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# SAT

#### SAT Review of Multiple-Choice Questions

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##### Overview

The SAT consists mostly of multiple-choice questions, except for the essay and some mathematics questions that require an answer grid. Each multiple-choice question has 5 alternative answers. Four of them are distractors, and one alternative is the correct answer.

##### Following Directions

It is very important to follow directions exactly when taking the SAT or any other standardized test. Study the directions for each type of test as part of preparation before taking the SAT. Bring several Number 2 pencils and erasers on the day of the test, and remember to fill in the bubbles on the answer sheet completely, so that the machine will read the answers that are chosen. Use the approved calculator for the math portion, and practice with it before the test so that it is familiar. The essay portion must be written legibly in pencil, so that it can be scanned.

##### Multiple-Choice Format

Most of the questions are in multiple-choice format, with 5 possible answers for each question. All the math questions in multiple-choice format range from easy to hard. The multiple-choice questions on the critical reading portions refer to that reading portion alone. The advantage for students using the multiple-choice format is that the correct answer is already one of the alternatives.

##### Eliminating Alternatives

Raw scores on the SAT are calculated so that each correct answer receives a full point, each incorrect answer subtracts ¼ of a point, and each unanswered question receives no points. That formula is supposed to discourage students from random guessing.   However, students can narrow the field by eliminating distractors that are clearly incorrect. Suppose a student can confidently state that 2 of the 5 possible alternatives on a question are incorrect. The probability of getting any one of the three alternatives correct is 33%, which is already higher than the 25% incorrect-answer penalty. If 3 alternatives can be eliminated, the probability is 50%. Skillful preparation for the SAT ensures students can eliminate alternatives, and thus raise their SAT scores.

Students can use their answer books as scratch paper during the test, and are encouraged to do so. That way, they can draw diagrams for geometry problems, cross out incorrect alternatives, underline key words in sentences; and do anything to help choose the best answer for every question. Students can also circle questions in the answer book that stump them, as a reminder to go back and try again if there is extra time. During SAT preparation, individual students can learn the methods and strategies to help them achieve the best scores possible on the SAT, and get into the colleges of their choice.

is the premier educational services company for K-12 and college students. We offer tutoring programs for students in K-12, AP classes, and college. To learn more about how we help parents and students in Washington, DC: visit: Tutoring in Washington, DC

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### Overview

The SAT is a standardized test that is primarily used for college admissions testing. It is a part of life for many high-school juniors and seniors, and an important part of the package that prospective college students provide to admissions officers. The test has a long history in the United States, and is especially required by colleges in the northeastern and western states.

### History of the SAT

The SAT was first known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The original SAT was developed for students applying to colleges on the East Coast. It has gone through many redesign changes, in order to make the test reflect skills that are needed in college. The number of students taking the SAT has grown from 8000 in the mid-1920’s, to over 1.5 million students every year currently. It is also given worldwide to English-speaking students.

### Structure of the SAT

The current SAT is divided into three sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. There are a number of subtests in each section. Most of the SAT is multiple-choice, except for the written essay section, and part of a mathematics subtest. Each subtest has timed sections of 20 to 25 minutes, so the entire test is designed to take about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Most of the test is scored by machine, except for the essay portion. Tests are scored by the company that administers the tests rather than in any of the individual school districts.

### How the SAT Predicts College Success

Many studies have been done correlating student GPA in high school and scores on the SAT with freshman GPA. The SAT measures student abilities in mathematics, critical reading, and writing; all essential for college success. Students are expected to enter college with basic skills, so they can master the volume of textbook reading, writing papers and essay tests, and mathematical reasoning required. The most successful students are able to apply what they have learned in secondary school.

### Strategies for the SAT

Taking any standardized test, including the SAT, requires students to apply what they know, so that they can choose from alternative answers. Practice answering questions similar to those that might be on the SAT, develop strategies to narrow down choices, and work with a tutor to enhance the skills needed for school and test success.

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### Overview

One of the ways to guide preparation for the SAT is for students to set goals for their performance. Goals should be SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. They can be set with help from teachers and tutors to bolster problem areas and support strengths.

### Specific Goals Guided by Practice

Most students have years of experience taking tests like the SAT. The SAT is standardized and norm-referenced, which means that questions have been tested over and over again, and made standard on a test population of students. Also, students practice test-taking skills in coaching sessions with practice tests, with tests like the PSAT/NMQST, and sometimes with other sessions of the SAT. This allows students to discover their individual patterns of strengths and weaknesses.

