Stuyvesant’s SATs: Stress or Success?

Issue 15, Volume 112

By Millie Bell 

While Stuyvesant seniors have recently completed their college application processes, most juniors are just now beginning it with their SATs. For many, the recent tests offered by Stuyvesant were their first attempts. Feelings of concern and anxiety were replaced by senses of relief for some, while in other cases, fear. Stuyvesant students’ methods of preparation for their SATs had an impact on their expectations for the test, and many were able to learn from their results to guide their preparation for following attempts.

Though the vast majority of students who take the SAT do some type of preparation prior to their test, methods of doing so vary from student to student. Some choose to hone in on their weaker subjects and do assisted preparation for those areas. “I felt more confident that I could just self-study for math,” junior Alika Peker said. Peker found that her weaknesses lied in the Reading & Language portion of the test, so she chose to only get an English tutor. She reflected that most of what she learned was more beneficial in learning about succeeding on the test itself, rather than specific content-based knowledge. “[Getting a tutor] did help a little, but more in terms of test taking strategies than teaching me things I didn’t already know,” she elaborated.

Many students chose to self-study and found that taking practice tests aided in their preparation. “The types of questions in the [tests] I took were exactly what I expected based on the practice tests I had taken before,” Peker reflected. Overall, taking practice tests, alongside studying repeated errors, was generally found to be an effective test-preparation strategy.

Despite extensive preparation for the SAT, there are always other factors that simply cannot be anticipated. Most students who took practice tests found that while the practice questions themselves were the same level of difficulty or harder than the real SAT, the official test-taking experience changed the outcomes significantly. Multiple students found that their nerves prevented their peak performance, and even if they were generally able to complete their practice tests on time, they found themselves rushing to finish sections on the real test. To junior Alexandra Tsar, despite her overall positive feelings surrounding her test-taking experience, she still felt as though her performance on practice tests was better. “I think my nerves prevented me from doing as well as I probably could’ve,” she said.

Those who have taken the SAT can offer nuanced pieces of advice to the next generation of test-takers. Students generally suggest assessing strengths and weaknesses prior to beginning the test-prep process in order to eliminate any unnecessary work. “Find out your strong suit early, whether it’s math or English, and really focus on narrowing down smaller errors that come with speed,” junior Sagy Liberman recommended. Students also found that a major component of the test was learning how to overcome nerves so that they don’t interfere with the testing process. “Overlooking words and overthinking are probably the most common cause of mistakes,” Liberman noted.

One may recognize that there are multiple attempts available for the SAT. Additionally, the SAT’s focus on comprehension rather than memorization means that cramming is not only unnecessary, but entirely ineffective. “Definitely don’t study the night before,” Peker encouraged.

Because the SAT is less knowledge-based, many studying strategies that students are well-versed in for their academic and subject testing are ineffective. The SAT requires students to comprehend and analyze detailed readings, edit grammatical issues in writing passages, and solve complex, multi-step math problems. However, little of this test is memorization-based, hence the arguably most important SAT study tip: don’t study the night before. For the SATs, long-term preparation and short-term relaxation are helpful strategies to receive desired scores on the test, as well as increase comfort with the test format. “It’s important to remember practicing increases your personal confidence [with the test] as well as your ability, and confidence is highly important,” sophomore Ty Anant explained.

Anticipating the arrival of their SATs, some underclassmen have begun to consider preparation but have not begun their studying as of yet. “I don’t really want to worry about [the SATs] right now; I’m so stressed out with all of my APs that are coming up and all of the summer programs that I have to do with college that I can’t really deal with them right now,” sophomore Lily Serry explained. Serry took the PSAT in the fall and found it relatively doable, assuaging much of her stress. Once she begins preparing for the SAT, she plans to do one-on-one tutoring, as that method was successful for her in taking her SHSAT, the comparable high school admissions exam.

Anant had similar emotions towards the tests, feeling that focusing on AP exams is currently more important. “I also think I’m going to take the same approach as I did with the SHSAT, since now they have similar formats,” Anant said.

Taking the SAT may appear a daunting task for underclassmen. However, with adequate preparation, it doesn’t have to be so stressful. The key to the SAT, as has been discovered by many of those who are well-versed with its format, is to learn and practice strategies early on so that when the test day comes, the element of surprise is minimized. “I think the most valuable thing from my experience in test taking and performance in general is to just provide yourself with enough of a foundation of practice and work that you’re confident you can succeed on the actual test,” Anant advised.