SAT Prep Facts & Myths

The most effective and easiest way to achieve your peak SAT, PSAT and ACT scores is to understand and avoid the myths and use the SAT facts to your advantage.

Things to Know Before Beginning SAT Prep

Optimal SAT Prep, brought to you by Tripathi Learning and Enrichment Center, has been helping students raise their SAT scores since 1993. The vast majority of our thousands of students have raised their SAT scores significantly. We focus on developing your mathematical problem solving, critical reading, grammar, and essay writing skills. We don't teach you how to guess. We help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and patiently help you improve your knowledge and confidence. With our training and diligence, your SAT scores and self-confidence will increase.

What You Must Know About the SAT Before Signing Up for a Prep Course

The SAT is a college entrance exam designed by College Board. Originally, "SAT" was an acronym for Scholastic Aptitude Test designed to predict a student's success in college.  Several years ago, the College Board decided to rename the test and simply call it the SAT without any mention of the word aptitude. For decades the College Board, in its reports or through its spokespersons, has directly or indirectly suggested or implied that the SAT measures intrinsic ability of a student's knowledge and problem solving skills. College Board further claims that there exists a true score for each person at any given time, and this score cannot be significantly changed beyond say 30 or 50 points per subject, i.e., math, reading and writing.

We believe that anyone who is willing to study and acquire the relevant skills can significantly improve his or her SAT scores.

Ten Myths About the SAT Prep and SAT Scores

1. Myth: The obvious answer is obviously wrong.

I have heard this from hundreds of my students, many of whom took other prep courses before coming to me. For a student with superior understanding of the subject matter, the "obvious" answer is, in fact, often correct. Students with a weaker grasp of the material are more prone to selecting an "obvious," but incorrect answer choice.

2. Myth: Students with high GPAs have higher SAT scores.

Not necessarily true. In fact I see 15-20 students every year with GPAs of 3.7 to 4.3 with SAT scores only in 500-600 per section or below (out of 1600).

3. Myth: The knowledge (and habits including poor problem solving and analytical skills) acquired over several years of schooling can be changed quickly with tricks and tips.

No. Poor knowledge, problem problem solving habits and vocabulary can't improve magically. To see how you can systematically improve these skills and raise your SAT scores, please visit Optimal SAT Prep.

4. Myth: Improving fundamental knowledge is so difficult that the quickest way -- and for many the only way -- to improve the SAT scores is to eliminate wrong answers and to guess the correct one.

If you know enough to realize that an answer choice is incorrect, than gaining enough knowledge to determine the correct answer is not too much of a stretch.

5. Myth: Many students should not even attempt difficult math questions on the SAT.

Any student who has taken Algebra II can learn (or relearn) the material necessary to ace math sections on the SAT.  Several of my students have gone from 250-300 to over 550, 600, or even higher in math.

6. Myth: The New SAT is more difficult that the one replaced a few years ago.

My first encounter with the SAT was n October 1986 when I helped my twelve year old daughter grasp some of the math concepts. A few months later by achieving a top score on January 1987 SAT she became one of the two Grand Prize winner on Duke TIP. Since that time, the SAT math and English have become progressively easier.

7. Myth: Test prep courses are ineffective in raising SAT Scores (see "SAT Coaching Found to Boost Scores -- Barely" in The Wall Street Journal) 

Whether or not a test prep program helps you depends on three things: 1) How effective a course is in helping you learn the material and improve your problem solving skills in relation to what you already know. 2) How diligent you are in studying the material so that what you learn becomes fully integrated into your problem solving approach. 3) How effective you are in retaining what you learn (this is why you must practice and review).

8. Myth: You can increase your SAT score without any review or independent practice.

Developing the thinking skills needed for success is a process that requires diligence and repetition.

9. Myth: The only reason to retake the SAT is to correct your mistakes in bubbling answers and your pacing errors.

This is what College Board has often recommended on the back of the SAT score report!

However, if you are not happy with your score and you are willing to work hard to build your problem solving skills, than retaking the test is worthwhile.

10. Myth: If you retake the SAT, your scores won't go up by more than 20-50 points in each area.

The College Board or its representatives have stated this in past years, as in this report. The College Board believes that near the end of his or her high school years, each student has a "true score." Moreover, the College Board believes that this true score cannot be dramatically changed. Based on my over two decades of experience, I have seen hundreds of times that dramatic improvements are possible with diligence and proper guidance.

