Happy (belated) new year to all!! During this time of the year, you might have written down some new year’s resolutions, or otherwise reflected on yourself and your actions in 2018. What I realized was that I haven’t spent nearly as much time studying for my SAT subject tests as I should have in the past few months, and this wake-up call was enough to motivate me to set up a new SAT notebook dedicated to the subject tests (SAT 2). While I decided to set this notebook up differently than I did for the two notebooks that I had previously went through while studying for the SAT I, I thought that it would be helpful for some of you to see how I organized my SAT I notebooks to help me study more effectively and track my progress towards my desired SAT score.
This is a photo of my first SAT notebook, a greenroom notebook that I picked up at target. I really like these notebooks because of the smooth quality of the recycled paper and the small size (6 by 8 inches, or around 15 by 20 centimetres), which allows you to bring it around with you everywhere you go and squeeze in some SAT studying whenever you can >:)
Any notebook works, really, but I recommend using a blank one and making sure that you keep everything in the notebook SAT related.
The first page of my notebook is my “SAT Practice Test Progress Line Graph”, which I started around a year before my test date. The numbers on the y-axis represent the composite SAT score I earned for each of the 10 practice tests I took on the x-axis (I hope that you do a better job labelling your axis than I did! My math teacher would not be proud). I used different colored highlighters to mark when my score improved or decreased; the purple highlighter was for score increases, while the blue highlighter was for score declines or stagnation. Looking at this graph gave me a better idea of what worked and didn’t work for me during my prep. After each test, I wrote a few sentences about why I thought my score changed- what I did well, like switching the prep book I was studying from, or what I didn’t do well, like not spending enough time studying.
I split the next 30 pages of my notebook into three sections: Reading Mistakes, Writing Mistakes, and Math Mistakes (both calculator and non-calculator sections). I dedicated 10 pages to each of these “topics”, in which I documented not only every mistake that I made in each respective section of the SAT, but also the questions that I wasn’t 100% sure of the answer to.
First I wrote the name of the resource the question was from so that I would be able to reference it again if I ever needed to later. Most of the questions that I used came from the practice tests available on the collegeboard website, as well as some questions from other resources that I used to study. Then I’d write the entire question down, along with some context for reading questions that was important to finding the correct answer. The best way to avoid making the same mistakes in the future is to list the answer choices that confused you, and write a brief explanation as to why you were confused such as “I didn’t have enough time” or “I didn’t understand what ‘recalcitrant’ meant”. Identifying the issue will bring you a step closer to solving it!
Below, give the reasons why certain answer choices were correct or incorrect based on your own analysis. If you’re still unsure, read the answer justifications provided for all questions on official collegeboard practice tests. Keeping an accurate log of these difficult questions can help you figure out which type of questions you need to study more (e.g. “transition phrase” questions or quadratic function questions) so that you’ll be able to put more time into studying these topics in the future.
Personally, in the writing section, I struggled the most with “should the writer include this sentence or not” questions, as I quickly realized by the growing amount of these similar questions being compiled into the difficult section of my notebook. Whenever I came across any of these questions in my prep, I would write it down and decipher what exactly made the correct choice correct and the rest wrong. As true as it is that there is only ever one truly correct answer, it often doesn’t seem that way, and figuring out the best strategy to solve that particular type of question that you keep getting wrong is can help boost your score and save you valuable time on the test.
These difficult questions are also particularly helpful for review, as you can revisit them throughout your prep to see if you’re able to solve them with what you’ve learned from your mistakes. Going through these questions can help convince yourself of your progress and also remind you of the types of questions you need to be extra careful of (or that you’re prone to getting wrong). I spent the last two weeks before my test date going through this section of my notebook to hopefully ensure that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes when it really counted.
After the first 30 pages of hard problems, I used the rest of the notebook chronologically to document all of the topics that I covered and practice tests that I took. Our house doesn’t have a printer, so I didn’t use the official SAT answer sheet and instead recorded my responses in my notebook. However, if you have access to a school printer or one at a nearby library, I strongly recommend that you practice filling in the actual bubbles to emulate what your experience will be like on test day. If you use the print-out answer sheet from the collegeboard website, you can clip or tape it into your notebook so that you’ll have easy access to all of your SAT work in one place.
While taking the test, I made note of the questions which I wanted to include in the “difficult” section of my notebook- the questions that I wasn’t completely sure of the correct answer to. As you can see in the photo, I was a little inconsistent with my circles/ question marks, but I think that anything works as long as you’re able to remember to go over these harder questions again later.
I also recorded the amount of time that I had left after completing each section. If you run out of time, you should also make note of that so you’ll remember to work on your speed in that particular section in your future practice sessions.
Though my SAT notebook definitely pales in comparison to the impeccable notes posted by many studyblrs online, I still tried my best to keep my notes neat and used highlighters (that admittedly serve little purpose other than to add some color on otherwise dull pages of equations, grammar rules, mistakes…) If decorating your study notes with stickers and pretty patterns is your thing, then for all means, go for it! (Just make sure that you don’t spend more time prettifying the pages than drinking up more SAT info :p) On the other hand, if you’re more of a black pen kind of person, then there’s no need to try to change up your style based on what suits others. Your SAT notebook should be something that you take pride in and that shows how far you’ve come since the beginning of your prep, so treat it nicely!
I hope that this information helps you to reach your SAT goals this year!
Please let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.
Until next time,