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SAT Subject TestsSpanish 2005-2006
KaplanCopyright © 2005 Kaplan
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Chapter One: About the SAT Subject Tests
You are serious about going to the college of your choice. You would not have opened this book otherwise. You have made a wise choice, because this book can help you by preparing you to make the highest score you can on the SAT Spanish or Spanish with Listening Subject Test. But before you begin to prepare, you may need some general information.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before you begin, let's look at what the SAT Subject Tests are all about so you'll understand how doing well on them will help you on your college application. The information here is accurate at the time of publication, but it's a good idea to check the test information on the College Board website at collegeboard.com.
What are the SAT Subject Tests?
Known until 1994 as the College Board Achievement Tests, the SAT Subject Tests focus on specific subjects, such as chemistry, biology, American history, Spanish, and French. In all there are over 20 tests, each one-hour long.
How Do the SAT Subject Tests Differ from the SAT?
The SAT is primarily a test of your verbal and math skills. While you do need to know some vocabulary and some formulas, it is designed mostly to measure how well you read andthink rather than how much you remember. SAT Subject Tests are very different: They measure what you know about specific disciplines. Sure, critical reading and thinking skills are included, but their main purpose is to determine exactly what you know about history, chemistry, the Spanish language, and so on.
As for the SAT Subject Test: Spanish, there are actually two tests: the Spanish Test, and the Spanish with Listening Test, which has an added listening component. You decide which one you want to take. But before you decide, check to see what the college you want to attend requires.
How Do Colleges and Universities Use the SAT Subject Tests?
Many people will tell you that the SATs measure only your ability to perform on standardized tests, that they measure neither your reading and thinking skills nor your level of knowledge. Maybe they're right. But these people don't work for colleges or universities. Those schools that require SATs think they're an important indicator of your ability to succeed academically. As a result, they use your scores to help them make admissions decisions and/or placement decisions in the subject.
Like the SAT I, the SAT Subject Tests provide schools with a national standard measure of academic performance, which they use to compare applicants from different high schools and different educational backgrounds. As you know, there are great differences in the level of difficulty of Spanish programs given throughout the country, and the information from the SAT Subject Test: Spanish helps schools decide whether you're ready to handle their curriculum.
SAT Subject Test scores may also be used to decide what course of study is appropriate for you once you've been admitted. A low score on the Spanish Test, for example, can mean that you need to begin at the beginning with your study of Spanish. Conversely, a high score might mean you'll be exempt from the introductory Spanish courses.
Which Subject Tests Should I Take?
The simple answer is: those that you'll do well on. High scores, after all, can only help your chances for admission to college. You can take up to three subject tests on any given test day, but you do not have to take three tests on the same day. Unfortunately, many schools require that you take a particular test, such as the Math Test. Some schools, however, give you some choice in the matter, especially if they want you to take a total of three Subject Tests. So before you register to take any test, check with the schools you're interested in to find out exactly which tests they require. Don't rely on high school guidance counselors or admissions handbooks for this information; they might not have the most up-to-date information.
Also, you do not have to wait until your last year of high school to take the SAT Subject Tests. You should take a subject test as soon as you have completed the highest level course in that discipline. You will do much better taking the Spanish test right away, instead of after a year of not studying the subject.
When Are the SAT Subject Tests Administered?
Most of the Subject Tests are administered six times a year: in October, November, December, January, May, and June. A few are offered less frequently, such as the Spanish with Listening Test. Due to admissions deadlines, many schools insist that you take the test no later that December or January of your senior year in high school. You may even have to take them sooner if you're interested in applying for early admission to a school. Those schools that use scores only for placement decisions may allow you to take them as late as May or June of your senior year.
The SAT Subject Test: Spanish is commonly used for placement purposes. Keep in mind that you can take the Spanish Test in your junior year if you are not going to study Spanish in your senior year.
How Do I Register?
You must sign up with the College Board, who administers the SAT Subject Tests. The easiest way to register is online, at collegeboard.com, or at any high school guidance office.
How Are the SAT Subject Tests Scored?
The SAT Subject Tests are scored on a 200-800 scale. In the case of the Spanish with Listening Test, the sections are weighted differently from the Spanish Test because there is an additional listening component, but the final score is still given on the 200-800 scale.
What's a "Good" Score?
That is a tricky question. The obvious answer is: the score that the colleges of your choice demand. Keep in mind, though, that SAT Subject Tests scores are just one piece of information that schools will use to evaluate you. The decision to accept or reject your application will be based on many criteria, including your high school transcript, your SAT score, your recommendations, your personal statement, your interview (where applicable), your extracurricular activities, and the like. So, failure to achieve the necessary score doesn't automatically mean that your chances of getting in have been damaged. If you want a numerical benchmark, a score of 600 is considered very solid. (Years ago, you could withhold a score you were unhappy with, but that is no longer the case.)
What Should I Bring to the Test Center?
It's a good idea to get your test materials together the day before the tests. You'll need an admission ticket; a form of identification (check the the College Board website to find out what is permissible); a few sharpened No. 2 pencils; and a good eraser. Also, make sure that you have good directions to the test center. (We even recommend that you do a dry run getting to the site prior to test day -- it can save you the anxiety of getting lost!)
