I’ve got a kid who is bringing a cannon to a water gun fight in the SAT math section.
(Which is unusual – most of the time I have kids bearing water guns wandering around the battlefield of the hard questions. Yesterday a student misread a hard question and interpreted it as “22 plus what equals 72.” That’s not an SAT question, folks. Not even an easy one.)
This kid has two issues going on:
1. He’s using the majority of his time on the easy and medium questions
2. He’s approaching them as if they are difficult and complex
A smart cookie
He’s shooting for Yale and he knows how important it is to make sure to get ALL the questions right. He knows that the majority of the test is made up of the easy and medium questions. So he double and triple checks those answers to make sure he didn’t make a silly mistake. (A meticulous student…every teacher’s dream!)
Which is a brilliant strategy. In fact, it’s what I advise most kids to do: slow down. Focus on getting the questions right, not on answering all of them.
He leveraged this smart strategy to earn a 680 (90%) on the March SAT. A great score…but not good enough for Yale.
A complex cookie
He also gets tripped up by using complex formulas to solve easy and medium problems. For example, he was using the sequence formula on a medium question. Which works, but it’s not fast.
He’s used to doing complex, complicated math in his high-level math course. So it never occurred to him to drop back to quick and dirty math (no fancy formulas involved) to get the right answer. (Like many smart students, he was doing it the “right” way, not the fast way.)
He’s bringing a cannon to a water gun fight and it’s costing him time. He’s still getting the answers correct, but at the expense of having enough time left over to engage the hard questions. And, ironically, the hard ones are much easier for him because they’re at the level of complexity that’s he’s used to dealing with. But he doesn’t have enough time left over to answer them.
A strategic cookie
So we created a new strategy.
No more double or triple-checking easy and medium answers. Trust yourself and your abilities. No more fancy math. Optimize for speed. “Rush” through the easy and medium questions to make sure you have time for the hard questions.
(Note: DO NOT do this at home. This strategy is custom-fit for this particular kid and will not work for you.)
And boy did it work. He increased his score 60 points to a 740 (97%) on the June SAT.
(Anyone want to guess how hard it is to raise an amazing score to a practically perfect one? I’d say it is practically impossible, except my students keep proving me wrong.)
Image credit: katmystriy at morguefile
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