SAT Prep Facts & Myths

The most effective and easiest way to achieve your peak SAT, PSAT and ACT scores is to understand and avoid the myths and use the SAT facts to your advantage.

Things to Know Before Beginning SAT Prep

Optimal SAT Prep, brought to you by Tripathi Learning and Enrichment Center, has been helping students raise their SAT scores since 1993. The vast majority of our thousands of students have raised their SAT scores significantly. We focus on developing your mathematical problem solving, critical reading, grammar, and essay writing skills. We don't teach you how to guess. We help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and patiently help you improve your knowledge and confidence. With our training and diligence, your SAT scores and self-confidence will increase.

What You Must Know About the SAT Before Signing Up for a Prep Course

The SAT is a college entrance exam designed by College Board. Originally, "SAT" was an acronym for Scholastic Aptitude Test designed to predict a student's success in college.  Several years ago, the College Board decided to rename the test and simply call it the SAT without any mention of the word aptitude. For decades the College Board, in its reports or through its spokespersons, has directly or indirectly suggested or implied that the SAT measures intrinsic ability of a student's knowledge and problem solving skills. College Board further claims that there exists a true score for each person at any given time, and this score cannot be significantly changed beyond say 30 or 50 points per subject, i.e., math, reading and writing.

We believe that anyone who is willing to study and acquire the relevant skills can significantly improve his or her SAT scores.

Ten Myths About the SAT Prep and SAT Scores

1. Myth: The obvious answer is obviously wrong.

I have heard this from hundreds of my students, many of whom took other prep courses before coming to me. For a student with superior understanding of the subject matter, the "obvious" answer is, in fact, often correct. Students with a weaker grasp of the material are more prone to selecting an "obvious," but incorrect answer choice.

2. Myth: Students with high GPAs have higher SAT scores.

Not necessarily true. In fact I see 15-20 students every year with GPAs of 3.7 to 4.3 with SAT scores only in 1500-1800 range (out of 2400).

3. Myth: The knowledge (and habits including poor problem solving and analytical skills) acquired over several years of schooling can be changed quickly with tricks and tips.

No. Poor knowledge, problem problem solving habits and vocabulary can't improve magically. To see how you can systematically improve these skills and raise your SAT scores, please visit Optimal SAT Prep.

4. Myth: Improving fundamental knowledge is so difficult that the quickest way -- and for many the only way -- to improve the SAT scores is to eliminate wrong answers and to guess the correct one.

If you know enough to realize that an answer choice is incorrect, than gaining enough knowledge to determine the correct answer not too much of a stretch.

5. Myth: In sentence completion questions, the most complex (long word) is the likely answer.

I first heard this from one of my best students B.F., who attended a top high school and went on to attend Princeton University. Complicated word choices such as "cantankerous" should be selected without knowing what they mean!

6. Myth: Many students should not even attempt difficult math questions on the SAT.

Any student who has taken Algebra II can learn (or relearn) the material necessary to ace math sections on the SAT.  Several of my students have gone from 250-300 to over 550, 600, or even higher in math.

7. Myth: Test prep courses are ineffective in raising SAT Scores (see "SAT Coaching Found to Boost Scores -- Barely" in The Wall Street Journal) 

Whether or not a test prep program helps you depends on three things: 1) How effective a course is in helping you learn the material and improve your problem solving skills in relation to what you already know. 2) How diligent you are in studying the material so that what you learn becomes fully integrated into your problem solving approach. 3) How effective you are in retaining what you learn (this is why you must practice and review).

8. Myth: You can increase your SAT score without any review or independent practice.

Developing the thinking skills needed for success is a process that requires diligence and repetition.

9. Myth: The only reason to retake the SAT is to correct your mistakes in bubbling answers and your pacing errors.

This is what College Board has often recommended on the back of the SAT score report! If you are not happy with your score and you are willing to work hard to build your problem solving skills, than retaking the test is worthwhile.

10. Myth: If you retake the SAT, your scores won't go up by more than 20-50 points in each area.

The College Board or its representatives have stated this in past years, as in this report. The College Board believes that near the end of his or her high school years, each student has a "true score." Moreover, the College Board believes that this true score cannot be dramatically changed. Based on my two decades of experience, dramatic improvements are possible with diligence and proper guidance.

Ten Facts About How to Raise SAT Scores

1. Fact: Most students who are willing to make adequate effort can increase their scores significantly. Each year, I have students who increase their scores by 200 to 400 points over 3-4 months.

One of my first students, D.W., went from 420 to 1060 (out of 1600) and received more than 6 NCAA scholarship offers for basketball.

2. Fact: If you improve your problem solving knowledge, skills, and speed, than your scores will increase in all areas of the SAT.

Our strategy is to identify and bridge gaps in your knowledge base and motivate you to practice what you learn so you can confidently apply newly acquired skills in an actual test setting. We demonstrate specific methods which enable you to handle problems you could solve before.

3. Fact: A high GPA does not ensure high SAT scores. Unfortunately, even students at top high schools do not always develop strong problem solving skills.

In each of the past six years, I have seen several students who received A’s in Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, or Calculus but cannot confidently solve SAT-level problems such as the following:

If you go from City A to City B at 60 km/h and return from City B to City A at 90 km/h, what is your average speed for the entire trip?

If you start painting a wall with P gallons of paint and finish after Q gallons of paint are used up, what percentage of the paint is left over?

If Q is 5% of C then tQ is what percent of tC?

4. Fact: A low GPA does not mean low SAT scores.

Fortunately this is especially true for many diligent students who are willing to learn good problem solving skills, improve execution speed, and improve critical reasoning skills and vocabulary. Each year over the past 20+ years, I have had 7th and 8th grade students scoring 700 to 800 on the SAT math section as well as 650 to 750 or higher in English.

Almost all high school students who are willing to learn and to practice diligently can raise their SAT scores to 600-650 in each section of the SAT, regardless of GPA. The fact is that many high school students spend far more time on sports and other extracurricular activities than on improving their math problem solving or critical reading skills. If a small fraction of that time is diverted to academics or test prep, substantial improvements are possible.

5. Fact: The SAT is an easy test.

This statement is counter-intuitive, but it is true. The statement can be best illustrated by simple math questions which are rated as "difficult" by The College Board but are in fact easy to learn for most students.

Consider one type of world problem that many high school students and The College Board would consider to be "difficult":

If 9 pencils cost W cents, how many pencils can you buy for $P?

I typically have five to ten 5th and 6th grade students who can correctly solve this problem by setting up a proportion and converting all values from dollars to cents.


Armed with the above facts and myths about the SAT, you can find out how Optimal SAT Prep can raise your scores.