7 Myths about the SAT that prevent you from a 2400

By | April 15, 2008

1. You can’t improve your SAT score.

I think by now most people realize that proper preparation can help anyone improve his or her score.  When the SAT was first introduced in 1926, the letters S-A-T used to stand for Scholastic Aptitude Test. The common belief back then was that the SAT could test an individual’s innate intelligence, or aptitude; studying or preparing for the test was thought to be pointless.  Then in the 1950s test prep industry pioneer Stanley Kaplan began coaching a small group of students for the SAT from his basement.  When his students began to regularly produce exceptional scores, people began to recognize that the test could be beat.  It wasn’t until 1994 that the test makers conceded that the SAT could be prepared for and changed its name to the Standardized Assessment Test.  However, even this name didn’t stick for long as the SAT people released an official press release in 1996 stating that the SAT does not stand for anything.  After undergoing some major changes in March of 2004, the test came to be referred to for a short period as the New SAT.  Today, it’s simple referred to as the SAT Reasoning Test.

2.  The SAT tests a student’s intelligence.

Hogwash.  While I’ve already addressed this myth somewhat above, it’s worth noting that there are still research studies out there that seem to suggest a correlation between SAT scores and IQ.  However, the tests used to measure IQ use the same one-dimensional, standardized methods used on the SAT.  Human intelligence transcends any performance measured on a standardized or “objective” test.  History has shown time and again that some of the most intelligent and successful people do very poorly in academic settings.  It’s only after they leave school, or perhaps because they do, that they begin to show the world there brilliance.  Renowned educational consultant and pioneer in the development of innovation and creativity, Sir Ken Robinson gave a great speech recently on the amazing success of some people who were thought to be failures in the classroom.  It’s an inspiring video worth checking out: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/66.

But I digress.  On to the next myth…

3.  The SAT can ask any question as long as it relates to reading, writing, or math.

That would pretty much include everything.  This is often the most daunting notion for students.  It seems like the SAT covers so much that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up on studying altogether.  The truth is, the CollegBoard (the company that develops the test) limits itself to few very specific concepts.  But it’s not enough to simply know these concepts.  In fact, you know most of these concepts as they’re generally taught to students very early in their school lives.  The key to succeeding on the SAT is knowing how to apply these concepts by learning how the test developers think.

4.  You should prepare for the SAT the same way you prepare for any other academic test.

If they were the case, then most straight-A students would get near perfect scores.  The truth is, only a very select few (<1%) actually get perfect scores every year.  There would be no point to the SAT; academic institutions would simply just give you a score based on your GPA.  But the reality is, most A-students, who have proven they no how to study for test in their classes, don’t get anywhere near perfect scores.  Studying for the SAT is different because you need to not only know the concepts, but how to apply them the way the test developers want you to apply them.  This requires you to learn how to think how the test makers think, and this is what I teach here on my blog.

5.  You can’t prepare for the essay.

Almost everyone that I know who has received high scores on their essays (either an 11 or a 12) – both among students that I have taught and my own peers – went into the test knowing what they were going to write.  Sure the “topic” prompt changes with each test, but the overall format and expectations are the same with every test.  This makes for a very predictable scenario that allows you to prepare about 80% of the essay before you even see the test.  I’ll get into this in more detail in another post.

6.  You can improve your math and writing score, but you can’t improve you Critical Reading Scores.

This myth is similar to the myth that the SAT tests for innate intelligence, but again, that it’s simply not true.  In fact I would say that for those of you who don’t normally fair well on the Critical Reading Sections of the test, particularly with the reading passages, this section is perhaps the easiest to improve your scores.  The reason for this is that while the SAT Writing Sections and Math sections put a little more weight on the concepts themselves, the Critical Reading Sections are the most predictable in terms of finding what the developers of the SAT want.  So most student who claim that they can’t improve their Critical Reading score are probably approaching their preparation from the wrong angle.  Again, it’s all about learning to think like the test developers.  Stay tuned because this is what my next post is about.

7.  It is better to leave a question blank than to guess.

It’s true that you lose a quarter of a point when you get an incorrect answer whereas you don’t lose anything if you leave a question unanswered.  BUT, you gain a full point for every question answered correctly!  So, if you’ve read the question, and spent any time trying to figure it out, take a guess guess; it could make up for four incorrect questions elsewhere on the test.  You should absolutely guess if you can eliminate at least one of the answer choices because the odds will be in your favor.