### Measurable Goals Guided by Performance

It is important to set goals that are specific and measurable, but measurable goals must also be meaningful. A goal such as “I will increase my overall score by 50 points” is measurable, but it is not specific enough, nor is it meaningful. Suppose a student has lower scores in the critical reading section than in the mathematics section. That is because much of the academic vocabulary contains unfamiliar words. One measurable goal might be “I will practice vocabulary words in academic settings by learning three new words a week. Part of my practice with those new words includes writing a definition of each word as I learn it, showing at least two instances when it used in academic writing, and writing three original sentences with that word. “

### Attainable and Realistic Goals Guided by Practice

Goals should be attainable and realistic. A perfect score on any test may not be either, any more than a student’s parents winning the Powerball jackpot, thus taking care of any needs to pay for college. However, a goal such as “I will practice solving problems with graphs and functions until I can solve 8 out of 10 correctly on practice tests “ is attainable. Since students may be asked to solve those types of problems on the SAT, it is also realistic.

### Time-Bound Goals Guided by Test Dates

Typically, students have many opportunities through high school to take the PSAT and SAT, as well as work through coaching practice through classroom programs and through tutors. The calendar of local test dates and locations is posted online and available through the high school. Students can ensure they are setting goals for the SAT that are SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

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### Overview

The Improving Paragraphs subtest of the SAT Writing Test allows students to demonstrate editing and revision skills on a larger scale than the Improving Sentences section. They are required to read portions of a rough draft of an essay and make judgments about word usage and organization. Questions are multiple-choice in this section.

### Methods to Approach Questions

First, read the entire passage and the questions before settling on answers. Every sentence within the passage is usually numbered in order to make it easier to find specific phrases and errors. Since the essay is meant to be a draft, there may be several weak areas. Pay close attention to the question, as an answer can be true overall but not the best answer.

### Avoiding Wordiness

Wordiness is one of the most common errors that can be improved upon rewrite. Many writers struggle with redundant phrases that add little or nothing. It is enough to say that the paper is yellow, not yellow in color. Similarly, there are four sheets of yellow paper, but it is unnecessary to state that they are four in number. Four is already a number. Snow is weather, so one word can be cut from “snowy weather.” Expressions such as “the fact that,” “if you know what I mean,” or “in the truest sense of the word” fill space.

### Rewriting Paragraphs

Students will have plenty of time to focus upon usage errors and wordiness in their own writing, as well as during practice sessions for the SAT. The first draft is an opportunity to get ideas on paper; a starting point rather than the finished product. During subsequent drafts, tighten writing by eliminating redundancies and empty phrases, as well as by fixing any grammar and usage errors. Practice at improving writing and recasting sentences will help on the Improving Paragraphs subtest of the SAT and college writing.

### More Strategies for Test Preparation

The SAT subtest for Improving Paragraphs is arranged with questions that follow each passage, so questions that follow an essay excerpt are for that section only. It is easy to miss individual questions, so make sure to check that the test booklet and bubbles on the answer sheet refer to the same ones. Unlike the Identifying Sentence Errors and Improving Sentences writing tests, questions are not arranged in order from easy to hard.

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### Overview

The Improving Sentences subtest of the SAT Writing test looks very similar to the Identifying Sentence Errors subtest. Students are expected to focus upon one phrase within a target sentence and follow directions to choose the same phrase or among four different alternatives. The goal is to produce a sentence that is clear, concise, and correct.

### Methods to Approach Questions

Since the goal is to select possible sentence rewrites without writing them, follow directions and read each sentence quickly and carefully. Students may be tempted to read the alternative phrases without looking at the entire sentence, but that may lead to confusion. Choice A is always the same choice as the underlined phrase within the sentence. It may or may not be the correct answer. However, the correct answer is always contained in the alternatives. While the answer sheet in this section must be kept clean, with the answer bubbles carefully blackened, the test booklet can be marked as much as any individual student can desire. Therefore, mark any question that is not answered on the first pass, in order to find it more easily later.

### Using Parallelism

One of the most common writing errors that is often tested on the SAT is parallelism. Structures in any series must be similar, so that words are the same parts of speech, phrases are the same construction, and clauses are the same type. Notice the pattern, and change any part that deviates from the rest. Within the sentence that begins with the word “structures”, each clause is similar, so that words, phrases, and clauses (all nouns) are followed by the parallel phrase “are the same.”

### Rewriting Sentences

During test preparation and writing assignments, students are often asked to rewrite sentences that have errors in noun/verb agreement, parallelism, and appropriate use of adjectives, adverbs, and idioms. There won’t be time to rewrite during the SAT itself, so the “rewriting” is done through multiple-choice alternatives. During college, students will be expected to write and rewrite multiple essays and papers. The more errors they can recognize and edit in another’s writing, the more they will be able to edit their own.

### More Strategies for Test Preparation

Whenever sample questions are presented, read the original sentence aloud, if possible. Then replace the underlined portion with each alternative. Reading aloud slows the entire process and trains the brain to recognize errors. Sometimes it is easier to hear the correct alternative than to see it. Continue to read literary fiction and well-written nonfiction, and write frequently.

