Why do you end up scoring lower than your potential in the SAT

Any student aspiring to study in a top US college would have to write either the SAT [originally known as Scholastic Aptitude Test], or ACT [originally known as American College Testing]. There is a common misconception among test takers that SAT is a challenging exam and only students with high IQ can crack the test. Recent study indicates that a lot of students with high IQ and outstanding academic performance still end up scoring much lower than their potential in the SAT. You might be one of those students appearing for SAT this year or planning to appear in the coming years. Let us discuss the top 5 reasons for low score in SAT and potential remedies in this article.

What is SAT?

The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. SAT test helps colleges to measure the readiness of the student to handle the academic rigor. SAT test is scored on a scale of 400 – 1600 points in two parts – [1) Mathematics section is scored between 200 and 800, and 2) Critical Reading & Writing section is scored between 200 and 800.] SAT is a 3 hours and 50 minutes test with 5 sections – Mathematics – no calculator (20 questions in 25 minutes), Mathematics – with calculator (38 questions in 55 minutes), Evidence-Based Reading (52 questions in 65 minutes), Writing & Language (44 questions in 35 minutes) and Essay Writing (50 minutes). The Essay section is optional.

Both parts of the SAT test have multiple choice questions. Students with SAT test score of 1200 & above usually fall in the top 25 percentile. The bottom 25 percentile usually score 840 or lower.

The test takers are awarded a scaled score (out of 1600) and a percentile score which shows how better you have done in comparison to the other candidates. If you score 70 percentile, it means that you scored better than the 70% of the test takers.

Can You Fail in SAT?

Can you fail in the SAT? The answer is no; you cannot. SAT does not have a pass or fail criteria. However, what people mean by saying that you failed is that you scored low. So, if your score falls in the bottom 25 percentile of the scores, it is equivalent to having failed in the SAT. How do you determine whether your score is good? Each college has a certain minimum SAT score requirement from the students and those students who qualify this requirement can have their applications considered for admissions. If your score lies above the 75-percentile level usually this is good. Less than this percentile also is good enough for admission based on the minimum requirement prescribed by individual colleges. One should also remember that SAT scores not only have a significant influence on a student’s admission but also on scholarship grant.

Top 5 Reasons why you end up scoring low in the SAT

1. Appearing for SAT without Preparation

Reason- There is a common misconception that if you excel in school academics, you can achieve high SAT score without prior preparation. SAT questions are framed by professional test writers who understand the psychology of test takers. Your school standards could be different from the standards expected in the SAT. Walking into a SAT test without prior preparation could be a disadvantage to the test taker.

Remedy- SAT being a standardized test, if a student takes the effort of understanding the nature of the test, he/she can identify the types of trap questions set by the college board. Make a 3-month study plan for SAT preparation. You can either opt for self-preparation and buy the SAT study material from a book store or contact a nearby SAT training institute for private tutoring or small group tutoring. Learn the SAT test taking strategies from a seasoned SAT trainer for improved performance. Also, make sure that you have the college board practice tests handy.

2. Starting preparation without an initial Diagnostic Test

Reason- It is found that many students start their SAT preparation without taking an initial diagnostic test. The diagnostic test helps a student to realize his/her current level of preparedness in SAT and reveals the areas of strengths and weakness. Students who do not start with an initial self-assessment test are unable to make a proper study plan and end up scoring lower.

Remedy- You should always take the SAT evaluation test, which is usually available online for free. With this, you will be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This will further enable you to focus your attention more on your weaknesses and improve your score significantly in the examination.

3. Not following the Study Plan

Reason- Another reason for poor SAT scores can be attributed to the lack of a study plan. Even those students with a study plan may fail to follow it up meticulously. Students sometimes end up leaving most of the preparation for the last-Minute leading to low scores in the actual test.

Remedy- SAT is not a test you can memorize by burning the midnight oil before the test day. It requires a consistent study plan and execution in order to succeed. Start your preparation with a personalized study plan drafted with the help of an expert SAT tutor or with the help of your family and friends who have prepared for SAT earlier. It is also very important to stick to your study plan and to have a weekly review with your SAT tutor to update on your progress.

4. Not solving enough Practice Tests

Reason- Students often ignore the importance of practice tests and continue to prepare at their own pace. SAT preparation is incomplete without practicing sample test papers. Time management is a key aspect for better scores in the SAT. By not solving the practice papers, students are unable to manage their time in the actual test and end up scoring low.

Remedy- Taking practice tests at regular intervals help you to understand the progress. College Board provides 9 official practice tests for the students.  There are three benefits a student derives out of taking regular practice tests. One, Test taker will be able to learn the different types of questions that are being asked in the SAT test. Two, what time management techniques to apply. Three, What SAT test strategies should be used to improve your scores in the exam.

5. You are Too Stressed during the Test

Reason- Students may be too stressed and suffering from test anxiety on the exam day. The SAT is designed to test not only your aptitude and reasoning ability, but also your ability to handle stress. Despite spending a lot of time in preparation, if you are nervous and unable to manage your sectional test time you may get stressed over a few challenging questions during the exam and end up scoring lower than what you had expected.

Remedy- Stop your preparations 24 hours before the test day. Get a good night’s sleep. Stick to the time management plan you had perfected during the practice tests. Make sure that you answer a first set of questions you are most comfortable with and then move on to the remaining questions.

In summary, to achieve the high SAT scores that you rightfully deserve, gather the relevant material in advance, undergo a diagnostic test, have a study plan ahead of time, engage an experienced tutor, practice tests and avoid stress.