Because the SAT is such a prevalent test, there are a number of misconceptions about the test or testing format. These myths about the SAT can be more than misleading to the test taker - they can negatively impact his score or his chances of college admission. Listed below are the top ten misconceptions about the SAT (not in any order):
1. In general, it's better not to guess on a question
Actually, this is partially true. If you are totally stumped on a question and cannot even eliminate a single answer choice, then yes, you should omit the question. However, if you can eliminate even one choice, it is statistically to your advantage to guess among the four choices on that question. The College Board applies a "guessing penalty" of one-quarter of a question per missed question and does not penalize for omitted questions, so guess accordingly.
2. The length of the essay is irrelevant
Even though the College Board will tell you that the length of an essay is not related to its score, studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between essay length and higher scores. Therefore, it is always better to write an essay that is lengthier and incorporates more details, examples, and experiences. However, you should not fill an essay with "fluff" - such mundane, wasted words only annoy the graders.
3. The best time to take the SAT is on (so-and-so) testing date
We've heard this one time and time again. Many students feel that the curve is easier on the June and September testing dates because more students who performed poorly on the first test are retaking, or because fewer students overall are taking the test. Neither of these claims is necessarily true, and there is virtually no link between difficulty of the curve and testing date. Test after you have studied, and base your decision only on your own abilities.
4. You can guess which section is the "experimental" one
Simply put, there is really no way to determine the "experimental" section. It could be writing, math, or reading. It could feature easier or tougher questions. You should not work "less hard" on a section because you think it is the experimental section
5. A 2100 is much better than a 2090
To admissions counselors, a total score of 2100 is identical to that of a 2090. In fact, most counselors would find a score of 2050 identical to the 2100. First of all, the variance of the "curve" could account for much of the difference between scores. Second, 50 points usually represents a few questions, hardly a "make-or-break" assessment for college admission.
6. Since the Writing section is new, it doesn't matter/It's harder
The Writing section has a lower mean score because it is newer, but most prepared students actually find the Writing section easier than the Reading section. In fact, students who have taken test preparation courses experience the highest score increase in Writing. Along those same lines, even though the section is new, you cannot dismiss it. Colleges may claim not to look at it, but it's right there next to your other two scores on the score report. Don't take your chances - do well!
7. Re-Testing "looks bad"
Total nonsense. Almost all colleges do not consider a student who re-tests any worse than the student who does not, and most students re-test. Why? Re-testing usually marks a very medicore increase in score because the SAT is designed to test intelligence, not knowledge. Students do not typically become "more intelligent" between testing periods. However, some students experience great success after preparing for the exam. In general, if you are not happy with your score, re-testing is a great option.
8. You should use your calculator to solve most math problems
The students who receive 800's on the math section are typically not the ones who are calculator whizzes - they are simply better-prepared for the exam. Using a graphing calculator to solve simple math problems may seem like a great solution to your math issues, but in the end you will only be shorting yourself. Calculators require time and effort and are prone to input errors. While practicing for the math section, do as much as you can without a calculator.
9. The SAT doesn't really matter anyway/doesn't test intelligence
We can debate the merits of the SAT all day, but at the end of the day, it is the standard for college entrance. Just as you should not become infatuated with SAT preparation, you should not blow off the SAT. Your personal opinion is not that of the college you will be applying to.
10. A bad score may be due to a bad day
Unless you were sleep-deprived during a particular day, it is unlikely that re-testing alone will boost your score. Many people attribute low scores to "having a bad day," but research shows that this is generally not the source of the low score. If you get a bad score, take it as such - don't blame your mood or the way you felt - and find out how you can improve.