Don’t forget your calculator! Students frequently ask me what kind of calculator they can use, if they have to clear the memory, etc. The answer is no, you do not have to clear the memory, but you should make sure your calculator is on the list of approved graphing calculators, is a scientific calculator, or is a simple four-function calculator (you know, the kind you might take shopping, that does basic arithmetic and maybe percentages). Don’t bother to bring an adding machine, any smartphone, laptop, or any device that can access the Internet. I strongly suggest you leave your iPhone or Android device at home; I’d hate to hear of someone having his or her iPhone taken away then lost or stolen, or even worse, of someone being accused of trying to cheat on the test, perhaps because he or she had his or her phone in his pocket, didn’t realize it was there, felt it buzz, and took it out during the test to turn it off… That situation would definitely lead to many replies of “Yeah, right, I’m SURE that’s why you had your phone out during the SAT…” if the hapless student complained.
A graphing calculator can be a huge aid on the SAT, especially where you are asked to determine the graph of a function. You may be shown several graphs and asked to pick the correct graph of a given formula. You may be asked for the x- or y-intercept of a linear function. You may find that graphing a function may be the best way to solve other problems. However, a graphing calculator CAN’T help you if the exam proctors won’t let you use it. Here’s the link to the SAT calculator policy, including the list of approved calculators:
Here’s a link to the official “SAT Test Day Checklist:”
Do not forget your admission ticket and your identification. You may not be admitted to the test without them. Do NOT bring a pen. You MUST write the essay in pencil; essays written in ink will receive a grade of zero. One thing I did notice is that a pencil sharpener is not included on the list. Your best bet is to bring a bunch of sharpened wooden #2 pencils. There’s no guarantee you’ll be allowed to bring a pencil sharpener in, but you can try. It seems far-fetched that a little plastic pencil sharpener with a cap on it to hold the shavings can be seen as anything that will let you cheat or make a mess, but you never know what’s going to happen when something’s not on the list. Technically, the same list permits only two pencils per person, but I’m fairly certain you can bring more if you want. And if they make you get rid of some, you’re only out a few pencils, just as you’re only out a cheap plastic pencil sharpener if they take that away.
Location, Location, Location!
If you’re taking the SAT at an unfamiliar location, i.e., not at your school, GO THERE THE DAY BEFORE. You want to know exactly how long it will take you to drive, walk, take the bus, etc. to get there on time. You can even use Google Maps to chart out how long it take to drive, ride a bike, walk, or take public transit to the site, and when you should leave to get there on time. I wish you the best of luck getting into the test and getting a decent score if you get there late – you’ll need it.
Speaking of luck (okay, writing of luck, O Literal One … ;-) ), there’s an old joke about the mother of a successful man telling her friend all about her son’s achievements. The woman brags about how her son’s successful in business, has won many awards, is wealthy, has a beautiful wife and fine children, etc. The woman’s friend keeps responding with “Wow! Your son’s so LUCKY!” The mother finally responds “Yes, and the harder he works, the luckier he gets!” Or in samurai terms – “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” If you check everything in advance, you won’t get an unpleasant surprise when you least expect it, and can least afford it.
This also helps with travel – calling or emailing to confirm reservations, etc. can save you a LOT of grief and conversations like “You cancelled my hotel reservation?” “Yes, your card declined, and we tried calling you at 7 tonight.” “I was in a plane 25,000 miles above the ground!” “I’m terribly sorry, but we’ve already reserved your room for this weekend.” Translation “It’s not my problem, so please leave.” But I digress.
Guess Who’s Telling You to Guess?
I’m telling you to guess; that’s who! The standard advice in any review book, from any prep course, or just about anyone else familiar with the SAT, is “Guess if you can eliminate one or more choices as obviously wrong.” That’s great advice, since if you eliminate one answer from each problem, you have four left, and the ¼ probability of you guessing correctly multiplied by the one point you gain – ¼ - greater than the ¾ probability you will guess incorrectly multiplied by the ¼ point you will lose (3/16). In other words, if you guess correctly on one such question, but incorrectly on three others (which is what you’d expect from random guessing here), you gain one point, and lose ¾ of a point.
Of course, you don’t know for certain that you’ll guess correctly ¼ of the time; there’s a very small chance you’ll guess all wrong answers (¾ to the fifth power, a very small number ), and an even smaller chance you’ll guess all right answers ( ¼ to the fifth power, which is an even smaller number). However, you’re most likely to get 1 of every four guesses correct. So guess! Who dares, wins!
This brings us to the big question. Should you guess if you have no flipping idea what the correct answer is? Your chances are 1 in 5, so for every five such questions, you could reasonably expect to get one right and four wrong, which means you’d gain one point, but also lose four times ¼ of a point, which is just one point. One minus one is zero; so the most likely outcome is that you’d simply gain nothing. So guessing blindly isn’t likely to hurt you, but it’s also not likely to help you. Do it if you want. And hey, let’s be real here - If there are *that* many questions on the SAT (say, five, ten or more) where you truly have NO idea of the correct answer, you may need to do some more preparation and take it again in October, November, or December. And if that turns out to be the case, you’ll be glad you took the SAT in June, when you still had plenty of opportunity to retake the test.
With that, I wish you the best of luck! Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.