Cheat Sheet

SAT For Dummies

From SAT For Dummies, with Online Practice, 9th Edition by Geraldine Woods, Ron Woldoff

Yes, this is a cheat sheet . . . but you wouldn’t even think about cheating when you take the new SAT or any other test. The test-center security is too good, and to be an honest person, you should take an honest SAT. Think of this cheat sheet as a series of tweets giving you the stripped-down essentials of the exam.

What to Look For in the SAT Writing and Language Multiple-Choice Section

Are you worried about the multiple-choice writing and language section on the new SAT? Don’t be! Remember to check for these common issues, which show up frequently on the redesigned SAT. When you read the four passages, pay special attention to these topics:

  • Grammar mistakes, especially subject-verb agreement, verb tense, complete sentences, and pronoun case

  • Punctuation errors (misplaced or missing commas and missing semicolons)

  • Word choice, especially words that don’t fit the context of the sentence

  • Smooth and concise sentences

  • Unity and focus

How to Get Through the Math Section of the SAT

When it comes to the SAT, the challenge isn’t just working the math: It’s also answering all the questions in the time that you’re given! With less than 90 seconds per math question, you had better have these strategies in place to get the questions right and done on time.

  • Look for the underlying trick or pattern based on the logic of the math concept. If you find yourself doing a lot of number crunching, you missed the point of the question.

  • If you’re stuck on a question, circle the question number (in your test booklet, NOT the bubble sheet), take a guess, and come back to it at the end. (The exception being the calculator section’s last question, which is worth 4 points. That question will take more than two minutes.)

  • Trust your ability to work simple math. You don’t need the calculator for everything.

  • Don’t rush. Rushing leads to mistakes in both math and logic (and even calculator number-punching), which produces the wrong answer and may even slow you down as you search for the mistakes. If you know what you’re doing, you can find the right answer quickly, without rushing.

  • Circle and return to the hard questions, so you can get to all the questions you’re able to answer, even if they’re at the end.

What to Remember If You Decide to Write the SAT Essay

The new SAT features an optional essay, which is always the last section of the exam. It adds 50 minutes to your morning, but may enhance your college application. The essay is based on a short nonfiction passage that makes an argument. The prompt is always the same: Explain how the author’s writing choices help convince the reader of the author’s point of view. Keep these ideas in mind when you write the SAT essay:

  • Go beyond the main idea and analyze the supporting points or subtleties of the argument.

  • Check the structure of the passage and analyze the chain of logic.

  • Decide how the author’s choice of words influences the reader’s reactions.

  • Note figurative language (metaphors, similes, and so forth) and show how this technique adds meaning.

  • Discuss appeals to emotion, logic, and authority (if present).

  • Allow time to plan and to revise the essay.

  • Support your analysis with evidence (quotations and specific references to the passage).

  • Don’t give your own opinion of the topic.

Helpful Hints for the Reading Section of the SAT

No matter how fast you read, time is always an issue when you take a standardized test, and the redesigned SAT is no exception. You don’t have to be a speed-reader, but you do have to work efficiently. Here are some tips for gaining the maximum number of points on the Reading section of the new SAT:

  • Skim the introductory material. You may find information that helps you answer the questions.

  • Look at the question stems. Don’t bother reading the answer choices at first. Determine what the question is asking.

  • Put a circle around any evidence question. When you answer the question before, underline the evidence. If you do so, you already have the answer to the evidence question!

  • Check the graphic element, if one is present. Note the title, caption, and any labels.

  • Read the passage, jotting notes in the margin and underlining key points.

  • In a paired-passage set, read one passage and answer the questions. Then hit the second passage. Last, answer the questions that refer to both passages.

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