The New SAT Is a Test of Endurance – Train for it Like You Would Train for a Marathon

By Sam Rosensohn

It takes approximately four times longer than the average root canal, and many students would opt for the root canal.

Make no mistake the New SAT given for the first time on a snowy March 12 here and about to be given again on April 2 (for those who were snowed out) proved to be painfully long for most.

Students had 10 sections of math and verbal questions to complete. Six thousand runners needed less time to finish the Boston Marathon.

In many ways the three-hour-and-45-minute test is a test of endurance. If a student loses focus after the three-hour mark, his score is going to suffer.

In a nation-wide survey of test-takers conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, 87 percent of the students said it was the longest test they had ever taken – making stamina and extended concentration a greater challenge than actual content for many students.

This test is now longer than the graduate admissions exams for business school (GMAT, 3 ½ hours), law school, (LSAT, 3 ¼ hours), and graduate school (GRE, 2 ½ hours). Among all admission tests, according to Kaplan, only the medical school admissions exam (MCAT, 5 ¾ hours) is longer

Students, don’t leave the house on SAT Saturday without a hearty breakfast coursing through your bodies. The shortage of breaks (students were given three five-minute breaks) combined with the lack of food (no snacks permitted) caused many students to bonk.

The test takes longer than the average Super Bowl Game, and as you know by now, there are no chips and salsa to keep you going. So load your pockets with healthy snacks and discreetly enjoy them during the three five-minute breaks.

Eat something delicious during the first break and something even more delicious and energy producing during the remaining two breaks. Golden raisins, cashews, anything rich in energy will help. Good food is comforting, and don’t forget to fill the big water bottle.

Kaplan sent over 100 interviewers to 39 testing sites across the U.S. and interviewed 1,198 students just after they completed the test. These were the major findings the survey offered: 70 percent of the respondents found that the critical reading and the math sections to be the most difficult.

While only 13 percent of the test-takers found the essay to be the most challenging section, 55 percent of the group said they did not believe their essays scores would reflect their actual writing abilities due to the limited amount of the time they had to compose the essay.

Just over a quarter of the test-takers didn’t finish in 25 minutes and handed in half-finished position papers, according to Kaplan.

Here are some concrete steps a student can take starting today to prepare for the essay. Go to http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/after/essay_prompts.html   and print the three essay assignments that were presented to approximately 330,000 students who took the March 12 test.

Students were asked to answer one of these questions: “Is the opinion of the majority – in government or in any other circumstances – a poor guide?” “Is creativity needed more than ever in the world today?” And the third question posed was, “Are people better at making observations, discoveries, and decisions if they remain neutral and impartial?” Each test has only one essay to respond to; students are not given a selection of essays to choose from.

The College Board’s site offers the prompts that accompanied each of the three essay assignments. Students can also learn at the site what they need to do to rack up the points. If students grasp what graders are looking for and write several practice essays to that standard, they will make better use of the 25 minutes they’re allotted on test day.

The two most important paragraphs in the essay are the first and the last. The first because graders, who are reading 60 essays an hour, try to assign a grade to the paper as quickly as possible.

They speed read the body paragraphs and then slow up and give more time to the conclusion to see if it confirms their initial impression of the essay. A strong conclusion will allow a student to solidify a good score.

To do well on this test students should be prepared and in top form. Think of all the high school sporting events that were won, because one team was in better shape and had practiced smart and hard.

Students must find ways to psyche themselves up to read what many will find to be the most dense and uninteresting essays they have ever read or been tested on under fire. It takes practice to get to the point where a student can plow through the uninteresting, retain and then analyze what was read.

Get a hold of the Official SAT Study Guide published by the College Board ($19.95). It provides a 318 page manual on how to take the test and eight practice tests.   Then go to http://www.collegeboard.com/apps/qotd/question/0,,41607,00.html and sign up to have the SAT question of the day sent to your e-mail address.

Also get a hold of, if you can, the old SAT prep book issued by the College Board, 10 Real SATs, and start to go through the old tests. At every SAT test, professional counters (distant cousins of card counters in Las Vegas casinos) go in and memorize particular portions of the test. The counters then compile all of the questions on that given test, analyze their findings, and post reports.

Different groups of counters have said that over 65 percent of the questions that appeared on the March 12 test were taken from old SAT tests.

Another thought, is to seek out someone from your school who took the SAT on March 12, and who purchased the test. Copy and take the test. If you can’t find someone who has a copy of the test, give me a call and I’ll give you a copy.

There’s no substitute for taking a trial test. All this talk about length and exhaustion is just more adult-talk until a student actually takes it.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at sam@satprepct.com