SAT Subject Test Mastery
Now that you know a little about the SAT Subject Tests, it's time to let you in on a few basic test-taking strategies that can improve your scoring performance.
Use the Test Structure to Your Advantage
The SAT Subject Tests are different from the tests you're used to taking. On your high school tests, you probably go through the questions in order from beginning to end. You probably spend more time on hard questions than on easy ones, since hard questions are generally worth more points. And you often show your work since your teachers tell you that how you approach questions is as important as getting the right answer.
Well, none of that applies to the SAT Subject Tests. Here, it is to your benefit to move around within the test. Hard questions are worth the same number of points as easy ones, and it doesn't matter how you answer the questions or what work you did to get there -- only your answers count.
The SAT Subject Tests are highly predictable. Because the format and directions of the subject tests remain unchanged from test to test, you can learn them in advance. On test day, the various question types, the format, and the instructions shouldn't be new to you.
Many SAT Subject Test questions are arranged by order of difficulty. The questions often get harder as you work through different parts of the test. This pattern can work to your advantage. As you work, be aware of where you are in the test. You can easily pace yourself.
When working on the initial questions, don't be afraid to trust your first impulse -- the obvious answer is likely to be correct. As you get to the end of a test section, though, you'll need to be a little more suspicious. Now the answers probably won't come as quickly and easily -- if they do, look again because the seemingly obvious answers may be wrong. Watch out for answers that just "look right." They may be distracters -- wrong answer choices deliberately meant to entice you.
You don't need to answer the questions in order. You're allowed to skip around as you'd like. Don't dwell on any one question, even a hard one, until you have tried every question at least once.
When you run into questions that look tough, circle them in your test booklet and skip them. Go back to them later if you've got time. On a second look, troublesome questions can turn out to be remarkably simple.
If you've started to answer a question but get confused, quit and go on to the next question. Persistence may pay off in high school, but it usually hurts your SAT Subject Test score. Don't spend so much time answering one hard question that you use up several minutes of valuable time. That'll cost you points, especially if you don't even get the hard question right.
The SAT Subject Tests have a "guessing penalty" that can work in your favor. The College Board likes to talk about the "guessing penalty" on the SAT Subject Tests. That's a misnomer. It's really a wrong answer penalty. If you guess wrong, you get penalized. If you guess right, you're in great shape.
The fact is, if you can eliminate one or more answer choices as definitely wrong, you'll turn the odds in your favor and actually come out ahead by guessing. The fractional points you lose are meant to offset the points you might get "accidentally" by guessing the correct answer.
The SAT Subject Test answer grid has no heart. It sounds simple, but it's extremely important: Don't make mistakes filling out your answer grid. When time is short, it's easy to get confused going back and forth between the test booklet and the answer sheet grid. If you know the answers, but misgrid, you won't get the points. Here's how to avoid mistakes.
Circle the questions you skip. Put a big circle in your test booklet around any question numbers that you skip. When you go back, they'll be easy to locate. And, if you accidentally skip a box on the grid, you can check your grid against your booklet to see where you went wrong.
Circle the answers you select. Circling your answers in the test booklet makes it easier to check your grid against your test booklet.
Grid five or more answers at once. Don't transfer your answers to the grid after every question. Transfer them after every five questions. (Remember, you've circled the answers in your test booklet.) That way, you won't keep breaking your concentration. You'll save time and gain accuracy.
A Strategic Approach to SAT Subject Test Questions
Apart from knowing the format of the tests, you've got to have a system for attacking the questions. You wouldn't try to find someplace in an unfamiliar city without a map, and you shouldn't approach the SAT Subject Tests without a plan. What follows is the best method for approaching SAT Subject Test questions systematically.
Think about the questions before you look at the answers. The test makers love to put distracters among the answer choices. If you jump right into the answer choices without thinking first about what you're looking for, you're more likely to fall for one of these traps. When you know the grammar well you'll recognize the right answer and can save time otherwise spent trying to justify one or another answer choice.
Guess -- when you can eliminate at least one answer choice. You already know that the "guessing penalty" can work in your favor. Don't simply skip questions that you can't answer. Spend some time with them in order to see whether you can eliminate any answer choices. If you can, it pays for you to guess.
Pace yourself. The SAT Subject Tests give you a lot of questions in a short period of time. You can't afford to spend too much time on any single question. Keep moving. If you run into a hard question, circle it, skip it, and come back to it later if you have time.
You don't have to spend the same amount of time on every question. Ideally, you should be able to work through the more basic questions at a brisk clip, and use a little more time on the harder questions. One caution: Don't rush through basic questions just to save time for the harder ones. The basic questions are points in your pocket, and you're better off not getting to some harder questions if it means losing easy points because of careless mistakes. Remember, you don't get extra credit for answering hard questions.
Locate quick points if you're running out of time. Some questions can be done more quickly than others because they require less work or because choices can be eliminated more easily. If you start to run out of time, locate and answer any of the quick points that remain.
When you take the SAT Subject Tests, you have one clear objective in mind: to score as many points as you can. It's that simple.
Copyright © 2005 by Grace Freedson's Publishing Network, LLC.
Excerpted from SAT Subject Tests by Kaplan Copyright © 2005 by Kaplan. Excerpted by permission.
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