How to raise your SAT score by 50 points — now

SAT scores matter. SAT tests define you. SAT tests are tedious, they consume huge time and money of schools, parents, and students, and they can destroy a child’s confidence. And every student can improve on his or her SAT test.

So here we go again, the first of the season’s SAT tests is this Saturday, October 11.

What no applause? Reserve that for the stockholders of College Board. But if you’ve spent a million dollars and hours on SAT courses, test-taking strategy lessons, practice books, and the Daily Question from College Board, you can still do better, and it’s a very simple matter of patience and awareness.


If you have the patience to read this entire post, if you can overcome the urge to gloss over the words and skip paragraphs, you are likely to do well on the SAT test. If it’s something you do anyway, you probably don’t need this advice here.

But if you are impatient with instructions, if you hate advice, and if taking the SAT test is tedious and boring (it is!)… you really, really, really need to take a deep breath, go back to the top, and start reading over again. Only with patience and thought this time.

If so, you’ll be ready to really improve your SAT scores by 50 points or more – now!

First, let’s review what’s going on with the SAT test itself.

This is the last year of the “old style” SAT test. Next year College Board will launch a supposedly more intuitive format, with focus on “Real World Contexts,” “Evidence-Based Reading,” and “Math that Matters Most.”  (Here for the College Board rationalization, errh, explanation.)

Here at The A+ Club we’ve already gotten the flyers and offers for “new” study guides and “new” practice tests. It’s tempting to think this is all a just a business plan… I mean, not to go there, or anything.

Whether you like or not the latest “reforms” in education, and it goes beyond Common Core, modern pedagogy de-emphasizes rote learning and memorization. Our students are supposed to THINK not just KNOW.

Translation: kids don’t study enough. So forget about vocabulary and math tables, just give them some toothpicks and glue and see what they come up with.

The College Board gets it, and they’re smart to move with the flow, so I really don’t question this business decision. It’s too bad, though, because the existing test really is okay. We just don’t prepare kids for it correctly.

The new tests next year won’t really change much, because it’s not the content of the questions that really challenges most students, it’s the format of the test itself, multiple choice. Students may be allowed to “think” more in the new test, but they still will undergo the same process of misapplication of information in the test instructions, questions and possible answers that makes these tests so tedious for so many kids who could easily be doing so much better on them.

So here’s how you can improve your SAT score by 50 points – now!

Read the instructions and questions more carefully.

Yes, that’s it. And congratulations, you read to here, which means you are being patient and thoughtful. That’s what it takes!

So here’s what you need to do:

  1. Repeat after me: “The test is not smarter than me”

  2. Next say, “Patience, patience patience!”

Good! Now, here’s what you do w/ the actual test:

  1. Read the Instructions carefully — again.

  2. Read the Question carefully — again.

  3. Identify what information or words in the Instructions and Question matter — and which don’t.

  4. Identify the “throw away” wrong answers.

  5. Thoughtfully apply the other possible answers to the Instructions and the Question.

Instructions and Questions are just information. They don’t know more than you. You may not know the answer immediately, but you’re not expected to. It’s just information — and it’s your job to use it correctly.

Let’s see how it works:

The tricky “throwaways”

Multiple choice tests are designed to trick you into making an easy, thoughtless connection to something irrelevant in the question.

Generally, and in both math and verbal questions, two of the four wrong answers are specifically designed to trick the students WHO DID NOT FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANT WORDS in the instructions or question.

These are the easy throw-away wrong answers. But students who don’t read questions carefully are easily tricked into choosing them. These wrong answers are designed to trick the students or who focused on the wrong words in instructions or the question.

While reading the instructions, the student who selected a throwaway answer either:

  1. glossed over the instructions and question
  2. didn’t fit the possible answers into the instructions or question itself
  3. were tricked because the wrong answers were built on those unimportant words.

Now, that leaves us one or two wrong answers that fit the context of the question, but are still wrong.

The  more reasonable wrong ones

Now that you have identified what words are and are not relevant in the question, you can challenge the remaining possible answers more directly. Your job now is to make a reasonable judgment on the remaining possible answers.

Don’t fit the possible answers to the question. Fit them to the information in the question, and then fit the question to the possible answers.

It’s a little mental trick here: by fitting possible answers into the question, you are making an assumption that the possible answer could be the right one. Don’t trust it! Test it and challenge it, and don’t let it make the assumption for you. Stick to your thoughtful understanding of the instructions and question, and make it earn your judgment.

The thoughtful approach to questions determines what is relevant to the question and what is not, and then uses that information carefully. Look at any given question of the day, such as the Oct 6 SAT Question of the Day (below), and this will make sense.

With all this, you still may not get the question correctly, but I guarantee that you will 1) avoid the tricky throwaway questions; 2)make more informed guesses; and 3) more accurately decide which questions to skip or not.

The Question is not smarter than you!

All the instructions and questions are is information. It’s up to you to extract the important from the useless, and apply it thoughtfully.

It’s just a test. Use it, or else it will use you.

Oh, and congratulations, you’ve read to here! I mean, unless you’ve skipped to here, in which case you took no information from what I’ve written above. Same thing applies on your SAT test: if you aren’t reading it carefully, you’re not actually taking the test, it’s just testing your patience.

– Michael

Here for a random example from today’s SAT Question of the Day (Oct 6)

Part or all of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A.

Archaeological evidence shows that Viking ships were lighter, slimmer, and faster than that in England.

Answer Choices  (A) that in England  (B) they had in England  (C) they had been in England (D) those used by the English  (E) that of the English)

On the practice question, if you click on the “hint” box it explains that the question is comparing Viking with English ships. Look at how much of the question is irrelevant: toss “archeological,” “shows that” “lighter, slimmer and faster” — none help answer the question. And you would know that had you focused on the relevant part of the original instructions about “the underlined material.”

Now you can identify the expectation of the instructions nad questions: a comparison via the key words “Viking… than … English ships.” Now we can test the possible answers, eliminating “that” answers because “ships” is plural, then selecting between the only possible answers, C “they had been” and D “those of” …  Now re-test the remaining questions and see which fits the sentence better.

Hopefully you selected D, and even if it was just a feeling. What got you to the educated guess was to recognize “ships” as plural and eliminate answers with “that.”

The SAT explanation isn’t very helpful, btw:

Choice (D) is correct. It avoids the error of the original by using the demonstrative pronoun “those” to refer appropriately to “ships” so that “Viking ships” are logically compared with “those [ships] used by the English.”

What  you needed to do was to focus on the important information in the instructions and question, and apply that information without getting confused by irrelevant details.

To increase your SAT scores, FOLLOW DIRECTIONS and READ QUESTIONS CAREFULLY. Above all, be patient.