Are you looking to get a perfect score on the digital SAT or PSAT and are wondering what it takes? In this blog, I’m going to talk you guys through what it is going to take to get a perfect score on this test.
I recommend that you check out our digital SAT prep course, which is going to be dropping in the next couple of months. In order to know when it drops, you can subscribe at supertutortv.com. In addition, we are looking for beta testers right now to help us test some of the material that we’re going to be putting into the course. If you’re interested in, for example, getting free access to a practice test or some math drills and things like that, be sure to reach out to us at supertutortv.com. We also have private tutoring as well as sometimes group classes online, so be sure to check out our website for all the awesome things we offer. We also have an ACT prep course, if that’s something you’re interested in.
Be a Calculator Ninja
Number one: be a calculator ninja. Here’s what’s really cool about the digital SAT: you now not only get access to a calculator that you can bring from home, but you can also use the built-in Desmos calculator, which is extremely powerful. I am literally scratching my head and wondering when the College Board is going to figure out that you can totally blow through several math questions per test just on Desmos alone in crazy ways.
Let’s take a look:
Now, if we wanted to solve this the traditional way, we might set these two equal to each other and then figure out that we have a quadratic. And if I want a single solution to that quadratic, I have to have a discriminant that is zero, because then I will get a single solution. So that’s the traditional way to solve it.
Now, let’s look at the Desmos solution in action. If you go to Desmos.com, you can actually pull up the exact calculator that you will see on the SAT. You just go to Test Practice and choose Graphing Calculator. You choose Assessment, and then go to College Board, and you’ll find the calculator there. So, I graph both equations, and this cool little thing pops up that says add slider for “b.” Then, I just slide it up and trace it until I’m on both lines. Do you guys see how easy that was? I hope I’ve convinced you to learn Desmos.
I also highly recommend that you get calculator programs and a TI-84. The TI-84 is my favorite because it’s programmable and there’s a lot of really useful stuff on it. I’m not going to get into those because I have several other videos on how to work your calculator mojo, so check those out for more information on that.
Know How to Do Every Problem in Multiple Ways
Number two: know how to do every math problem in multiple ways. Remember, we’re talking about a perfect score here. I have taken the SAT an embarrassing number of times as an adult, and I have always gotten a perfect score on the math section. One of my secret tricks is not never making a mistake, but always catching my mistakes. And the way that I do that is that I have the ability to complete the test very quickly. And then two, I can do each question twice or sometimes even three times. I can always approach it in a different way than I did the first time. And it is extremely rare that if you make a careless error on a question, if you redo that question in a different way, you will make the same mistake. But if you do it in the same way, it is very probable that you will make the same mistake.
And you just saw how I approached the earlier question with Desmos. If I were going back over it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I always want to do the problem forward in multiple ways, but I at least want to be able to double-check the question in a way that’s different from how I did it. So with that question, I might take 3 and 9 and plug them into each of the equations. And that would be a second method that I could use to check my answers.
It also speaks to flexibility and problem-solving. If I know how to approach something from many different angles and can break it into pieces, then I’m going to have a much better math brain, be adaptable, and be able to get a perfect score on this.
Learn Math Shortcuts
The third tip that I have is to learn math shortcuts. Remember how I talked about doing every question twice? Well, the only way you’re going to be able to do that is if you can super speed through some of the questions, and the best way to do that is to learn awesome shortcuts.
Now, here’s the good news. The math section of the digital SAT is super similar to the previous paper version. That means you can use all my math hacks and tips that we already have on our YouTube channel from years ago, and they will still be valid. So, check out our math hacks and tips videos.
Understand Vocabulary and Nuance
Number four: understand vocabulary and nuance. So, vocabulary is back on this test in a huge way. 19.3% of the released official Blue Book—which is the practice test app—questions that we have seen involve vocabulary, which is a lot. However, these are not what they used to be on the old versions of the exams. The majority of them do not even have very many hard vocabulary words, and at most they have two. Most of the time, these questions are difficult not just because of the difficulty of the words that you’re choosing between but also because of the difficulty of the sentences themselves that are constructed and things like double negatives.
Here is an example:
What makes this question hard is the use of negatives, because it can get confusing, and then you can trip over yourself and put the opposite of what you actually want to put.
About 3/4 of the questions don’t even have hard vocabulary in the vocabulary question because it’s more about the logic and trying to trip you up and making sure that you have everything straight. You need to get good at these questions. You need to understand vocabulary, but you also need to understand nuance. Sometimes you have a couple of words that are similar in some ways, and you need to be able to tell the subtle differences between them.
