Collegeboard has released the 2015 PSAT scores. Students can access the scores here: PSAT Scores. Collegeboard has also released preliminary concordance tables that one can use to correlate the new PSAT scores with old PSAT scores. The detailed tables can be obtained at this link: PSAT Concordance Tables.
In the year 2014, a total of 14,677 students scored an 800 in the SAT math. A total of 1,672,395 students took the SAT in year 2014, which means 0.88% of all students got a perfect score on the math section of the SAT. The question is what does it take to score an 800 on the math section of the SAT. In this article I list the elements that are crucial in achieving this target.
- Master the Content: You will need to have a solid command on all the concepts that are tested on the SAT math. Make sure you learn all the core concepts, and also keep track of the type of problems that you are missing in your practice tests. And if you are consistently missing problems in a specific topic, then review them in depth again. Finally, for practice tests stick with official SAT tests.
- Read Carefully and Stay Focused: A score of 800 on the SAT math requires one to get every single question right. Therefore, read each question carefully, and in cases where the verbiage is convoluted, read it several times. Make sure that you take in to account each and every detail and do not overlook anything. If the question seems to be particularly difficult, check your answer using an alternative method. For example, if the question asks you to create a set of algebraic equations and you solve for the variable of interest, plug that answer back in to the equations to ensure that your answer is consistent with the given information. Also, in my experience working with students, the most common mistakes happen on the medium level difficulty questions, where interpreting the question is more important as opposed to the hard ones where the test writers typically test an advanced concept.
- Redo Questions: On your first pass through the math section, mark those questions where you felt a bit uncertain about your work. Once you have finished the entire section, go back and redo those questions. Typically the strong students will end up with extra time and this time should be used to redo those questions where you initially faced difficulty.
- Stay organized: Do all of your scratch work in an organized fashion. This way it will be easier to spot a mistake if you need to go back and check your work. Don’t try to do computations or steps in your head, write them down. In geometry problems, draw lines and label things on the figure provided. If you end up messing the figure, start from scratch and draw a new one.
Here I list several strategies that can help you curb careless mistakes during the SAT test:
- Read Carefully: Read the question very carefully and read it several times. On the difficult problems, you will not grasp the entire question on one reading. You may have to read it two or three times, or more. In general, harder questions require several readings.
- Stay organized: Do all of your scratch work in a systematic manner. Write in the blank area in the test booklet.
- Write legibly: Your work should be clear enough that you can read your own handwriting. This is helpful in situations when you end up with an answer that is not in one of the answer choices. This often happens when one makes a careless mistake. To spot your mistake it helps if your work is written in a clear and legible manner.
- Don’t use the Calculator: I know a lot of students are completely reliant on the calculator, and many people would disagree with me when I suggest not using the calculator. All of the SAT math questions are written in a way that they can be solved without the use of calculator, and on many questions it might be to your advantage not to use the calculator. The problem with doing your work on the calculator is that you cannot go back to check your steps if you made a mistake. In contrast, it is a lot easier to spot a mistake if you have the steps written in your test booklet.
- Redraw diagrams: On the SAT one does not need to redraw things, but I find redrawing helps me digest the problem and also help me see the solution.
- Slow Down: Don’t rush off to attack the problem immediately and don’t change the problem to what you think it is asking, be careful about that temptation.
- Recognize the Difficulty Level of a Question: Look at the Official SAT tests and recognize where the difficult questions are, generally at the end of each subsection. Keep an eye on the medium level questions where you are likely to trip on misreading the question. The easy/medium questions rely more on how the question is phrased, whereas the harder questions test advanced concepts and one is less likely to trip on verbiage.
- Reread the question at the end: Once you have completed the problem, reread the question to make sure you are answering what the question is asking for. For example, if you defined a variable $x$ to solve the problem, check to make sure the question is not asking for the value of $x-2$.