Do you remember the scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker is trying to “feel the Force” by blindfolding himself while practicing with his lightsaber? Unfortunately, that trick doesn’t work on the SAT test, particularly on the SAT math questions. You cannot trust your brain to work through problems. Rather, you need to leave a body of evidence in the test booklet on your way to showing yourself the answer.
Habeus Answer, Show Yourself the Answer!
I would like to share some of my thoughts with you about the SAT’s and SAT preparation.
The topic I would like to discuss right now is called â€œShow yourself the answerâ€. This is really advice that is more for the math section of the SAT’s. When I say “show yourself the answer,” I often tell kids â€œWhen you go in and take the SAT’s and you are working out problems, do not trust your brain trust your eyes. Your eyes are much more accurate than your brain is.â€ If you go into that test and you do too much of the work in your head, you are are much more likely to make a mistake and it is going to be a mistake that you can not pick up on. You are going to wind up with more wrong answers.
When I say show yourself the answer you should really pretend that it is a test that you can get partial credit on. Even though it is not I think the more you write on the SAT math section the better you’re chances are of getting the correct answer in the end.
If you do an algebra problem that involves a few steps and you are doing it in your head - when you go from step one to step two and then go from two to three and you are on step three in you’re head; steps one and two are not there anymore. They are not in your working memory. So if there is an error in step one or step two, it is no longer traceable. It is no longer there for your eye to catch and say â€œHey, I made a mistake on this step.â€
The reason why I want kids to write as much as they can is because when you leave a written record for yourself you have the opportunity to catch an error that you may have made even after you have gotten passed that step. The other advantage to writing down as much as you can is if you are working on a problem and you feel like you are not sure you are going to get it; skip it for now and come back to it later at the end of the test. Skip that kind of a problem and when you come back to it you do not have to start from square one again. There is a little bit of a head start, you have left yourself a written record, and you can then go from where you started. That will hopefully save you time when you are taking the SAT.
Ultimately, if you can see the answer and you can see the steps you can always get to the point. You know you have the answer right because you can see it. It is much stronger and it builds much more confidence than thinking you have the write answer. When you move on from it, it is over. There is no way of checking on just making sure you got it right. Show yourself the answer you will be much better off in the end.
Based on my years of experience tutoring kids, I would say that jotting down your thoughts as you’re working is not going to slow you down much. A lot of kids think that they can not write all that stuff down and it takes them way too long; trust me it does not. You do not need to write neatly you just need to write well enough so that you can read it. Nobody else is going to look at your written work. Go through and leave as many notes for yourself as you can. Try to create pictures and draw. If they are talking about a circle in an XY coordinate plane draw that circle in the XY coordinate plane. If they ask for the area of the circle immediately write down the formula for the area for the circle. Again that is going to help you focus yourself and it is going to help you see the answer in the end. So if you hold yourself to the standard of not thinking through the answer but showing yourself the answer; you will truly maximize your score.
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