[VIDEO ANSWER] Is it better to take the SAT cold for the first time or prep first?
Test Prep Authority – Office Hours #1 – Question: “Is it better to take the SAT cold for the first time (as a junior) or prep first. I’ve been told not to in order to get a baseline or just because I may score high enough without it (I need an 1800)”[toggle title=”Click to Open Video Transcript” color=”gray”]Ah, my favorite! “Is it better to take the SAT cold for the first time as a junior, or prep first? I’ve been told not to in order to get a baseline or just because I may score high enough without it. I need an 1800.” For the love of God, do not take the SAT or the ACT cold. This is the worst idea in the world. Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re either going to, best case scenario, find out that your score is high enough, that’s usually pretty rare, or you’re going to find out where you really are and realize that you need to do a little bit of work. Now, there’s a better way to figure out where you are. It is, get the official book. So, in the case of the ACT, voila! The Real ACT Prep Guide. This is it. In case of the SAT, and you’ll see this thing is well-worn, but the official SAT Study Guide by the College Board. Get these books. Study them. Set aside four hours, take a full-length, timed, graded exam. The book will show you exactly how to grade the tests and figure out where you stand.
The only thing is that when you’re doing this, you want to be realistic about what your score is. So, for instance, don’t take it at midnight on an empty stomach because you’re going to get away lower score. You want to get a full night’s sleep. You want to get eight hours. You want to have a proper breakfast. You want to take your shower. You want to be sure you’re in a silent environment. If you take a SAT on an airplane, no. You’re not going to get a score that reflects how you’re going to do. You want to take it in your living room, all your siblings or parents know to shut up, to get out of the room, and you’re going to take this thing and really treat it like the real deal. Have a watch on your wrist just like you’re going to on the real test. And make sure that you follow the time guidelines, and do not cheat. The idea is not to get the best score possible, it’s to find out where you’re actually scoring.
Now, most of my students, when they take these diagnostics, they give them a very, very accurate idea of where they’re going to be. Most of my SAT students score within about 80 to 100 points total. I mean on all three sections, aggregate, from where they’re going to be. So if you get a 2000, you’re probably going to get somewhere between 19 and 2100. On the ACT, one point. So if you get a 33, you’re probably going to get a 32 to a 34. If you get a 27, you’re going to get somewhere from a 26 to a 28. Use the official books to figure out where you stand. Do not use actual tests as diagnostics. It’s a really, really, really bad idea. A lot of people say, “Well, we’re just going to have our daughter take the test for the heck of it.” Why would you ever do that? You’re just going to have an official score down that is probably not going to be where you want to be. So, the worst case scenario of taking a practice test in these books is that, oh no, you wasted four hours finding out that you’re already really good. Most likely, you’re going to take it and your’re going to go, “Oh gosh! I need a 2000 and I have a 1700. Thank goodness I didn’t log the 1700 in the official books.”
One thing you do want to keep in mind, a lot of people are really scared of taking lots of SATs or lots of ACTs. You don’t have to be horrified of it. It’s not that big of a deal. Obviously, there’s sort of an invisible fine line of weirdness. Like, if you’ve taken the ACT nine times, that’s insane. But, there’ll be no reason to do it because you’re already going to know where you’re standing. The ideal amount of times I usually recommend to my students is two. So, usually, I just have my students take a backup test, both for insurance and for statistical variance. The SAT superscores, some schools superscore the ACT. But in any case, just take the test twice, ideally, because then you’ll be able to go in, and might be be having a better day one day. Or, the vocab on the SAT might be really hard for you on one test, all words you randomly don’t know, and all words you do know on the next one.
You never know what it’s going to be, so just make sure that you take two tests to optimize your score. Or, you might get a concussion the day before the test. Your girlfriend might dump you the Wednesday before the test. You might get a cold. Who knows what could happen? But just be sure to register for two. If you’ve already taken two or more, it’s not the end of the world, but it does look weird if you take a ton, and the biggest thing is you don’t have to. It’s stressful, it’s time-consuming, and it’s pointless. You can figure out where you’re scoring on diagnostics, and then you can go in and take a test when your diagnostics are at the level you want them to be. Again, my online programs show you for both the SAT and the ACT exactly how to take a practice test, how to track your scores, etc. But even if you’re just doing this on your own, just be sure that you’re doing this before you go in. Do not take them cold. And that would be the definitive and very short answer.[/toggle]