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3 Reasons Not to Fear the SAT

Do you wake in the night from dark dreams of standardized exams?

Caroline Duda, Varsity Tutors' Contributor

February 28, 2014

3 Reasons Not to Fear the SAT


In the United States, these three common letters, when combined to form the well-known acronym of “SAT,” inspire anxiety and dread in even the bravest of test-takers. Do you wake in the night from dark dreams of standardized exams? Does the test preparation aisle at your neighborhood bookstore give you the chills?

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Here are three reasons why you shouldn't be answering "yes" to either of those questions:

1. While formidable, the exam is not impossible.

The majority of high school students view the SAT as an insurmountable obstacle. In their minds, its treatment of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary is arcane, while its mathematics is unrecognizable.

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Yes, the SAT is challenging, but it is not impossible. In fact, the SAT concerns itself not with knowledge alone, but with strategy. Students who succeed do so because they are adept at “reading” the language of the exam. How can you learn to do the same? Purchase a reputable study guide (such as one with official SAT practice tests) or schedule sessions with an experienced tutor.

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These resources will enable you to better recognize what each section of the exam requires from you, as well as how to score well.

2. It is possible to sit for the SAT more than once and improve your score.

No student hopes to have to complete the SAT more than once. At three hours and forty-five minutes in length, the exam can feel like a marathon. The experience can be a rewarding one if it follows a committed period of preparation and precedes a target mark, but disappointing if the eventual score report is lower than you had expected. However, it need not be the latter outcome. There is no penalty if you choose to retake the SAT. Services like Score Choice may even allow individuals to control which results institutions receive. How can you best utilize this advantage? Arrange to complete the SAT early in your junior year. Should your mark prove insufficient, you will have adequate time to further prepare and sit for the test again. Research such options as Score Choice and use them to your advantage.

3. The SAT represents just a single component of your admissions package.

While standardized tests once played a key role in admissions decisions, this reality is no longer completely true. A significant percentage of higher education institutions now realize that such exams provide committees with only a mere glimpse of a student’s true intelligence. The majority of them will now evaluate scores within the greater context of your personal statement, recommendation letters, and transcripts. How can you enhance your chances of acceptance? Do prepare for the SAT. Admissions committees can sense when a student puts forth little effort. But, also, do exert equal care in all areas of your application. If your SAT scores are average, but your essay and transcripts are stellar, you may find that your mark of 1400 matters less than you had feared. Do not fear the SAT. With appropriate preparation and research, achieving your target score lies within your control.
Caroline Duda is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. She earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor’s degree from Saint Lawrence University.

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