[Note: This post refers to the old SAT. Though the overall point is still true: You win the SAT by accumulating the most points, not by answering the most questions.]
I’m married to a gamer. And he also happens to work in the gaming industry. Our dinner conversation often revolves around gaming and learning. Recently we were discussing how to maximize your score in a certain video game and how this affected game play. I think it has some good lessons for scoring well on the SAT test.
Here’s what William has to say:
Minimal effort / maximum effect
Not only am I a gamer, but I also program video games for a living. (It’s a tough life making video games, but someone has to do it!)
So I hang out with gamers all day and talk about gaming (in addition to doing actual work.)
One of the things we discuss is min/maxing various games – what is the minimum number of points to put into which skill on your WoW character to get the maximum effect during game play.
Even our five-year-old daughter gets it. I was playing a video game on the the Xbox and my character was nearly dead. She piped up with the suggestion that if I just let the bad guys kill me, I’d respawn with full health.
Not what you would do in real life (I hope), but taking advantage of the game rules in search of different goal is a great strategy.
Anyway, Stacey was talking about some of her strategies for scoring well on the SAT. And I replied that it sounds just like trying to min-max a game.
“Gaming” the SAT score
What is the maximum score you can get for the minimum amount of effort? Factoring in that you don’t know everything. So do you spend weeks trying to learn everything you blew off learning in multiple years of schooling? Or do you spend hours learning how to spot the questions designed to trip you up?
Bottom line: you don’t score well on the SAT by knowing everything they are trying to test. You score well on the SAT by playing the game better than the average chap. Playing the game well in this context means maximizing this formula:
score = number-multiple-choice-right * 1.0 – number-multiple-choice-wrong * 0.25 + number-write-in-right * 1.0
In non-formula terms, think of it this way. Anytime you answer a question correctly, you get a cookie. Anytime you answer a question wrong, someone takes a bite out of one of your cookies. If you don’t answer, your cookies are safe.
So don’t answer questions you are going to get wrong. Keep your cookies safe!
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