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How to Help Your Teen Succeed on the SAT Math Exam

By Debra Bell | June 21, 2013 | Aim Academy, High School, Testing
Kathryn (Bell) Gomes
Kathryn (Bell) Gomes


By Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

As a senior in high school I was guaranteed a full-tuition scholarship to Eastern University before I even officially applied.  It wasn’t because of my rigorous course load, well-written application essay, or volunteer service.  The scholarship was based solely on my SAT scores.

You might disagree with this snapshot approach to accepting and awarding students, but it should convince your high schooler to study.

The SATs are challenging, but it is realistic to think students can dramatically improve their scores.  Here are the three main reasons a student doesn’t score well and all of these can be addressed:

1)     They forget. The math on the SAT is not that broad, it only includes the most essential concepts of Algebra I, geometry, and Algebra II.  But most students have moved well beyond these courses and need to brush up on the basics before the test.

2)     They don’t prioritize preparing for the test.  Both the SATs and PSATs are normally taken in the fall.  Classes have just started and there are always countless assignments to be completed.  How do you balance AP courses, volleyball tournaments, and that hefty Gruber’s SAT Guide?  It’s difficult but in the long run earning a better math score might be more important than an “A” on that next English exam. (My mom found a way to count my SAT prep work towards my math or English credits for the year.)

3)     They don’t learn time-saving strategies.  Many of the most difficult SAT problems can be answered quickly if students know certain tricks.  The questions are designed to be solved in a minute or less. Students who use an elaborate formula or work through 15 different steps have missed an easier method.  However, many popular math programs homeschoolers use do not take time to teach these strategies.

I treated test prep as a part time job in high school. I took the SATs/PSATs a total of 5 times. (A bit obsessive?  Perhaps.) But considering the scholarship money my SAT scores earned me it was definitely a “well-paying” part time job.

Kathryn Gomes teaches SAT math prep online for Aim Academy. She is in her seventh year as a high school math teacher outside of Philadelphia. She was a presidential scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, where she was awarded 36 credits for her AP and SAT exam scores earned during high school.