Needed Academic fitness for the SAT |

Needed Academic fitness for the SAT

Stephanie Lamboley
Special to the Nevada Appeal

The mail this time of year brings greetings from the College Board to high school juniors – their scores from the PSAT.

For these students, this is the beginning of the college-admissions process. The PSAT that students took in October has real significance for juniors. It has two purposes: to act as a practice test for the SAT, and to identify students with scores high enough to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program.

The PSAT selection index of 205 is the magic number for Nevada students who will be considered as a National Merit semifinalist. Colleges also use the PSAT scores to recruit students and some colleges will use these scores to award merit scholarships. Getting ready for the SAT, now that one has had some experience with standardized testing, requires preparation.

The score from the SAT is the one common denominator that colleges and universities use for acceptance and the awarding of Merit Scholarships. To improve your score from the PSAT, there are two options:for the self-motivated, study guides and the Internet can offer advice and practice tips; and, for many students, there are companies that for a fee will offer a specially designed SAT prep course that provides techniques and hints on how to take the test.

Test techniques can help to relieve the No. 1 problem, test anxiety. Hints will address ways to deconstruct and master difficult problems, how to look for key words that offer clues, and most important, ways to avoid the traps of time. Learning to pace one’s self through the easier parts leaves time for the more difficult questions.

The SAT is not necessarily a test of knowledge; it is how to apply that knowledge by avoiding the clever traps set up by the designers of the test. The test will challenge critical thinking skills. Whatever method one uses to “get fit,” practicing vocabulary, practicing math problems, and taking the sample SAT tests is necessary. Improving performance in anything, whether a sport or a class, takes practice. Remember the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.”

The controversy surrounding the emphasis on the SAT by colleges will continue. However, the SAT score is essential to the admissions decision and may be the primary factor in determining ‘academic fitness’ for their institution. Most juniors will be taking their first SAT in the spring – getting organized and being prepared will be your best offense.

— Stephanie Lamboley is an independent college advisor who lives in Washoe County.