After five months of trying different strategies to prepare for the SAT exam (read my previous post to find out how I prepared), I felt fairly confident that I knew what to expect on my November test date. With just about two weeks between the exam and the deadline for my early decision application, I had been studying hard to get a score that would enhance my application. I still faced lots of challenges to getting the score I wanted, but I was sure at least I knew what those challenges would be.
However, the day did not go exactly as I had planned. That is, it started out well enough, as I sat down and tackled the first sections the SAT threw at me.
Sections 1 and 2
The first section of the test is always the essay. Although I had always used an outline while practicing, I decided it wouldn’t be necessary this time. I remember writing as fast as I could for almost the full 25 minutes. As I read back through the essay with about 2 minutes to go, it felt like it was the best one I had ever written.
The second section was a Mathematics section, and that turned out to be great as well. I completed the section 10 minutes early, and I even managed to recheck my answers. It was in fact a pretty good start.
After the second section, it was time for a five minute break.
Sections 3, 4 and 5
Then came the Writing section. Although I did not finish ahead of time, I finished exactly in time and the questions, in my opinion, were somewhat easy compared to what I had been practicing with.
The same with the next section, which was a Critical Reading one.
After another short break came the second Mathematics section, which also went well. Things seemed pretty smooth so far.
The one thing I made sure of during practice was never to get bogged down on a single question. I have a habit of staring at difficult questions until I get a satisfactory answer, but on the SAT you have to just move on. But I guess some habits are just too hard to break.
Section six was my first Critical Reading section. I got stuck on one question in that section. I even remember the question number; it was 13. All of the potential answers seemed false, so I read the passage through again. And then again. As I read the question once more, the test proctor called out, “5 minutes to go.” I had 10 questions still to go! I was terrified – petrified, to be honest.
It took me a minute to realize what I had to do next. I skimmed through the rest of the questions, hoping that I guess right. By the time the proctor said, “Pencils down,” I was still four questions from the end.
Thankfully, at least it was time now time for the third break.
Sections 7, 8, 9 and 10
I remember going out for the break, and I remember forgetting to eat the snack that I had brought. All that was going through my mind was, “I’m doomed.”
I was feeling thirsty from all the nervousness and pressure. And whenever something bad happens, another bad thing follows – the water dispenser was not working. Thirsty and hungry I entered the test room with a pale face. My stomach was growling as if mice were wrestling there for the piece of bread I had eaten that morning.
I was relieved to find out that the next section was Mathematics, my strongest. But in all the nervousness I was unable to complete the Mathematics section ahead of time like I always did. I completed just in time with a random guess on one question, which I left for the end.
After that, frankly, I do not remember much of the other sections. I felt like something was choking my brain and making it harder and harder to think. But I do remember one thing: the next two sections were both Critical Reading, and the passages were very long and difficult.
I’m sure the final section was a Writing section, but only because the last section is always the writing section.
Writing the Certification Statement
After the test is over, the last step is to complete the Certification Statement, promising that I had been honest in my test-taking.
I literally felt like crying as I wrote down the statement, but I held back because I never cry in public, at least not visibly.
I got my results just about a month ago. I was having snacks at my brother’s house when a friend called to ask me about my results. There was no internet there, so I asked him to tell me my scores. “Critical Reading … ” he began. My heart stopped momentarily and I ceased chewing. “… 580.” I swallowed my rice, half-chewed in a single gulp. After that was a 780 on Mathematics – I banged my head on the wall beside me for the one question I had guessed so carelessly. Then, finally, a 640 on Writing, with an 8 on my essay.
I took out my calculator and added it up. It was 2000; not bad for a first try, but not good enough. I did not even meet the average component (CR+M) score of the college I was applying to early decision – an application I was submitting only two weeks later.
At first I lost confidence, but with my SAT II subject tests coming up the following weekend, I couldn’t let myself get psyched out.
I turned in my early decision application on October 29, a few days before the deadline, and now I will just have to wait and see. Although I do think that the SAT scores may affect my application, I hope that the admission officials are interested in more than just my exam scores. I’m glad I gave my best on all the other application components, and instead of regretting my SAT results, I will take the experience as a lesson to learn for when I take the exam again in December.