Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

Don’t Blame the Chicken Pox for SAT Math Mistakes

Videos   Math   SAT
Karl Schellscheidt -

eprep test prep videoI can’t tell you how many students I’ve tutored over the years blame their incorrect answers, particularly in the SAT math section, on having missed school “on the day the teacher reviewed that material”. Don’t blame the Chicken Pox. The fact is most SAT math questions test your tenacity and ability to problem solve more than basic math principles. In this prepcast video, I explain the strategy of envisioning your SAT math problems.

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Don’t Blame the Chicken Pox for SAT Math Mistakes (transcript)

I want to talk to you for a couple of minutes about the math section of the SAT. I have tutored a lot of kids over the years and one of my most popular comments to kids is this:

The student fell short on a problem; they either skipped it or got it wrong. We go back to the problem and we do it together and I show them how to get the answer. The comment usually is “You did not get this problem wrong because you had the chicken pox last year and you missed the day that they taught this stuff in school.” That is not the way it works. A lot of SAT questions are not on topics that they formally teach in school. It is not like you were sick and you missed the day they taught that.

What a lot of the SAT problems are about is what I call problem solving. They put you into a situation that you have never been in before and you need to figure it out and find the answer. So it is more about how tenacious you are at reading and trying to figure out what the problems all about. Nobody who has been a diligent student will have an advantage over you on certain types of problems. It is all about figuring out the situation that you are in and getting the answer.

So if they describe a rectangle draw the rectangle, if they describe a circle draw the circle. If they say in the x y coordinate plane there’s a rectangle draw the x y coordinate plane draw the rectangle. If they talk about a teacher in a biology class and how many students play football and five hands go up try to picture the situation.

You are going to be so much better off if you approach it like that because again a lot of the problems are not like the ones you do in school. There are situations that are new and unique. Try to understand the situation and get inside the problem. When you understand it the answer will be obvious or how to get it will be obvious. That is the way to approach those kind of math problems.

Karl Schellscheidt

Copyright 2006 — All Rights Reserved, ePrep, Inc.

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