Response to Horace: if only SAT improvement could ever be proven

February 18, 2007 at 9:31 pm 2 comments

Posted by Aaron & Dee

Horace commented on AdmitSpit’s About page recently.

“My son who is twelve and in the 7th grade would like to attend a Ivy league school. He recently took the SAT and scored 1720, i.e. CR = 660; Math = 540; Writing = 520. Do you have any proven tools to help raise his score to acceptable Ivy league level within the next four years?”

Advice from Aaron, AdmitSpit’s newest contributor!…

First, I am assuming that your son took the SAT for a program such as the Johns Hopkin’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY).  You should know that your son is scoring above the national senior average for the SAT already, and he is only in 7th grade.

I took the SAT to qualify for this program and scored lower than your son, but still high enough to qualify. The best way to raise your son’s SAT scores is to not focus on the SAT until Junior year, but to let him attend Middle School and High School. If your son is scoring this well as a 7th grader, he will dramatically increase his score as he becomes more advanced. Remember that the SAT is geared towards high school juniors and seniors, not 7th graders. Many of the points he lost were most likely due to not knowing the answer yet, or not knowing how to deal with the guessing penalty well. Once he is in his junior year, he should take a practice test or two before the SAT, just to practice the length and type of questions before he takes the actual exam. This is exactly what I did, and my score was around the scores of attending students the Top Tier Schools.

Also know that SAT scores are neither going to have your son be automatically accepted nor rejected from a Top Tier School. I have plenty of friends who scored between 2350 to 2400 and were still rejected from the school they applied early to. The SAT is just one of the many things that schools use to help understand the applicant.

and Dee’s advice…

Honestly, Horace’s comment got me thinking if there has ever been any proven way to increase scores. Proven is a loaded word.

I think really the only proven way to improve scores is to do SAT practice tests, score yourself, look at the answers and, most important of all, understand why your wrong answers were wrong and why theirs they consider right.

The SAT tests familiarity as much as it tests smarts, I think. So the more familiar you are with the layout and expectations of the exam, the more you’ll see your score improved.

I’ve always believed that the math section is the easiest to improve in. The types of questions are always the same, just with different numbers. So if you can quickly identify which type of question you’re doing during the exam, and understand how such a question is solved, you should be gold for that section.

The grammar section is similar.

I think reading comprehension is the most difficult to improve on. I’ve always believed this to be true because I believe that most of their questions and answers in this section are not objective like math or grammar. Here, the tone of the author, the meaning of the passage, etc. are supposed to have one finite answer, when I believe the whole purpose of literature is to be discussed and debated. This is why I’ve always thought quite ironically that the reading comprehension section almost is biased against smart people, who are, I think, more rhetorically capable to argue for more than one answer out of the five given. This is why in this section you need to think basically – don’t overcomplicate. This is where reading the official answers of the SAT guides comes in handy – if you start to understand their logic of choosing certain answers over others it will ultimately help you make the appropriate choices on the exam.

So, I agree with Aaron’s advice that your son needs to practice. The question is when. Aaron says junior year or so, I think maybe earlier, at the start of high school probably, is ideal too. And definitely, as Aaron points out, there’s more to an application than just SAT scores, especially for the Ivies, so make sure your son focuses on that as well.


Entry filed under: Academics, Accepted, AdmitSpit, Application, Center for Talented Youth, Grammar, High school, Ivy league, Johns Hopkins, Junior, Mathematics, Reading comprehension, Rejected, SAT, Writing.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Billie  |  February 19, 2007 at 6:03 am

    Just wondering, how important is the SAT writing section? i know a bunch of colleges say it doesn’t count, but really, there is an obvious difference between a 700+ score and a 600+ score. I scored very well in both reading and math, both in the high 700’s, but i “bombed” the writing section, and got a mid 600’s score. (this was way under my PSAT writing score of 74!). Also, if i were to take the SAT again, and do well in writing, but go down in reading by a lot (like low 700’s, or even upper 600’s, which is likely for me), would they still look at my highest score from the previous test? I know they say they will take the highest score from 3 separate sittings, but seeing a bad score, even accidentally, may influence their decision. Thank you. btw, I’m a junior.

  • 2. Barbara  |  February 21, 2007 at 6:19 am

    Wow. I have basically the exact same scenario as Billie: 780 CR/M, 690 W. Somewhat disheartening since I got a 230 and 240 the last two years I’ve taken the PSAT… But perfection is a rarity! I’m still deciding on whether to retake.


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