“stuck” with my SAT score… not improving, any tips?
Hey y’all; I have a question about SAT prep I was hoping some of you could help me with. I just started seriously prepping a month ago, but I’ve found that for the last couple of practice tests I’m at the same score. For reference I took the PSAT (official one) in Oct ’19 and got a 1470 (no prep) which is akin to a 1520-1530. Right now I’m in the 1530-1550 range which is great but not good enough for me; my goal is a 1560-1580. I was concerned that since quarantine/school ended my score would actually go down but it hasn’t which is a relief; however, I’m also not improving much.
I’m aware that I’m getting very few questions wrong in each section but I feel that these are stupid mistakes, and that no matter how much I teach myself in terms of material I’m still bound to mess up the same amount each time. I don’t want this to come off as bragging/self-aggrandizing but the reality is I feel that unless I’m scoring close to perfect, no-mistake tests every time I’m going to be stuck at this score. Do you have any tips for avoiding those couple of errors or scoring near-perfect in multiple sections?
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You've gotten to the point in your practice tests where increasing those last points will take hours and hours of practice. It sounds like you know the concepts and material well enough where a 1600 is possible but you keep missing it due to silly mistakes. If you're spending hours a day practicing you need to make sure you're practicing the right things. My suggestion is to start a question log journal/spreadsheet. The next time you take a practice test, do a practice section, or work on an individual problem make a mark next to any question where you're less than 80% confident you're going to get it right, maybe even 90%. You should also mark any questions you answered incorrectly. In the journal you should then categorize the question by topic (the more specific the better), write the reason why you got the answer wrong and what the correct method to solve the question was.
Keeping a journal like that will help with two very important things for you right now. 1) You'll now have a pretty specific idea of the types of questions you're getting wrong. Instead of spending 1-2 hours a day on everything you can manage your time to focus on those areas of improvement. 2) You'll now also know the exact reasons why you're getting questions wrong. This can help identify silly mistakes you might make often or certain trends in why you might be getting an answer wrong.
It's important to remember to make a mark on the questions where you're only 80/90% confident or on ones you guessed (even if you get it right). Doing this gives you a bit more data to work with so you can find any trends easier. For what it's worth the difference between a 1550 and a 1600 is negligible so I would try not to stress your out too much.
Let me know if you have additional questions and good luck!
If I were you I would stop studying so much as you're dealing with diminishing returns on your practice tests. This means that the extra effort you put in marginally increases your returns less and less. You should still study and stay warm but 14 hours a week won't help as much as you think it will. I'd also get the idea that you're just making stupid mistakes out of your head, because that's likely misinformed by hindsight bias. Mistakes are mistakes no matter the reason and if you don't recognize that and make adjustments (whether it's by changing pacing because you rushed or practicing a specific concept because you missed it) you can't improve. Also just know that a perfect score is really difficult especially on the Reading/English section. There's just some element of randomness to it unless you've mastered completely how the test thinks which is near impossible as you'll see questions you haven't seen before. Practice tests don't always define your score either, I scored a 1500 on mine and ended up with a 1570 because taking the actual test usually gets you to focus more, especially if you don't study much. I don't think there's any secret for how to score near-perfect you just need to find what works for you.
I would suggest using Khan Academy. They offer practice exercises for both sections of the SAT, and you can also take full-length tests there. In fact, after taking a test, Khan Academy will find where you struggles the most and give you some recommendations of what to practice. They also have timed mini-section. You can also log into the College Board site. Khan Academy could also use your PSAT score to help you. You can also track your scores. Hope this helps.
I totally get how you're feeling - I'm actually in the same boat as you as I've been self-studying for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT, all of which I'm capable of getting a perfect score on but can't because of stupid and silly mistakes in each section (each of my tests for the past couple of tries have been the SAT equivalent of 1550). What I would suggest doing is to step back for a minute. I can tell that you're frantic about getting perfect scores on these tests - we all do. But if you're plateauing in scores and it's simply because of careless mistakes, I think that means to just take some time off from studying for the test. I'd suggest a week of just relaxing (watching Netflix, scrolling through Tiktok, etc). If you feel that you can't handle a week off, as this is your future you're taking a break from (I totally understand it, I couldn't take a week off either), another alternative I'd suggest is taking a 3 day weekend. Still relax in that weekend; take your mind off the test. It may be just that you're brain is burnt out from studying so often. Once you take this break, rather than jumping right back into prep, take it slow and review the basics first. Chances are if you're making careless mistakes, it's the basics that you're mind is skipping over. Take it slow and then ease back into taking practice tests. I'm actually in the process of doing this myself and I find that going back to basics is really refreshing and helping me score better on mini practice tests. I hope this helps and good luck with prep; you can do it! Remember: even if you are your worst critic, know that what you do is enough. I believe in you! :)