5 Reasons Smart Students Struggle on the SAT

As college admissions become more competitive each year and the term “safety school” becomes a fading notion for many students, good SAT scores are all the more important in bolstering the strength of college applications. Though even with the increasing importance of good test scores, many smart students fall into common traps that prevent them from doing as well as they can on the college entrance exam.

Here are 5 pitfalls many students fall prey to when it comes to the SAT:

  1. Being overconfident – Many students who do well academically struggle the first time they take the SAT. The SAT rewards students for exercising critical thinking. Overconfident students often do not dedicate enough time to questions and they find themselves tricked by “trap” or “attractor” answer choices.
  2. Arguing with the test – In school, students are often rewarded for the effort or reason they display. An English teacher may not agree with a student’s interpretation of a text, but a sound, analytical argument is often as important as being right or wrong when it comes to the grade. The SAT is not as forgiving. There is one (and only one) correct answer. This is especially important on the critical reading section. When students try to justify incorrect answer choices, they waste valuable time and end up losing points.
  3. Not being an avid reader – Many students do just fine in high school without reading more than the bare minimum to complete their assignments. A lack of time is usually the culprit for this, but students who don’t read regularly outside of their school assignments are at a marked disadvantage on the SAT when compared to students who are avid readers. The SAT requires students to read and process dense information in a short amount of time. While it is unrealistic for all students to be bookworms, students can dedicate a short amount of time each day to reading for pleasure.
  4. Being unprepared – Though test prep has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade, many students still take the SAT “blind.” Yet there are many things students can do to prepare for taking the test such as: preparing examples to use in the SAT essay, learning the fifteen grammar rules that appear in the writing section, memorizing the most common SAT vocabulary words, and learning how to use the multiple choice format to their advantage on the math section.
  5. Not practicing – Skills and knowledge that translate to good grades in high school do not necessarily translate to good SAT scores. As with any sport or skill, improving one’s score and doing well on the SAT take practice. Every student planning to take the SAT should, at a bare minimum, secure a copy of the College Board’s SAT Prep Guide and devote several hours to practicing the questions. The best preparation, however, comes in the form of an expert, one-on-one tutor. A tutor can systematically guide the student through the test’s content and teach the necessary tactics and strategies to score well.

While there is debate over whether SAT scores are truly indicative of a student’s aptitude, it is undeniable that SAT scores play a large part in admissions decisions at colleges nationwide. In fact, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that about 60% of all colleges consider scores from standardized admission test to be of “considerable importance” in the admission decision.

Be sure that your student is aware of these common pitfalls well before he or she takes the SAT. And if you’re considering preparing your student for a spring test date, the time to act is now! Please feel free to contact Educational Connections to speak with one of our Assistant Directors to learn what the best course of action is for preparing your student for the SAT.