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Cheat Sheet

SAT For Dummies

From SAT For Dummies, 8th Edition by Geraldine Woods [with Peter Bonfanti, Kristin Josephson]

Although this is a Cheat Sheet, don’t even think about cheating on the SAT. The following articles help prepare you for the SAT exam, so absorb the information that’s in them— but don’t print it out and take it with you on exam day. Prepare for the SAT by brushing up on math, critical reading, essay writing, and grammar. In addition, you should familiarize yourself with the testing procedure so you’re as comfortable and ready on the day of the test as you can be.

What to Bring to the SAT

Knowing what to bring with you to the SAT is an important part of succeeding on test day. The morning of the SAT can be hectic, so make sure you set out the following items the night before you take the exam:

  • Admission ticket

  • Calculator

  • High-protein snack (nuts, trail mix, cheese, or a protein bar, for example)

  • Photo ID (school ID or driver’s license, for example)

  • Several sharpened No. 2 pencils

  • A watch

  • Your mind, focused and prepared

General Tips for Succeeding on the SAT

Don’t let stress diminish your success with the SAT. Prepare for exam day by knowing what to expect on the SAT and by following a few simple tips to help you relax, concentrate, and succeed:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before the test, and eat a well-balanced, high-protein meal before you head to the test site.

  • To keep your nerves in check, don’t discuss the test with friends or other test takers before the test or during breaks.

  • Guess only when you can eliminate two out of the five choices.

  • Never skip a grid-in question because you don’t lose any points for guessing wrong.

  • Concentrate on the easy questions (often, but not always, the first questions in a section) if time is an issue; then move on to the harder questions if you have time.

Math Facts to Know for the SAT

Every SAT Math section includes a box of useful geometry formulas and rules — but to succeed on the SAT, you can’t rely only on that given information. You need to be familiar with numbers, operations, algebra, geometry, functions, and probability. Here are just a few of the important math-related facts you need to know:

  • Some phrases — less than, fewer than, shorter than, subtracted from — reverse the order of subtraction (for example, four less than x is x – 4).

  • In a triangle, the largest angle is opposite the largest side, and the smallest angle is opposite the smallest side.

  • The sum of two sides of any triangle must be larger than the length of the third side.

  • In a circle, inscribed angles are half as large as their arcs.

  • A tangent line and a radius always form a right angle.

  • To solve a linear equation, isolate the variable on one side of the equal sign.

  • A base to the zero power equals one (100 = 1, for example).

  • Anything quadratic on the SAT can usually be factored.

Writing an Essay that Scores High on the SAT

The SAT has only one essay question. With preparation, you can do well on the SAT essay portion even if essay-writing isn’t your forté. You have only 25 minutes to write a well-organized, convincing argument that addresses the given prompt. As you write your SAT essay, keep in mind the following tips for success:

  • Always answer the question the SAT makers are asking in the prompt.

  • Take a recognizable stand — for, against, or some of both — in your introductory paragraph; don’t circle around the issue at hand.

  • Jot down ideas and organize your thoughts before you start writing on the answer sheet.

  • Write with a No. 2 pencil.

  • Make sure your handwriting is readable.

SAT Success: Tips for the Multiple-Choice Writing Section

To do well on the SAT Multiple-Choice Writing section, you should be familiar with the main rules of grammar. As you read each SAT multiple-choice question, look for errors in the following grammatical areas:

  • Verbs: Check that the tense (past, present, and future, for example) and number (singular or plural) of the verbs fit in the sentence.

  • Pronouns: Check that the number (singular or plural) and case (subject, object, or possessive) fit the sentence and that each pronoun clearly refers to an identifiable noun or pronoun in the sentence.

  • Word choice: Look for words that are often confused to make sure they’re used correctly (affect and effect, for example).

  • Complete sentences: Check to see whether two complete sentences are improperly joined together (with no conjunction or semicolon) or whether a so-called sentence is really just a fragment.

  • Parallel structure: Be sure all the elements in the sentence that are doing the same job have the same grammatical identities.

  • Concise expression: Steer clear of unnecessary words.

  • Descriptions: Check the location and clarity of all adjectives, adverbs, and descriptive phrases (ideally, they’re near the words they describe).

Scoring High on the SAT Critical Reading Sections

Maximize your SAT Critical Reading score with these tips. The SAT Critical Reading sections consist of two types of questions: sentence completion and reading comprehension. The sentence-completion questions ask you to choose the right vocabulary words to fill in the blanks in the given sentences. Here are a few tips to help you succeed on these test questions:

  • Insert your own word into the sentence and then check the choices for a word that matches yours in meaning.

  • Apply real-world knowledge to grasp the intended meaning of the sentence and missing word or words.

  • Look for clue words that change the sentence’s meaning from positive to negative (however, therefore, but, and so forth), and then look for the corresponding word from the choices.

For the reading comprehension questions, you have to read one or two passages and then answer questions about them. To do well on this part of the SAT Critical Reading section, follow these techniques:

  • Don’t skip the introduction to the passage because it often provides valuable information, such as the author and historical context of the passage.

  • Glance at the questions before you hit the passage so you know what to focus on as you read the passage.

  • Read the whole passage! (Skipping paragraphs here and there will make answering the questions harder later.)

  • As you read, underline key points or jot down notes in the margins so you can find what you’re looking for quickly when answering the questions.

  • Never skip a vocabulary-in-context question; the answer you seek is often right there in the passage.

  • When you get to main-idea questions (those asking about a good title for the passage as a whole, for example), remember that their answers must cover everything in the passage without being too broad or vague.

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