When I was in high school, my mom was a firm believer in the SAT as an aptitude test. When the test began, the acronym "SAT" actually stood for "Scholastic Aptitude Test," so she wasn't too far off-base with this belief of hers. Even subsequent names ("Scholastic Assessment Test" and "SAT Reasoning Test") imply that the test is measuring something about the way a person thinks and his inherent intelligence. The word "aptitude" itself refers to innate abilities. Read more about the confusing history of the SAT's name on Wikipedia under the "Name changes" section.
The result of my mom's well-founded belief was that I did not do any test prep. Back in the late 90s/early 00s, I was vaguely aware that SAT prep existed, but I had an idea that it was just the kids with learning issues who took prep classes. Instead of prepping, I just took the SAT five times (six if we all count that one in 7th grade with the TIP program).
And I loved it.
That's right. I loved the SAT. I still remember the joy I had on those few Saturday mornings out there at Butler High School. From the check-in lines, to filling in all those little stinkin' bubbles before even starting the test, to meeting each challenge the test threw at me, I was thrilled. Seriously. I am not joking. Total geek.
So, when I had my first interview with Georgetown Learning Centers (a tutoring and test prep company) as a fourth year UVa student, I gushed over the SAT. The interviewers were a little taken aback. "I don't think I've ever heard anyone use the word 'love' and 'SAT' in the same sentence before," one of them said, shaking her head in wonder. Needless to say, I got the job.
Because I'm my mother's daughter, I was a little skeptical about this whole test prep business, however. I didn't even have a clue what one would do during an SAT prep class. Just sit there and practice? I mean, that's the equivalent of what I did. Thus began my crash course training in the world of SAT prep. And within my first two days on the job, I learned two things that probably would have boosted my SAT Math score back in high school. One of the things was a testing strategy that I'm not going to get into on a blog post. The other thing was a simple math fact that I managed to avoid until I was nearly 23 years old:
One is not prime.
I got straight As in math. I took calculus at college while I was a senior in high school. I was the valedictorian. And yet...
I'm confident I missed a question because I didn't know this key fact. How I managed to avoid this truth is beyond me. At the level of my math score, this knowledge gap probably cost me about 20-30 points on my math score. These little bits of information make a difference in scores, and the strategies you can learn from test prep can help you handle difficult questions. I discovered these facts about five years too late, but it's not too late for you, O current high school student!
So, aside from wanting to share with you the math secret I uncovered (spread the word!), I want to encourage those of you who are skeptical of prep to try it. It works. Unless you're earning perfect scores, there's probably something you can learn from a high quality test prep program that will help boost your score. Find a tutor or teacher who connects with you (I hope it's me!...but, seriously, a good rapport will result in a better experience) and see how much you can improve!