3 Ways to Empathize with the Writers of Standardized Tests for Exam Day Success

Posted by Zack G. on 3/25/19 9:55 AM

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Hey everyone -- I'm Zack, an experienced GMAT and SAT tutor at Cambridge Coaching.  I'm excited to use it to share some key tips with you about making the most of your standardized testing experience. Here are 3 key tips that I have for you that apply for almost any standardized exam, whether it's SAT, GMAT, or whatever else you might be studying. 

  1. Make sure you know what the body of knowledge the test writers want to test. For the SAT it's reading comprehension, Algebra/Geometry, and grammar/writing skills. Because the test is standardized,in order for scores to be meaningful for admissions professionals across test sittings, test questions need to reflect a consistent body of knowledge a student needs to have mastered. Usually the College Board or the Graduate Management Admission Council or whoever is writing your test will make that public. Spend a little extra time and start there. I'm always a fan of remembering the fact that test writers are people too -- remember that if you can figure out what they care about, you can bring yourself a long way toward that dream score. 
  1. Consistent with #1, a lot of standardized tests reward students who are good at pattern recognition, so you must do lots of practice problems to recognize the patterns!If there is a consistent body of knowledge that is tested across test sittings, that must mean that doing prior problems or practice problems WRITTEN BY THE TESTMAKERS will help you prepare for future exams. There are lots of great prep providers that write excellent questions, but I always advise students and friends to do real practice problems that the test writers write -- there is no substitute for that. There are always little quirks or patterns, and it's always better to give yourself the chance to see a positive surprise on the test (you see a topic that was in a practice question from the test writers) than a negative surprise on the test (a topic you never studied that was in practice questions from the test writers).
  1. Just remember that somewhere out there, someone absolutely LOVES the topic that you're addressing by answering that question right now. Maybe it's systems of equations, maybe it's finding logical conclusions in narrative passages, or maybe it's calculating the value of the apothem to find the area of a regular polygon (don't worry if you don't know what an apothem is -- if you work with me, I'll tell you what it is and a really cool story about it). I PROMISE you, there is someone out there who loves the topic you're answering a question about (if it isn't at the very least me). Try to channel that passion when you're taking the test by telling yourself "someone out there loves this so I can too." It's a lot easier to achieve any goal, much less excelling on a long standardized exam, with a positive attitude than a negative one. So give yourself an extra oomph of energy by finding the passion and the excitement in that apothem or in that passage about the origin of the coelacanth (a fish that happens to prove some super interesting things about evolution in biology!). 

Thanks so much for reading and best of luck with studying! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me!

Zack is originally from Northwest Baltimore, 20 minutes outside of the city, and is a fan of both Ravens football and crab cakes, just as the movie “Wedding Crashers” astutely predicted. Zack graduated with an A.B. degree cum laude in Economics and a Foreign Language Citation in Catalan from Harvard College up in Cambridge, MA, after which he moved down the Eastern seaboard where he spent 6 years working in investment banking and equity and credit investing. Zack is currently pursuing his MBA degree at Columbia Business School, where he is a Columbia Fellow. Zack is also proud to have passed all three CFA exams as of August 2018 and subsequently earned the CFA charter after 3 years and hundreds of hours of studying.

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Tags: ACT, SAT