But at the same time, I’m also going to make a caveat. If you want to get a perfect score, here’s the thing: one or two questions per test do have hard vocabulary in them. And so that means that, just to get those one or two questions right, you might want to learn a lot of vocabulary. Now, that being said, if you’re not actually aiming for a perfect score, you don’t have to necessarily get a vocabulary book. It’s not the first line of attack for lower scorers. But if you’re aiming for that 780+ on the reading, I do recommend that you start to study some vocabulary.
Be a Punctuation Pro
Number five: be a punctuation pro. Another type of problem that comes up really often in the reading section is what they call boundaries questions. These have to do with mid-sentence punctuation: things like colons, semicolons, dashes, and commas, as well as phrases like dependent clauses and independent clauses and how they work together.
To be a total grammar pro, you probably need some reinforcement that’s beyond Khan Academy and the College Board at this point. Right now, Khan Academy only has about five practice questions per type of question, which, I’m going to be honest, for boundaries questions is not enough. When it’s 12.6% of the test, that’s like maybe one test worth of practice, so it’s really not enough. Whether you get a book, my online course where I’m going to walk you through lots of tricky boundaries questions, or a digital book of sorts, you need to be practicing these kinds of questions in order to do well.
Break Things into Their Logical Frameworks
Number six, I want you to learn how to break things into their logical frameworks. This test is reliant on logic in ways that the old SATs were not. It almost reminds me of the LSAT or the MCAT. One particular kind of question that’s really challenging is called command of evidence textual questions, and it’s asking you which of the following would best support or would most undermine the claim that the author makes. In order to figure these out, you have to go to the claim, then the evidence, and then you have to step through line by line to figure out what the logic is. You have to go through and delineate all the logic and figure out what the chain of cause and effect is, or if there are any missing links in that chain. You could anticipate the answer before you look over, but you’ve got to figure out the logic.
Differentiate and See Nuanced Differences
Number seven is that you need to be able to differentiate between answer choices and see nuanced differences. Understanding nuance has always been a skill on the SAT that has come in really handy, and this test is no exception. You have to have a capacity for seeing nuance, and you can’t just be going in bold strokes. You have to be able to get into the little, tiny details and say something is slightly better because of this or something is slightly worse because of this, and really edge into what’s going on with the information that you have.
Use Real Materials and Tests
Number eight: use real materials and tests. In terms of where to get those, number one is the Blue Book app. If you don’t have the Blue Book app yet, you should get it. There are four real official digital tests, and you can also do extra time if you happen to have extra time in those. In addition to that, there’s one regular-level PSAT and an 8/9 PSAT, which is probably too easy for people trying to get a perfect score, but it’s more official information.
The other thing that’s been released are what we call linear tests. These are PDFs you might find floating around on the internet, and there are four of them. But here’s the problem with the linear tests: they repeat a lot of items that are on the Blue Book digital tests. So, if you are going to scope out the linear tests, I recommend either finding a list of which ones are unique or doing the linear test after you’ve done the Blue Book, and then you can skip over the ones that you recognize.
Finally, Khan Academy has some practice items. I will warn you: it is not robust enough to get a perfect score. They have maybe five questions per question type, which is just not enough to prepare for them. So, you’re going to need more practice material than what the College Board offers, and this wasn’t necessarily the case in the past. For the ACT, for example, I recommend that 80% of your material be official tests, but that’s just not available for the SAT at this point.
Take at Least 20 Practice Tests
So, that brings me to number nine, and that is that you need to take probably at least 20 practice tests. Of my students who’ve scored perfectly on the SAT and the ACT, the majority of them have taken over 20 practice tests. I think I only have one that didn’t, and he started at 1580.
Twenty practice tests is usually the minimum. I had one girl who got a perfect ACT score, and she took 40 practice tests. So, you should be taking a lot of practice tests if this is your goal. Again, there is a caveat. Most students who are prepping for the SAT are probably going to take somewhere between five and fifteen practice tests, not twenty plus, but perfection takes more work.
Drill Down What You Missed
Finally, when you prep for the test, make sure you are always drilling down what you specifically miss, and finding patterns in your learning and reinforcing those. That’s going to be the most efficient way to prepare. So, that means you take a practice test, you figure out what you missed, and then you drill it down. In order to do that, again, you need resources beyond Khan Academy and the College Board.
To get those resources, you could buy books. You could also check out our digital SAT course that’s going to be coming out soon. Again, we will have lessons on every single type of question. In addition, you can import your Blue Book tests’ results, and we will spit out a customized study list based on exactly what you missed and tell you what you need to work on more. We also do the same process with our own practice tests. We’re going to have, I think, initially a handful of practice tests, and we’re hoping to add even more. So, if you need more material, we want to be that prep resource with which you can practice how you play.
I hope you guys liked this blog and that it was helpful for learning how to get a perfect score on the digital SAT!