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Focus on Weak Areas and Check Your Timing to improve SAT score - Lisa Jain, the Representative of the College Board in India

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a globally recognized college admission test administered by The College Board. Taking the SAT is the first step in finding the right college for you. interacted with Lisa Jain, the Representative of The College Board in India to explore the functions of The College Board, and educate the students interested in taking the SAT. She works extensively with schools across India to help with the implementation of College Board programs. She also interacts directly with students and parents, educating them about how College Board’s programs and resources (such as SAT, AP, PSAT or Big Future) help in the college application and admission process.

What is the mission and vision of College Board?
The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.

Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education.

Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT and the Advanced Placement Program. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools.

Headquartered in New York, USA, the College Board’s programs and resources are used by schools, universities, students, and educators in more than 175 countries.

What are the key qualities in student, that the SAT intends to assess?
The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test, administered by the College Board, that lets high school students show colleges what they know and how well they can apply that knowledge.The SAT tests skills taught in high school classrooms in three areas: critical reading, writing and math. A student’s knowledge and skills in these subjects are important for success in college and beyond.

What is the eligibility for SAT?
Most students take the SAT in Grade 11 or the early half of 12, some even earlier, in Grade 10.
Students in India are currently not permitted to take the tests without a valid passport. Before registering, students should ensure that they will have a valid passport on the day of testing. Expired passports, or letters from the Passport Office stating the Passport is in process of being issued are not acceptable. Only those students carrying a valid passport to the test center will be allowed to take the test.

What are the major subjects covered in the exam?
The SAT tests student skills in three areas – critical reading, writing, and math.
  • The critical reading section includes reading passages and sentence completions.
  • The writing section includes a short essay and multiple-choice questions on identifying errors and improving grammar and usage.
  • The mathematics section includes topics like arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability.
Students can also choose to take SAT Subject Tests, which are hour-long, content-based tests that allow students to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where they excel. Using SAT Subject Tests, students can differentiate themselves in the college admission process or send a strong message regarding their readiness to study specific majors or programs in college.

Some colleges specify the SAT Subject Tests that they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take. Some colleges might not require students to take Subject Tests at all, or might state them as optional. Students should undergo research to determine whether the colleges they are applying to require Subject Tests as part of the application.

Scored out of a total of 800, Subject Tests are available in a variety of subjects across English, World Languages, Math, History and Science (Physics, Chemistry, and Biology).

How is the SAT structured?
The SAT is a fairly long exam – 3 hours and 45 minutes in duration, and made up of 10 sections:
  • One 25-minute essay
  • Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
  • Two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
  • One 10-minute multiple-choice writing section
Each section of the SAT (critical reading, mathematics and writing) is scored on a 200-800 point scale, for a possible maximum total of 2400. Students also get two ‘subscores’ on the writing section: a multiple-choice score from 20 to 80, and an essay score from 2 to 12.

What are the key points students have to keep in mind to score the best in the exam?
SAT is a critical component of the university admission process in the U.S. and many other countries. In order to do well, there is no alternative to practicing a lot. Students should focus their attention on each section of the test, and each different topic area being tested, with the intent to master each of them. They can find several resources for practice on

How can students improve their scores?
If you have taken the SAT, but aren’t happy with the score and feel you can do better, you need to work towards improving their score.

Focus on Weak Areas - When you analyze scores from a practice test or the real test, pay attention to the types of questions that gave you trouble and then focus on those areas as you prepare. If you continue focusing on areas where you’re already doing well, it won’t necessarily help you improve your score. You can usually find advice and access to tools that help you determine your weakness areas on the test maker’s website.

Check Your Timing – It isn’t enough to practice different types of questions on a test. You should replicate the real-day testing environment at home, and attempt to practice the entire test at once, instead of in parts. Admission tests are strictly timed, and their timing is different from regular high school or college-level tests. If you have finished early and got easy questions wrong, slow down and read questions more thoroughly.

Be Calm Before Test Day – It’s common to get nervous the night before the exam. You should remember that you need to be relaxed and in a good frame of mind to ace the test. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the test. Remember to carry your Admission Ticket, ID, stationery and calculator (if needed). Most standardized tests are long, and have adequate breaks between sections. Carry a healthy snack to eat between sections to stay focused during the entire duration of the test.

Is there any restriction on number of attempts?
No, there isn’t. At least half of all students take the SAT twice, and most students do see an improvement in their scores the second time they take the test. Universities do not consider this to be a negative sign. However, students should be discouraged from taking the test too many times, unless there is reason to believe that their scores can improve dramatically, on their third or fourth attempt. Research does not indicate that SAT scores continue improving with multiple attempts. Instead, I recommend that students focus their time on other important aspects of the college application, and on their academic performance at school.

What are your suggestions for preparing for the SAT?
Apart from the various practice tools listed above, taking the PSAT/NSMQT® is an excellent way to prepare for the SAT early. The PSAT, or Preliminary SAT is a comprehensive, standardized assessment administered at schools in October that helps prepare students for the SAT. Students can take the PSAT in Grades 9, 10 and 11. Research indicates that students who take PSAT score up to 189 points higher on the SAT. The PSAT Score Report provides a detailed skill breakdown and performance review, helping students identify their strength/weakness areas so that they can adopt smarter strategies while preparing for SAT. The PSAT is less than ¼ the price of SAT, so it’s very cost effective. Moreover, with the PSAT, students also get free access to My College QuickStart, a free online college planning tool that allows students to create a customized SAT Study Plan. Students should check if their school administers PSAT, or register for it at a USIEF center ( ).

What is un-scored section? And what is it aimed to asses in student?
In every SAT exam, there is one section that doesn’t count towards the student’s final score. While taking the test, students do not know which of the sections in their test will be the unscored section. This section is put into the test, to check the usability of the questions in future SAT forms. Complicated statistical analysis is conducted on each question in the unscored section, to ensure that it is not biased towards any particular set of people (for e.g. boys vs. girls). Only once it’s certain that each question is fair to anyone taking the test, does a question from such unscored sections, make it to a real test in the future.

Test form reuse is a standard and well-known practice in the education assessment community, as well as within the testing industry. This has always been true and is not specific to the SAT. The creation and analysis of test questions that are fair and relevant requires a tremendous amount of care and effort.The statistical analyses required to ensure that all test forms are fair and equivalent necessitates that a small group of items are repeated on certain forms. Further, the re-use of these carefully-crafted and valuable test forms from time to time prior to their retirement and potential official disclosure helps maintain high quality, affordable and fair tests for all students.Some repetition of items is, in fact, required by programs that ensure scores across test forms are equivalent in their meaning.

In the past 7 years there has been a significant raise in the exam fees, which makes it accessible only for rich. Why is it so? And how is it going to benefit low socioeconomic status kids?
The rise in fees for the SAT is at par with industry, and reflects increased costs overall due to inflation. In India, the SAT is currently priced at $94.50. One of the reasons for this price, is that all SAT exams are printed in the U.S. to maintain the highest level of security and integrity. Similarly, completed tests from across the world, are shipped back to the U.S. for scoring. Since SAT is administered in over 160 countries across the globe, this is an expensive exercise and the price of the SAT reflects this high level of security.

Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in the U.S. can apply for fee-waivers so that the cost of the SAT is not an impediment to them taking the test.
Published date : 22 Sep 2014 06:01PM

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