SAT is, of course, a very important test in determining
college admission, but what exactly is it and what does it
measure? In my workshops I tell students that the test
doesnt really measure intelligence or necessarily
predict how successful one will be in college. There
is no test that can do that. On the other hand, the
colleges need some way to select students. So this multiple
choice test was created. Other criteria are definitely
important to colleges, and their importance varies depending
on the school. Included are GPA, extra curricular activities,
essay writing and personal interviews. But the SAT remains
a major factor.
The new SAT, which began with the March 12, 2005 test,
is divided into three parts, math, critical reading and writing.
Each is tested equally with three sections and a total of
800 points possible. The math and critical reading portions
are 70 minutes long while the writing portion is 60 minutes.
That's a total of 3 hours and 20 minutes. There is one
additional section of 25 minutes, which is not graded but
is used for creating future tests.
math portion concentrates
on problem solving skills, otherwise known as the dreaded
word problems. The math goes no higher than algebra
II yet even some students with much higher-level math skills
have difficulty with some of the questions. The problem
solving skills required for much of the test are skills not
emphasized in high schools. They include guessing and
checking, plugging in numbers, logical reasoning and others.
Some questions dont look very much like math questions
but instead are testing reasoning ability. This is in
contrast to the ACT test, which is more geared towards questions
students would see in their high school math classes.
By learning the proper techniques, students can improve significantly
on the math portion of the test.
The critical reading portion includes two types of
questions: sentence completion, and reading comprehension.
There are 48 reading questions and 19 sentence completion.
For the sentence completions, techniques are helpful but vocabulary
is critical. A long-term vocabulary improvement program
is extremely helpful. For the workshop, I offer suggestions
on stretching the vocabulary the student already possesses
and how to make educated guesses when you dont know
the exact meaning of all the words. The reading requires
critical reading skills, being able to interpret meaning from
a passage. The readings are always on a wide variety
of topics. Being able to read quickly with good comprehension
is a challenge for many students. Experimenting with
different techniques can help in these questions also.
In all areas of the test, practice can help a great deal.
The actual tests are published by the College Board in a review
book and offer the best opportunity for practice. I provide
the students with this review book in my classes.
writing section includes 2 sections of grammar and
one essay section. The grammar questions are improving sentences,
identifying sentence errors and improving paragraphs. The
essay section is 25 minutes long and the student is given
a prompt to write about.
So what does the SAT test? - Reasoning ability,
vocabulary, reading comprehension, all done at a high speed.
There are many different types of intelligence and this test
focuses strongly on the left brain.