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Sat math, test-taking abilities, math ability

  1. Mar 3, 2013 #1
    sat math, "test-taking abilities," math ability

    hey all,

    are there good reasons for scoring low on the sat that do not stem from poor math ability?
    what do these 'test-taking abilities' consist of and how do they operate?

    i took a practice test today and i scored in the 580 range. now, i guess i want to examine some idea that leaves my confidence intact, because i really do like math, and i think i'm okay or not bad at it or something- i want to major in math- and i've had success in the past outside of formally-recognized channels. i mean- if this can be measured objectively enough.

    i had omissions and a bunch of stupid mistakes. i think i'm poor at prioritizing problems and i did some things like forgetting to divide by two, squaring instead of multiplying by two, misidentifying a prime number and so on. maybe i need to think about the omissions more (more interesting, illuminating)?

    i guess i am asking for some stories, ideas and advice from others on here: does anyone have similar experiences? ideas about what might go wrong when taking a test versus practicing mathematics elsewhere? what would it look like if i was 'bad at math' versus 'bad at test-taking'? and what would it mean to be 'bad at test-taking,' anyway?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Not really ... disabilities severe enough to factor in usually have exemptions. Consider: those tests have been around for a long time and, in a way, the ability to take the test is part of the test. Most things I can come up with like memory and concentration skills are arguably part of maths anyway.

    There are some rules of thumb - i.e. get good sleep the night before, eat a balanced diet (eat lightly before an exam), keep fit, study, stuff life that. Things that are not math but contribute to your performance in any activity.

    Figure out what you consistently have trouble remembering and write it down on a crib sheet. Night before the exam, read the crib sheet before you go to bed. Just before you enter the exam room - read it again. The idea is to store this stuff in short term memory ... the second you are told you can start writing: write down all you can remember of the crib sheet on the back of the paper.

    But if you are good at math then the crib sheet will be small - so this is unlikely to be a big effect.

    The biggest killer is blanking out in an exam. That is usually overwork and stress.
    Do not study in the hour ahead of the exam - do something quiet, peaceful, and, above all, nowhere near the exam room. (I think I got that off a Harvard study - but cannot find it.)
  4. Mar 3, 2013 #3
    so is it possible i'm just no good?
    i don't think this is the case, or i hope not, sincerely-
    how would i know?

    how do you know if you're good at math?
    is an sat score (or something like it) the best way to know?

    (i'm obviously unhappy with my score.)
  5. Mar 3, 2013 #4


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    I didn't get an 800 on the math section (possibly another reason why I didn't get into MIT >.<). I wouldn't say I'm great at math but I also wouldn't say I'm bad at it. I don't know what getting an 800 says about one's mathematical ability but there really shouldn't be a reason you couldn't get an 800 or near there if you WERE good at math seeing as the questions are not all that difficult. It is, after all, a standardized high school examination that doesn't go beyond euclidean plane geometry and trigonometry; we aren't talking about the putnam, IMO, or even USAMO here.
  6. Mar 4, 2013 #5
    i guess for completion's sake (as in, i don't know if anybody cares otherwise) i should mention that i am returning to math after a somewhat lengthy leave (at my age? i had an unconventional education to begin with..); it's possible i need to brush up on my skills again.

    but i still think talking about ability can be interesting, so we could continue if anyone's up for it.. or not, because i dunno how much there is to say?
  7. Mar 6, 2013 #6

    Simon Bridge

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    I spend a couple of years studying exams and what they mean in terms of measuring something about the person taking them. It's a fairly big topic. However, whether you are "good at" an academic subject area or not is pretty relative - depends what you have to do with it - presumably you've been getting away with using and thinking about math in a way that does not work well for the test.

    It sounds to me like you do need to brush up on your academic and core math knowledge - there must be no end of SAT primers around. Use one.
  8. Mar 7, 2013 #7
    How much practicing have you done? I seem to recall that the SAT is written to make the average 500, which is done more by making the test tricky to those who haven't studied it, rather than making the material hard. Make sure you know all the tricks of standardized tests (guess if you can eliminate at least one wrong answer, etc.) before concluding that you wont do well on the test.
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