Is Studying for the SAT Useless?

The SAT is a test shrouded in myths. One of the most prominent is the idea that woven deep into the very fabric of your DNA is an “SAT gene”, and stamped on that gene is a number as immutable as the number of commandments Moses received up on Mt. Sinai. Those who buy into this idea regard prepping for the SAT as akin to moving Mt. Sinai itself.

To those people, then, I must be some kind of demigod, for every summer, I move mountains the size of Everest. Of course, I’m just a mere mortal, and this myth is about as true as Big Foot, Elvis sightings, and those green, almond-headed bipeds that abduct us in their flying saucers.

So here’s the deal. There is something called data—and the data doesn’t lie. Every week, throughout the summer, I watched as my students’ SAT scores climbed up. This year the mean was about 1700 and towards the end of the summer it was around 2000. Take that immutable SAT gene! Of course, the point here is not for me to brag about my accomplishments, but to simply explode a myth that is held so many students back. The truth: the SAT is a totally learnable test and you can—and will—improve.

Okay, you argue, but you are an SAT teacher and know all these tricks. What about students who just crack open a book or purchase an online program? First off, these so-called “tricks” are very teachable, whether they come from my mouth or are tidily condensed into a book. Secondly, the SAT isn’t all about “tricks”; it tests concepts and ideas that you should—at least ideally—be learning in class. And who ever told you not to study in school because you can’t change your grades?

Finally, an online class with a good tutor is not too unlike a real classroom. You won’t get immediate feedback on your mistakes but your mistakes often are very similar to those of other students, since it is a multiple choice test. Even the SAT Critical Reading (to some the most difficult-to-learn part of the SAT) has common traps that students fall for again and again. Granted, the essay is one area in which a book or online course might not do the trick—but the essay will probably make up only about 100 or so points.

As for the rest of the test, working with an online program can have a significant impact on your score.

The bottom line

There is only one thing we haven’t talked about, something that explains why the  average SAT scores of my students went up, and perhaps why some scores went up more than others. Hard work. So whether you take a real classroom, an online class, or open a book or two, the winning formula is hard work. I know, I probably sound like a broken record since you’ve heard this a bunch of times in your life. But, unlike some ominous “SAT gene”, hard work is something you can control. So study for the SAT; it’ll be anything but useless.

This post was written by Chris Lele, resident SAT expert at Magoosh. Learn more about SAT Test Prep here.

Is there anything wrong with this page?

Help us improve Peterson's

Your feedback is very important in helping us improve the Peterson's website. Please let us know if you notice anything wrong and we'll do our best to get it fixed right away.