Top 10 Mistakes SAT® Test-Takers Make

Top 10 Mistakes SAT® Test-Takers Make

Before sitting to take the SAT exam, it is a good idea to review common mistakes other test-takers make. Anticipating potential errors is a great way to avoid them yourself when test day comes around. As you prepare for the SAT exam, consider this page as a resource to keep your test-taking habits in check. To achieve the highest scores possible, consider your susceptibility to these common mistakes, and focus on strategizing to improve your test-taking skills. 

  1. Not Taking Practice Exams

A common mistake that SAT test-takers make is failing to take practice tests before the official SAT exam. Practice exams are a crucial way to spot the questions you need to dedicate more time to during your studies. Some question types, sections, or tests within the exam will require extra time and effort during your test preparation. The best way to maximize your time while studying is by focusing on your weaknesses. Find the areas you can improve the most by taking practice exams. 

Note that practice exams are also a great way to gain confidence in your testing performance. If you want to track your improvements throughout the test preparation process, take multiple practice tests leading up to your official SAT exam. 

Failing to take practice exams can lead to heightened anxiety on test day. Knowing what to expect from the exam layout and your own habits and weaknesses is an important step to reaching your goal score. 

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  1. Not Reading The Instructions And Questions Carefully

Another major mistake that test-takers make is not reading the instructions and questions carefully. In some cases, one word in the question can make a major difference in the correct answer choice. Be sure that you know exactly what the question asks before you begin narrowing down the correct answer. 

Failing to read the question carefully is an easy mistake to make. Look out for words like “most” or “least”. Skipping over keywords in a question can harm your performance. 

Failing to read the instructions carefully can waste your time and harm your score. Remember, the instructions or questions are designed to deliberately test your skills or knowledge. Take your time and focus on understanding exactly what each question is asking of you. 

  1. Skimming Answer Choices

In many cases, there will be an answer choice that is placed to distract you from the correct answer. You may also find two answers that sound like they could work as a correct answer, but only one choice is grammatically correct. Use the process of elimination to narrow down your answer choices and read each answer choice thoroughly to ensure you are not missing any small details. 

  1. Not Practicing Time Management Skills

Be sure that you have the proper experience to understand the questions, skills, test sections, or passages that slow you down. Without practice work, students often walk into the SAT exam with zero skills to keep up with each section’s time restrictions. Running out of time is avoidable, and there are plenty of strategies to try throughout your practice work to ensure you finish in the allotted time. 

You should also note that finishing every question on time is sufficient, but there is always room to improve your time management skills. Finishing each section with time to spare allows test takers to check their work. 

Rushing through the exam is a sure way to make extra mistakes that you would normally avoid. Proper time management is a great way to ensure you have time to check your work, focus on each question, and work without the added stress of finishing on time. 

  1. Wasting Time On Questions You Should Guess On 

Some students waste time on questions that they should guess on. With time restrictions on each section of the exam, you must move on from the questions that waste your time. If you do not know the formula to answer a math question or spend several minutes questioning the punctuation used on a writing question, then you are taking time away from the questions that follow. 

Focus on finishing the questions that you can work through efficiently first. Then, go back to the questions you skipped with any time left over at the end of the given section. There is no penalty for wrong answers, so guessing is a crucial strategy to develop for questions you are not 100 percent sure about. Do not skip questions on the SAT exam. 

  1. Rushing

Rushing through the exam is a common mistake students make throughout the SAT exam. In the Math section, it is crucial to take your time and show your work for each step that leads to your answer choice. 

In the Writing section, it is a good idea to note the grammar rule that brought you to your answer. 

In the Reading section, marking up the booklet and underlining keywords, lines, phrases is a great way to slow down. Any of these steps will make a difference in your understanding of the question. Slowing down minimizes your risk of making easy mistakes.

  1. Not Getting Comfortable With Your Calculator For The Calculator Section Of The Math Exam

Some students wait until the official test day to work with their approved calculator. This is a mistake that wastes time and adds stress to the calculator section of the SAT Math exam. Looking for the correct button to solve an equation is a practice you should begin in your test prep work. Do not wait until the day of the exam to learn how to operate and maximize your calculator usage. Learn how to use your testing tools before the official SAT exam. 

  1. Gain Confidence In The No-Calculator Section

Relying on a calculator in practice work is not a good habit to develop. The Math test is broken into two sections: one that allows approved calculators and one that bans any calculator usage. If you depend on your calculator throughout your test prep, you will find yourself unprepared on test day. Get used to showing your work by hand, checking your work, and walking through the no-calculator section confidently. 

  1. Not Learning Formulas That Need To Be Memorized

The Math exam requires students to memorize formulas to solve questions. There will be a list of formulas that are provided to you as well. As you work through practice exams, note each formula that you use, and pay special attention to the ones you need to memorize before the official exam. To be fully prepared for the SAT Math exam, you need to memorize the proper formulas. 

  1. Ignoring Grammar And Punctuation Rules In The Writing Section

A common mistake in the Writing exam is selecting the answer that sounds best, without considering grammar rules or punctuation rules to make your selection. The Writing section of the exam tests your knowledge of Standard English Conventions, and some questions will require special attention to the context of a word or phrase when making your selection for the correct answer. 

As you prepare for the SAT exam, consider these tips to avoid common test-taking errors. Los Altos college counselors can offer strategies and support to help you reach your scoring goals. We can help you improve your scores, minimize mistakes, and gain confidence for the official exam. You do not need to prepare for the SAT exam on your own!