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### Overview

The SAT tests writing skills for prospective college students with sentence-based and paragraph-based multiple-choice questions, as well as an essay on demand. Some of the characteristics of effective writing include consistency, logical expression of ideas, clarity and precision, and appropriate use of conventions. Since students must be able to recognize errors in their own writing, they are tested for their abilities to check writing quickly and identify any grammatical mistakes. Also, they must be able to produce writing that is clear, concise, and complete on essay tests and first drafts of longer papers.

### Writing Consistency

The SAT tests for grammar and usage with questions that allow students to choose and correct examples that contain specific errors. Some of the most common errors involve writing consistency. For example, all of the tenses within a sentence or passage should follow a sequence. Pronouns should not shift; so that if you are writing a sentence, one shouldn’t change the pronoun in the second clause. The correct usage in that case is either “if one is writing a sentence, one shouldn’t change the pronoun in the second clause” or “if you are writing a sentence, you shouldn’t change the pronoun in the second clause.” Similarly, nouns and number should agree, and so should subjects and verbs.

### Logical Expression of Ideas

Another source of common writing errors is logical expression of ideas. For example, comparisons should be logical. Compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges; not apples to oranges. Watch carefully to see what clauses are modifying.

### Clarity and Precision

Once again, pronouns can cause all the trouble. Is the pronoun referring to a specific antecedent? We have met them, and they are us.  Who are we, them, they and us? Wordiness is the enemy of both clarity and precision. Active verbs are usually preferred to weak passive verbs, and using them can eliminate some wordiness.

### Appropriate Use of Conventions

Some SAT questions target the appropriate use of conventions, such as adverb-adjective confusion, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and idioms. Those conventions in writing are confused easily. Adjectives modify nouns, and adverbs modify verbs. The test booklet can be marked and underlined to aid appropriate usage.

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### Overview

One of the subtests of the SAT Writing portion is Identifying Sentence Errors. These multiple-choice questions ask students to recognize errors in grammar, usage, word choice, and idioms. During preparation for the SAT, it is best to identify the error and correct it. There are a few sentences that don’t have any errors at all.

### Identifying Errors

Each of the sentences are presented with clear directions as to the type of error that might be found within it. Words and phrases within the sentence are underlined, and the last choice is always “no error.” There is only one error within the sentence, and the other four choices are distractors. Suppose the sentence were: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog next Tuesday. No error. Read the entire sentence quickly to see that (a) brown, (c) lazy dog, and (d) Tuesday are not in error. However, (b) jumped cannot be in past tense if the action takes place next Tuesday. Therefore, (e) no error, is not correct, and the correct alternative is (b).

### Types of Errors and How to Solve Them

The most common grammatical errors are easy to spot. Subjects and verbs must agree, pronouns must agree in number and case, an adverb must modify a verb, and an adjective must modify a noun. During practice, read sentences aloud, as the error won’t sound right in many cases. Get in the habit of correcting errors, even though that won’t be on the test. Sometimes knowing how to solve an error is an indication that there really is one. However, don’t waste time on sentences where there really isn’t an error. Select alternative (e), no error, and move on.

### Dangling Participles and Misplaced Pronouns

Some very common grammatical errors are created when a participial phrase is situated in the wrong place. Suppose the sentence were: Wearing a long green dress, Brad Pitt walked down the carpet with Angelina Jolie. Brad was probably not wearing the dress in this case. The sentence could be recast as Brad Pitt walked down the carpet with Angelina Jolie, who was wearing a long green dress. Another alternative: Angelina Jolie, wearing a long green dress, walked down the carpet with Brad Pitt. The point is that the participial phrase is closest to what it modifies. In this case, Angelina is wearing the dress, so she is closest to it.

### Strategies for Taking the Test

The Identifying Sentence Errors portion of the writing test will take less time than either Improving Sentences or Improving Paragraphs. A useful strategy for that portion of the test is to read carefully and keep moving to save time. Questions in this section range from easy to hard. If any question seems puzzling, mark it in the answer booklet and move on, to go back and answer it later if there is extra time.

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### Overview

The essay section of the SAT Writing exam gives students the opportunity to write a coherent first draft of an essay in response to a prompt. It is usually the first section of the exam. The topic of the essay is presented in question form, and is accompanied by one or two quotations. The essay portion is 25 minutes long, and students must write legibly in pencil on the answer sheet that is provided, so that it can be scanned.

### Planning the Essay

Although the time limit of 25 minutes is strict, prepared students can take 2-3 minutes to read the prompt and write a brief outline of the essays they will write. It need not be any more than a thesis statement and a few main ideas to ensure focus and allow direction. If an essay does not address the assigned topic, it will receive a zero score.

