[school] How to get a 2400 on your SATs, Michelle-kindergarten-style

Or rather, not only how to get a 2400, but how to improve your SAT score overall. You caught me– the Pirandello-reader, Julie-Mehretu-appreciator, grades-obsessed, glasses-wearer-because-she-wakes-up-too-late-to-put-in-contacts, libertarian, Asian child in one of the best liberal arts college in the United States got a 2400. Typical, right?

Not really. I was only No. 3 in my graduating class of 286, and if anyone was going to bet money who was going to get a 2400, it would have been my best friend, the perfectionist and valedictorian, who never got anything but A’s (that means no A minuses). She eked out a 2360. Also, the first time I took it, I got a 2150. Yep, that’s right, I had a 250 point jump. So that one groggy morning in June when SAT scores were released, I was sitting in the school library, trying to make sense of the three identical numbers: “WHAT!!!! I GOT A 2100?!! THAT’S LOWER THAN MY PREVIOUS SCORE!” Then I was thinking, maybe I should check Google Calculator to make sure 800 x 3 was 2100 (and to think I got an 800 on Math). It came up as 2400. The rest is history, and now I get treated by my family in China like I’m a Messiah. Though I’m not sure I’m as legendary in my old high school as that girl who skipped senior year and went to Harvard instead.

Collegeboard: "How to Improve your Scores" VERY FUNNY!!

Since I’m Asian, obviously all of the Asian parents flock to my mom now for advice, in fact, an Asian mom called home today to ask my mom what to do with her honors student daughter who only scored an 1800. I told my mom to tell her these three points:

  1. Set a target score.
    This should be based on your own ability and the schools you want to apply to. This also must be realistic. For example, I regularly scored over 2000, so a 2200 was my goal. Having a target score will help you focus on what you need to work on. For me, I needed to raise my math over the 700 threshold.
  2. Practice regularly.
    One to two months before the test, do practice questions. This can be as short as 20-30 minutes every day. This is crucial because the SAT is not a measure of how smart you are, but rather how well you can take a test. The more you get used to the type of questions through practice, the better you will do. I would recommend a variety of practice materials, like Princeton Review, McGraw Hill, and Barron’s (I always found Kaplan to be easier than the SATs).
  3. Relax.
    Don’t kill yourself with preparation. Psyching yourself up and killing yourself over it always opens up a huge avenue for disappointment, no matter how well you do. I’ll let you in on a secret: the day before the SATs, I always stayed home from school and watched some TV, read some Harry Potter, got lots of sleep. So, when I walked into the school at 8AM the next morning, I was reasonably happy and relaxed. Trust me, when you’re happy, your test results tend to be happier.

Of course, I know this advice is very simplistic and vague. Ultimately, it really depends on the individual to assess their abilities accurately—-these guidelines will help you shape a good routine.

I submitted several reviews on Amazon.com for practice books, and if you are considering any practice book at all, please look into Barron’s Writing Workbook, which saved my life. My general advice for prep classes is that if you are already scoring over +2000, these classes will not be a help, and you would be better off studying individually (save your money for a celebration after you get your 2400, obviously). Also, I would advise not to take the SAT more than twice; take the first SAT in January or December and then the second one either in May or June, if necessary. That will give you time to recoup.

Currently, I am also a CR/W SAT coach for the non-profit, Let’s Get Ready. If you have any other questions about the SAT or the college process, as a parent or student, I would be happy to answer.

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One thought on “[school] How to get a 2400 on your SATs, Michelle-kindergarten-style

  1. Pingback: [school/advice] AP exams, tips, and tomfoolery « the innocent lam

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