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How to Improve Your SAT Score

I want to talk about how to improve your SAT score.

I've said it countless times: improving your score is simple.

Of course, simple doesn't mean easy. Improvement takes hard work and dedication. The first and most important step is understanding what the SAT actually measures. To my surprise, almost no SAT-prep company substantively explains the "essence" of the SAT. Here it is:

The SAT measures skill in objective reading-and-writing and mathematics.

The key words here are objective and skill. If you read the College Board’s description of the SAT, you’ll notice how much they emphasize the word “skill.” This deliberate if subtle word choice underscores the SAT’s practicable nature. If the test measured innate qualities like intelligence and talent, there would be little point in prepping for and retaking the exam. Instead, the College Board has gone out of its way to emphasize how much the exam—the Redesigned SAT in particular—can be practiced for.

But is the SAT really a test of foundational skills rather than inborn verbal and quantitative ability?

In my experience, yes. Anecdotally, I have seen no correlation between intelligence (or, for that matter, GPA) and SAT score. Being smart helps. Getting good grades is generally a reliable indicator of a (relatively) high score. But they are by no means the be-all, end-all.

But what about the word “objective”? This is of special significance on the verbal sections of the exam. Reading is inherently subjective. When the SAT asks: “What is the primary purpose Gatsby demands Daisy denounce her love for Tom?” there are many answers. Unlike a comparatively basic math question, if you asked a room full of educated people this, you’d receive ten different answers. But just because the question is subjective, doesn’t mean our problem-solving process has to be. Many students struggle precisely because they are asked subjective questions but expected to think objectively about them. Understanding how this works is the key to improvement.

And there you have it. To improve on the SAT, you need only:

(1) understand that the exam measures skills which can be mastered, and (2) negotiate the fine line between a subjective question and an objective problem-solving process.

Of course, there's still a lot of practice and learning involved. But so long as you focus your efforts around points 1 and 2, your score will go up.

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