and directly as possible, and what lessons you can learn from that question that might be applicable to future questions.  This post-mortem step is absolutely critical if you want to make a serious improvement on the SAT, but it’s something that most students completely ignore, or do only halfway.” Mike Barrett, author of The SAT Prep Black Book

At our SAT Prep Weekend Boot camps,  we definitely apply this Mike Barrett College Board Mock Practice test method.  The students take a College Board Mock Practice test on Saturday morning (about 4 Hrs - including the essay). After returning from lunch (about 45 minutes) they are handed back the graded test!!

          The teacher, as part of his/ her SAT instruction, reviews the questions on the Mock Test.  Needless to say, the students are much more engaged and focused than they would otherwise be.  It’s difficult to concentrate on instruction alone for 4 HRS in the afternoon!  Usually, we review the English (Writing and Critical Reading) portion of the test on Saturday afternoon and the Math portion on Sunday morning for 4 HRS.  On Sunday afternoon, the students take another College Board Mock Practice Exam with the results mailed to them a few days later.  Of course our teachers encourage the students to do a serious “post-mortem” or analysis of this 2nd mock test on their own. As you can see, our SAT Prep classes Weekend Boot camps are indeed that – real Boot camps!

7.   Precise Reading is very important on the SAT

“Verify that you haven’t misread the answer key – I can’t tell how many times a student has reported struggling with a question for a  long time, only to realize that he had misread the answer key.” -  Mike Barrett, author of The SAT Prep Black Book

8.   Time management and Poor Test Taking

          Many students are poor time managers on the SAT.  Some students also claim that they are poor test takers.  By far, the best method to improve on the SAT in both of these areas is to take several time tested College Board Mock Practice Exams.

     In our SAT Prep Weekend Book camps, we offer 2 Mock Practice Exams, one at the beginning, on Saturday morning and one at the end, on Sunday afternoon.  Besides the fact that the SAT and ACT are very challenging, they are also long. (4 hrs.  for the SAT Mock Test)  Trying to keep one’s concentration high for this length of time is difficult for most students.  With several Mock Practice tests “under their belt” before the actual SAT is enormously beneficial.  There is certainly no need for parents to “lecture” their child about getting plenty of sleep the night before the actual test! 

     “Many students, who are unfamiliar with a SAT, answer the questions in a section in order.  “This is a huge mistake, since some questions will be easier than others and since every question counts for the same number of raw points as any other in that section”Mike Barrett, author of The SAT Prep Black Book

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