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Oregon Family Magazine

Conquering the SAT

04/13/2015 20:23 ● By Sandy Kauten
The SAT monster is poised to attack!  With three sections of sharp teeth, your only defense is a number two pencil, and that might not seem like enough.  The commonly-used Standardized Aptitude Test definitely looks daunting.  And with thousands in scholarship money and even college admission on the line, that number two pencil starts to look like less and less of a useful weapon.

But here’s the deal.

Believe it or not, anybody can ace the SAT with the right amount of preparation resulting in full tuition scholarships and entrance to your dream schools.

The questions aren’t trying to trick you.  Each section has its own patterns and rules and clues, and this blog post will teach you the SAT tips and tricks for how to start looking for them.

Ready? Grab your pencil.

Let’s Take This SAT Monster Apart

So things aren’t ever as scary once you know what to expect. (Think: job interviews, first dates, jellyfish.)  And the SAT isn’t any different.  It has three parts:

Each section is worth 800 points.  That might seem like a lot—but you’ll soon discover that it’s more than possible to gather enough points to achieve your goal score.

Again, the patterns and the language used on the test might seem mysterious, but it’s really not; it’s actually set up to help you. 


Ah, math.  Everybody loves to complain about math. (But not to the SAT’s face, for fear they’ll get bitten.) Now before your pencil starts shaking, remember that the SAT isn’t asking you to invent a new form of calculus or derive an equation for a plane engine. Nobody’s life is on the line. It’s just trying to test your knowledge of high-school math.

And there absolutely are strategies to help make it even easier.

You don't even have to finish this portion of the test!

Hang on.  Rewind.  What was that?

Yep.  You read it correctly.  Unless you’re looking to get a 700 or above on the math section, you can leave part of it unfinished. (Note: A score of 700 is incredibly high, and unnecessary unless you're applying to the super-elite schools.)

In fact, you might not want to finish the math section, because for every question you guess wrong, you lose a quarter of a point.

Hmm.  Sounds intriguing.  But how do you choose which part to leave unfinished?  Well, how about…the difficult part?

The SAT math section is actually organized neatly into three parts, and the problems gracefully transition from an easy beginning to a medium middle to a decidedly difficult end.

So if you can ace the easy and medium sections, you don’t have to worry about finishing the hard part, and you can still walk away with a score you can frame on your wall and brag about to your neighbors.

And acing the easy and medium sections should be no problem, because there are strategies to make any problem a piece of cake. Take this one, for example…

By using what we call the “Estimation Strategy” when you see a diagram, you can tell the shaded region is about ⅔ of the circle! Find the area of the whole circle and multiple that by ⅔… voila! You get C. And you are correct!


If you’ve never liked reading, you might look at this test section and think you’d be better off smashing your thumb with a hammer or calling your grandmother who really loves to talk about her fish’s daily adventures.

But no.  Put down the phone.  Really.  (Really.)

This section can also be handily defeated with proper preparation and knowledge of strategies.

First of all, the Critical Reading section just wants to test your ability to a) read (which you seem to be doing an A+ job with, so far) and b) understand what you’re reading.

Quick raise of hands—do you know that this is a blog post about mastering the SAT? Yes? Fantastic start.  Now imagine ratcheting it up a notch (just a notch).

Selective Attention

Just like you skim through your Facebook news feed to see if there’s anything interesting, skim through the passage you’re reading.  Let your eyes glaze over it.  Take in its essence.

Then read the questions (carefully).

For many questions, you'll be asked about specific lines in the passage, and it will tell you exactly which lines they’re asking about.  Go back and just read those lines (plus 5 above and 5 below for important context clues) in order to answer the question.  This saves time and energy, it’s more effective than reading the entire passage intently before getting to the questions, and it’ll save you from pulling your hair out halfway through the passage.


Okay, okay. So the math and critical reading sections are mainly multiple choice, and there are obviously strategies with multiple-choice questions.

“But,” I hear you asking, your pencil all a-tremble again, “how am I supposed to write an essay if it’s not my strong suit?”

With practice.  And strategy.

Sounding repetitive? That’s because it is.

When you’re writing an essay for the SAT, give yourself a break—don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Just follow this tried-and-true formula:

Congratulations! You now have your very own essay.

Outline one practice question. Then another. Then another. Practice until you can create an outline in five minutes or less  because that’ll give you more time to write, and the more time you have for that, the better.

In fact, you might even be disappointed at how easy it becomes.

The SAT Has Definitely Been Conquered Before

And not just by brainiacs who were raised in a library.  By people who have studied the strategies.

1) Shaan Patel

Take Shaan Patel, for instance. He grew up in Las Vegas, attended urban public schools, and scored a 1790 on the SATs the first time (just under 600 per section)—but by studying strategy, he raised that to a perfect 2400.

This opened HUGE doors; doors worth $230,000 in scholarships, actually. Inspired, he created his own SAT prep system to help others and has been reaping the benefits ever since.

2) Debbie Stier

And then there’s the Perfect Score Project—a blog started by Debbie Stier. She’s a 48-year-old mom with two teenage kids, and figured she might get her son interested in the SAT if she tried her hand at it.

So she dove in, studied strategy, started a blog, and wrote a book about the year-long journey, called “The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT.” Check it out on Amazon for a fun read!

In the book, she gives SAT tips alongside the story of how she grew as a mother and actually succeeded in uncovering the hardworking and driven parts of her son.  This son, by the way, got into his first choice school and was overheard telling a pretty girl that the SAT was “fun.” (Witchery!)

3) There are even stories like this at our very own Student-Tutor!  

Here is a note we received from a student who enrolled in our SAT Prep online tutoring program. 

Tyler ended up getting a full tuition scholarship to University of Alabama with a 3.5 GPA. That’s $99,864 over four years in scholarships! All because Tyler knew the SAT could be mastered, sought out help, and did it! 

Tuck these stories away in your memory banks.  Know that it can be done.  Know that the pencil is enough—if you know how to wield it.

Basically, Just Remember

You’ve already learned all the material that you need to know. That’s what sitting through high school has done for you.

Now it’s just about mastering strategy, which is what SAT classes are really all about. And if you can learn to answer these questions, you’ll have an incredible SAT score, and a much better shot at the college of your choice—and even some scholarship money.

Keep holding onto that pencil.  You’ll do great!

Are you on the right academic path?  Start early to maximize scholarships and open up your college options. Call today to speak with an academic advisor.  541-414-6647

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