One of the college counseling Elists that I subscribe to recently had a discussion about a new “trick” that a test prep company was suggesting for doing well on the SAT. The trick was to concentrate on only one section of the exam at each test taking. As an example, during one test you worry only about the math section of the exam. During the next test you only worry about the critical reading section. Using this approach you might get test scores that look like this: 200-200-670 and then next test 200-640-200.
There are several potential problems with this approach. First, there is no guarantee that concentrating on the individual sections will improve your score on that section.Moreover, if you have a bad day while taking the test, even your score for the section you actually took may not reflect your best effort. In this case, you may need to take more than three exams to get the scores you are hoping for.
Second, although many colleges will superscore your results and not look at individual scores, some colleges do not superscore and some will look at individual scores. These type of scores will give clear evidence of game playing on the SAT, not something colleges encourage. If the college is given the choice between admitting a student who tried to game the system and others who tried their best on each exam, who do you think they are likely to favor? Are you sure you know which colleges will or will not look at all of your scores?
Third, the college board may hold your scores up because of difference in results from one test to the next. It is generally believed that College Board policy is to look at a particular test for cheating if scores varies by more than 300 points from another test.
Finally, do you really want to take all of those tests and spend all of that time, without using your best effort? There are some very good test prep companies out there and most would not recommend a “trick” like this. As with all things, use your common sense and if you are being told something that doesn’t make sense, maybe it doesn’t.