Zach: So, standardized tests. Scary stuff, right?
Joe: They’re always a scary proposition, walking into some random classroom, sitting for 4 to 5 hours as you stare at a test booklet, and trying to solve problem after problem. On the math section especially, it always seems like there are so many intense problems that you have no idea how to even begin.
Zach: But Joe… that’s what they want you to think. That’s how they’re designed. And yes, I know that you’re playing along with my prompt for this blog post, but this is one thing about the ACT and SAT that really bugs me. Students get so wound up on these problems that they psyche themselves out before they even take a shot on the problem.
Joe: That’s the truth. Students skip over a problem because it looks like a wall of words or a really difficult-looking equation attached to it. Test takers assume that this means it must be way over their head, they won’t be able to solve it, and they miss out on those points. So what’s a student to do?
Zach: Joe, I’m so darn glad you asked that question. So darn glad. Have you ever heard the quote, “You miss all of the shots that you don’t take?”
Joe: I’m familiar with that one.
Zach: Fantastic. I have no idea who said that, nor do I have inclination to find out, but I do think that it’s an especially pertinent adage in this case. Why just give up so easily? I tell students that if they’re ever staring at one of those dinosaurs of a question, just try the first thing you see to do. Oh, you see a square root sign? Square that bad boy. You see two x plus something terms in parentheses? Foil that sucker.
Joe: It could even be as simple as flipping the equation, distributing a number, or factoring out a number. Then, all of a sudden, inspiration strikes! You get a flash of brilliance, and you know how to solve the problem!
Zach: A good time to test this strategy is on a free practice test! We offer them every Saturday at 8:45 at our office.
Joe: Good idea! I’ll look at my Saturday schedule. Once you have a baseline score, you can decide which tutoring option is best for you!
Zach Buckner and Joe Roh are Tutors at Get Smarter Prep.