Non-trad student & SATs: advice please...

It’s been years since high school, let’s see, I graduated in 1983. I don’t even remember taking the SATs, although I know I had to have then, because I ended up attending college right after graduation, for a few years. I think I scored pretty well, but I couldn’t give you the scores without some research.

Fast forward 15 years or so. Never did get a degree, but have been working the past 3 years on finally getting one at a community college. I’m planning to transfer to a four year university in the fall of 2007. One of these universities requires I retake the SATs- The SAT I and two SAT IIs: a Math Level II and another of my choice. I know the SATs have changed relatively recently, but that doesn’t matter since I don’t remember how the original ones were.

Any advice from the Gallery on preparation, what to expect at the test, things to watch out for, etc?


Note: I do not exactly qualify as a Non-traditional student.

Note 2: I got ridiculously high scores on the SAT without studying.

Note 3: But that was some time ago, before they changed the format.

I would start by either visiting the bookstore or the local library (or hitting up college students you know) to acquire a SAT review type book which contains several practice tests. Take one, under conditions somewhat similar to a real test–minimize distractions, follow time limits, that sort of thing. See what your score is. If your score is good (enough), check out what areas you wish you’d done better on and practice them. If your score is bad, think about an SAT prep course, or studying on your own or whatever else someone suggests.

But really, before you stress too much, find out whether you really have a reason to be stressed.

The good news is that high school doesn’t prepare you for the SATs; using study materials designed for the SAT is what prepares you, so you’re at no disadvantage. Do use at least some materials actually prepared by the fine folks who bring you the SAT. There’s probably a package that includes “actual SAT tests” (not “actual SAT items”) that you can purchase. Use up to date materials–I used a GRE book that was a year out of date, and because they’s changed the structure of a section, I walked in to the exam rather unprepared for that part.

I am a non-trad student (I also graduated from high school in 1983!) and when I decided to go back to a four year university two years ago, they waived the SAT requirement when I asked about it. I did have to take placement tests for math and English classes, but that was it.

I agree with the advice given above. I recommend taking a practice test. If you do well, go ahead and take the real SAT. If you don’t do so well, ask if you can get it waived. If you can’t get the requirement waived, follow the study advice given.

The reason I say to take it if it looks like you do well is it may help you in terms of being taken seriously as a student. I recently took the GRE again, scored about as well as I did the first time, and being able to provide good, recent scores helped me establish a lot of credibility in the application process.

You’ve probably realized this, but the new format has a new scoring system. 2400 is a perfect score, and your score is the sum of your scores on each of the sections, which are each worth 800. The math section is quite similar to the old format, the old “English” section is now the “Reading” section with those pesky analogies dropped, and the new section, 'Writing," is simply writing a 20 minute essay from a prompt. Just keep an eye on the clock during the writing section, so you can finish cleanly.

Take a practice test of some sort, and get a preperation book, ideally from the same people who wrote the SAT. Most of the people who think it’s unbearably stressful either walked in expecting it to be stressful and talked themselves into it, or tried too hard to focus and were worn out in the first half hour. Just get a good night’s sleep, eat a decent breakfast, and relax once the test starts.

On the bright side, the writing section is brand new, and you can capitalize on that. I’m starting college this fall and my class was the first to take the new version. Practical upshot? Colleges didn’t know what the hell a “600” on the writing test meant yet. They’ll have some idea with you, but they’ll still be unsure exactly how to take it, and so they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt to some degree.

All excellent advice, thank you.

I’m looking at several different universities, all automatically waive the SAT for transfer students, except one- Stanford. They absolutely insist I retake it. I better start practising!