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Topics: SAT Reasoning Test | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “7 Myths about the SAT that prevent you from a 2400”


  1. Jerry Says:
    November 8th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on point #2.

    Although the SAT Reasoning Exam is not the perfect exam to measure one’s intelligence, I think the exam still comes pretty damn close.

    Let’s forget about the writing section.

    In the reading sections, you have to read complex passages and *deeply analyze* (AKA Think critically) the author’s intended meaning. You have to shift through the BS to understand irony.
    You’re forced to draw conclusions based on the facts the authors give you.
    Most of the questions in this section require incredible amounts of abstract thinking, something a normal person would be incapable of doing. This is why it is incredibly difficult for one’s reading score to improve phenomenally.

    As for the math section, you don’t need anything above 7th grade math formulas to answer all the questions.
    School teachers shove equations down your throat and force you to apply them without any thinking.
    The SAT Math section, on the other hand, requires you to *MANIPULATE* learned equations with *thinking*.

    The reason why so many people are against the “SAT-IQ” correlation is that people don’t want to admit that they’re stupid.

    If only 5% of the entire human population can score 2000+ on the exam, how do you think the rest of the 2000- scorers would feel?

  2. Megan Says:
    January 17th, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I agree. Only pain-in-the-ass students can score perfect on these tests because it’s their goal and they are competitive. I don’t think it proves that they are intelligent. They’re probably the same students who have cheat sheets during exams and get all of their homework questions answered by Yahoo Answers. Their GPA’s and SAT scores may get them into the top schools, but what is important is how they fair once they start college and grad school. That’s when their true colors show.

  3. Muhammad Says:
    October 27th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    the SAT is definitely an IQ test. Anyone that tells you otherwise is full of donkey shit.

    let me explain. The “critical” reading passages are difficult to read as they are very extensive and contain a lot of bullshit sentences that cloak the author’s true intentions.

    A quater of the math is tough and 1/8 of it is extremely hard.

    This fucking test is no more then an IQ test. Althogh it’s possible to improve your score by 200 points, it is NOT possible to go beyond 300.

    If all the Staight A students could “study” for the test and get 2400s, how the fuck would universities diffretiate 10 percent of the poppulation that got 2400s?

    if you are taking the test soon, read a lot of english literature and new articles, wrtite e a lot and practice a ton and with that you caan probably get 300 points above what you originally had.

  4. Peter Says:
    July 27th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    If you have a good foundation with school work and you actually get straight A’s, then it’s pretty easy to improve your score by as much as 400 points. I don’t know about the IQ test. I think if you tried in school and actually learned something, then you’ll do OK on the SAT.

  5. mohammad Says:
    December 6th, 2013 at 7:20 am

    I agree about point 2,I have excellent average in school and I am Arabian,but I had a low score on critical reading section,yes this section needs some intelligence but having rich vocabulary is more effective to ace this section

  6. Jenn Says:
    April 10th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    The SAT is nothing like an IQ test. My daughter is unique, and has an IQ of 152 according to her last IQ test, yet the SAT would show her as being average, as in she made the exact average score. The only portion she did well on was the essay. I have been both a teacher and a reading researcher and know that IQ has little to do with how a person performs on a standardized test.

  7. shantel marekera Says:
    June 5th, 2014 at 1:22 am

    i strongly think that your sat score is greatly influenced by your IQ and extensive reading can only narrowly improve it

  8. chishamiso tinorwirashe Says:
    June 5th, 2014 at 1:25 am

    it is indeed possible to obtain 2400.l managed to get 2000 within a month in my sat exam last year!

  9. Alex Says:
    June 6th, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    On #2, it is worth mentioning that intelligence is an extremely broad term which is not simply limited to an IQ score. Even if an IQ test, which tests vocab, measures intelligence, then we could conclude immediately that intelligence is easily changeable, as a test taker could just memorize a few more words.
    In my opinion, regardless of what intelligence is defined by, the SAT is all about how hard you can work to improve your score, and that’s it!
    @Muhummad: I improved my score from 1800s to 2300s from 9th-11th grds; that’s not 300pts, it’s over 500…

    Thinking pragmatically, simply working hard is what needs to be done.

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