### Writing the Essay

Writing the essay portion of the SAT is similar to writing the first draft of any effective essay. The essay prompts are general enough that students can use supporting information from what they have learned, read inside or outside school, or experienced. Writers can develop essays that are narrative, expository, persuasive, or argumentative. They can even oppose the point of view taken by the prompts and examples, as long as they present their arguments clearly and consistently.

### Scoring the Essay

Essay portions are scored by experienced test examiners who have no contact with students or teachers in the local area. The scoring rubric has been extensively developed, so that scorers have clear criteria to make very quick judgments. They watch for point of view, organization, appropriate vocabulary and clear progression of ideas, sentence structure, and errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics. Prospective examiners must agree with the more experienced readers’ assessment at least 70% of the time before they can test students on their own.

### Strategies for Test Preparation

Teachers and tutors give students a great deal of practice reading and responding to prompts similar to those on the SAT. Students prepare thesis statements, brief outlines, and then write paragraphs developing ideas from those outlines. In other practice, students are asked to recast sentences with a variety of grammar, usage, and logical errors.

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### Overview

The SAT Mathematics test includes both multiple-choice questions and questions that require a written numerical answer. Students’ mathematical reasoning is assessed in separate areas of number and operations; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; data analysis; probability and statistics. These areas follow the guidelines set by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, and are part of the Mathematics Common Core in many states.

### Why Mathematics?

Required math classes and testing are familiar to most high school students, especially those who are preparing to attend college. Students are cleared to take college math courses by their performance on standardized tests and their high school classwork. In addition, many colleges and universities require college-level math courses as a General University Requirement for graduation, so students in all majors take some form of math.

### But I’m not in STEM!

Students preparing to go into STEM fields after graduation — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics studies– already know a lot of math is in their future. Mathematics is an essential component, because the language of mathematics is the only way to explain physical relationships. However, other fields require the discipline and logical thinking gained from learning mathematical problems. For example, students who excel in constructing the sorts of arguments to solve proofs and equations can apply those skills to law and liberal arts. Social science majors in psychology, sociology, and economics use statistical thinking as a basis for experimentation. The arts, including music, are firmly rooted in mathematical concepts of proportion, symmetry, and balance.

### Review Basic Concepts

Number and operations questions on the SAT require a review of basic and familiar concepts such as the properties of integers, word problems, fractions, ratios, and sequences. Be familiar with mathematical operations to find square roots and squares of numbers. Practice word problems, equations, place value and scientific notation, prime numbers, and ratios, proportions and percent.

### Strategies for Test Preparation

As with the other sections of the SAT, students who have a lot of experience with solving similar types of questions have an advantage. Teachers and tutors can guide individuals to improve weaknesses and supplement strengths during practice sessions. Remember that students can use approved calculators on the math tests. Questions are arranged from easy to hard, so work the most familiar problems first. Check answers carefully if there is extra time after the test.

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### Overview

Students taking the SAT Mathematics test are assessed on areas such as number and operations, algebra and functions, geometry and measurement, data analysis, and probability and statistics. The Algebra and Functions strand includes operations on algebraic expressions, solving equations and inequalities, quadratic equations, rational systems of linear equations and inequalities, direct and inverse variation, and basic types of functions. Test preparation for SAT Mathematics includes review of specific types of questions, as well as tips and tricks to answer multiple-choice and response grid questions correctly.

### Review of Basic Algebra

Basic algebraic concepts that are often covered in high school introductory courses are tested on the SAT Mathematics portion. Students are expected to be able to perform operations on algebraic expressions such as factoring, evaluate exponents and roots, and solve equations and inequalities correctly. Other questions test knowledge of absolute value, translating words into mathematical expressions, and understanding inequalities. During test preparation, students will learn to solve problems that incorporate concepts and use the multiple-choice format to their advantage.

### Review of Systems of Equations

In order to solve systems of equations or inequalities, students must be able to solve for one variable that is correct for both sentences in the system. They can then use that value to solve for the other variable. Suppose the equations are 4x + 2y = 14 and x – 2y = 11. Adding the equations together results in 4x + x + 2y -2y = 25 or 5x = 25. If x = 5, then what does y equal? 20 +2y = 14, or 2y = -6, or y = -3 in the first equation, and 5 + 6 =11 in the second equation. A closer look at the second equation reveals that 5 + [-2(-3)] = 5 + 6, because a negative number times a negative number is a positive number.

### Review of Functions

Mathematical functions involve relationships between data points, and require students to know and apply specialized vocabulary such as domain and range. Topics such as basic function notation, functions as models, and graphs of linear and quadratic functions are covered in algebra and other courses throughout high school and college.

### Strategies for Test Preparation

Teachers usually require students to show every step of their work, as well as a correct solution, in order to get good scores on homework assignments and tests. The SAT requires students to work quickly and recognize the correct answer from a number of alternatives. Often, students can estimate the answer and eliminate distractors that are obviously incorrect through mathematical logic and reasoning.

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