Friday, June 01, 2018

2, 800, 44

Concerning the SAT Math Subject Test, the three most important numbers are:

2, 800, 44.

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2:

You should take the SAT Math Subject Test, Level 2 (SAT2M2). There’s virtually no reason for anyone to take Level 1.

Here’s why:

SAT Subject Tests allow students to pick the two subjects at which they most excel and then show off by getting very high scores on those tests. A very high score on Level 1 of the SAT Math Subject Test is meaningless, because it begs the question: “If this student is so good at math, why didn’t she take the SAT2M2?”

And that would be a good question. If you’re so good at math that you’ve chosen mathematics as one of your two subject test areas, you should certainly be taking the most advanced level of the math subject test, which is Level 2.

Opting for Level 1 of this particular test defeats the purpose of choosing this particular subject area in the first place.

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800:

A perfect 800 is the score you want on the SAT2M2. Fully 20% of students who take the test get this score. A much lower score, once again, kind of defeats the purpose of electing this subject in the first place.

By choosing math as one of your two subject test areas, you’re declaring yourself to be a hotshot math student. You should therefore be able to score in the top 20%, which means you want an 800 on this test, or darn close to it.

The good news is that this isn't that hard to do, as long as you’re truly good at math, make the best possible use of your calculator, and work hard to prepare (i.e. take lots of practice tests, assiduously critique the results, and do careful error analysis and regular review).

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44:

This is the number of right answers you need out of the 50 questions presented on the SAT2M2.

Notice that you don’t need a perfect score to get a perfect score. Not even close. You only need an 88% (44/50) to score a perfect 800. No one can tell the difference between someone who gets 88% of the answers right and someone who gets 100% of the answers right; on the SAT2M2, both students receive the same scaled score: 800. So you’re shooting for 44. Anything above that is nice, but superfluous.

What about the other six questions?

You get a pass on these six. You can skip them all, get them all wrong, or skip some and get some wrong. It doesn't matter.

Here’s why:

According to the most recently released official SAT2M2 practice tests, you actually only need a raw score (correct answers – .25 * incorrect answers) of 43 to get a perfect 800 scaled score. If you skip all six questions, your raw score is 44. If you answer all six incorrectly, your score is 42.5, which rounds up to 43. If you skip three and get three wrong, your raw score is 43.25, which rounds down to 43.

No matter what you do with the other six, as long as you get 44 right answers on this test you’ll receive a perfect 800 as your SAT Subject Test score.

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You can, quite likely, do this.

Anyone who could score 700 on their own just sitting down and taking the test with no prep at all (requiring a raw score around 33: e.g. 35 right answers, five skips, ten wrong) can score 800 with strong preparation, plenty of practice, good calculator skills, and the right calculator programs.

And once again, if after a year of high school precalculus you can’t just sit down and get a 70% on this assessment (35/50), you might want to pick another subject test.

For more SAT2M2 advice and resources, click here.

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