Ten Facts About How to Raise SAT Scores

1. Fact: Most students who are willing to make adequate effort can increase their scores significantly. Each year, I have students who increase their scores by 200 to 400 points over 3-4 months.

One of my first students, D.W., went from 420 to 1060 (out of 1600) and received more than 6 NCAA scholarship offers for basketball.

2. Fact: If you improve your problem solving knowledge, skills, and speed, than your scores will increase in all areas of the SAT.

Our strategy is to identify and bridge gaps in your knowledge base and motivate you to practice what you learn so you can confidently apply newly acquired skills in an actual test setting. We demonstrate specific methods which enable you to handle problems you could not solve before. Our techniques also help you improve your problem solving speed which in turn enables you to complete each section of the test within specified time.

3. Fact: A high GPA does not ensure high SAT scores. Unfortunately, even students at top high schools do not always develop strong problem solving skills.

In each of the past ten years, I have seen a couple of dozen students who received A’s in Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, or Calculus but cannot confidently solve SAT-level problems such as the following:

If you go from City A to City B at 60 km/h and return from City B to City A at 90 km/h, what is your average speed for the entire trip?

If you start painting a wall with P gallons of paint and finish after Q gallons of paint are used up, what percentage of the paint is left over?

If Q is 5% of C then tQ is what percent of tC?

4. Fact: A low GPA does not mean that you re stuck with a low SAT scores.

Fortunately, this is especially true for many diligent students who are willing to learn good problem solving skills, improve execution speed, and improve critical reasoning skills, grammar rules and vocabulary. Each year over the past 20+ years, I have had 7th and 8th grade students scoring 700 to 800 on the SAT math section as well as 650 to 750 or higher in English.

Almost all high school students who are willing to learn and to practice diligently can raise their SAT scores to 600-650 in each section of the SAT, regardless of their GPA. The fact is that many high school students spend far more time on sports and other extracurricular activities than on improving their math problem solving or critical reading skills. If a small fraction of that time is diverted to academics or test prep, substantial improvements are possible for the vast majority of students.

5. Fact: The SAT is an easy test, and the current SAT has become much easier in terms of problem solving but become more tedious in terms of wordiness even for the math section.

This statement is counter-intuitive, but it is true. The statement can be best illustrated by simple math questions which are rated as "difficult" by The College Board but are in fact easy to learn for most students who are willing to learn efficient problem solving techniques and are willing to carefully read the word problems.

Consider one type of world problem that many high school students and The College Board would consider to be "difficult":

If 9 pencils cost W cents, how many pencils can you buy for $P?

Each year, I typically have five to ten 5th and 6th grade students who can correctly solve this problem by setting up a proportion and converting all values from dollars to cents.

Armed with the above facts and myths about the SAT, you can find out how Optimal SAT Prep can raise your scores.

6. Fact: The current version of SAT has become an easier test, since the penalty for wrong answers has been eliminated.

Unfortunately, removal of penalty for wrong answers encourages many students to guess willy nilly.

7. Fact: A greater fraction of questions on math section of the SAT are straight forward similar to those in an Algebra II course. In fact some of the SAT math questions are the same as those on current SAT Subject test (Level I and II).

8. Fact: The current version of SAT has a small number of tedious looking (but in fact easy) word problems some which require reading interpreting a graph or two or deciphering and plugging values in equations.

These problems make the perceived difficulty of SAT high, especially for students with poorly developed word problem skills. Such problems are the main reason, main reason many students fail to score above 650.

9. Fact: The current version of SAT includes a few question on data analysis and statistics. Many students find these difficult due to inadequate training.

Our middle and top tier sixth - eighth graders can solve such questions with ease before doing any actual prep for SAT.

10. Fact: The grading curve for the SAT has been reshaped , potentially, to keep SAT relevant, and to maintain its perceived difficulty.

As an example, in mid to late ninety’s, a student could skip a math question or get one wrong and still score 800. That is far more rare, if not impossible, now. However, especially since the 2016 version was introduced, it has became relatively easier for students with weakly developed problem solving and word problem skills to score 600 or higher