Test Prep Mistake 1 Test Books

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Test Prep Mistakes 1 | Have your kids been told not to write in their SAT test books? Well, that is test prep mistake 1 test books and misinformation! | #podcast #homeschoolpodcast #homeschool #testprep #ACT #SAT #CollegePrepTest Prep Mistake 1 Test Books Episode 85

Have your kids been told not to write in their SAT test books? Well, that is test prep mistake 1 test books and misinformation! This is a series of mistakes parents and students believe and Jean shows you the facts and even where to find them on the college board website and how to nicely let your test proctor know, without being rude.

Did you know writing in your test book (which gets destroyed after the test and belongs to you anyway) is one of the best ways to raise your scores? In this episode, Jean shares insider information with you. Often mistakes are made and this podcast sets the record straight.

Free stuff from Jean!

Let me set the record straight: Not only are you allowed to write in your booklet, I encourage it and it’s not just me. The test-makers encourage it too. (links below)

Think with your pencil

Crystallize your thoughts on paper than solely working out problems in your head. Rather than sift through all the ideas that constantly come and go, you can clear your mind, clear the fog, gain some clarity, and simply write your ideas, or working, down. This strategy is also referred to as brain-dumping. 

Silly mistakes happen when your mind skips over something that could be instrumental in your understanding. In stressful exam conditions, you need to stack all the odds in your favor. Just note it down in your test booklet. 

There are several main learning systems and you will generally show a preference for one over the others: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Reading/Writing (which is a subset of Kinesthetic). The more systems you can engage in, the better the learning retention. In an exam situation, you can use this to your advantage by engaging Visual and Kinesthetic (and to a minor extent the Auditory system if you subvocalize when you read).

In all sections of your paper, use your pencil to markup, circle or underline the important parts in the question itself. Where you have multiple choice questions, cross out the wrong responses as you encounter them, to reduce your options. There is only ever one correct answer. If there are two that are very similar (or ostensibly the same answer where you cannot tell the difference), then that usually means they are likely both wrong.

When you read purposefully with your pencil at-the-ready, you will avoid the need for multiple re-readings of the same material.

The process of elimination is key

An incredibly useful strategy in every part of your test (except maybe for the essay) is to physically cross off those answers that are definitely wrong, first, and as you encounter them.  That’s a heck of a lot of potential clutter. Not only that, to have to read and reread wrong answers wastes precious time. If you ever go back to check answers and if wrong answers are marked, you can quickly revisit your process and not have to rework everything from the beginning. 

What this mark-up strategy is invaluable for is avoiding something called “decision fatigue”. Once an answer is excluded, it can be dumped—and out of your awareness—for good. Otherwise, your mind could be plagued by indecision and way too many options. “Resolve to resolve,” is what I like to say. Your mind will stay fresh, sharp, and alert.

Mark-up is helpful to locate the “low-hanging fruit”—or the easy marks, through a process of elimination. Give questions a ten-second once over. If you don’t know how to answer it quickly and correctly, mark it and move on. Come back to it later. If you have the opportunity to take a few passes through the test, you’ll continually knock off the easiest questions first.

A very important strategy is to have a specific way for you to denote the difficult questions, the ones you need to go back and review if you have time. Make it unique. Maybe an asterisk. What I like to do is to draw an open circle. When I go back for review and I am satisfied I have the answer—and so I know not to revisit that question yet again—I fill in the circle to make it solid.

Your annotation system means you can always be gainfully busy checking and improving your score.

Tips summarized:

  1. Identify the low-hanging fruit, the easy questions you can knock off.
  2. Use a process of elimination to identify fewer options as your final answer. Then work only on those.
  3. Mark those questions you cannot initially do quickly. Most people use an asterisk. I use an open circle that I fill in once I answer that question to my satisfaction.
  4. Go back and review questions unsure of or answered, until there is nothing more you can do, or you run out of time.

Seems crazy but don’t read the passages first. Read the questions. Underline the key words—especially comparative terms—in the questions before reading the passages. The questions will prime your brain to look for the right information on the first scan and detailed read of your passage. When answering your questions, you’ll be able to skip up to 75% of the passage. 


Math problems and pencils seem destined for each other. Remember however, that many of the questions don’t need full working out to find the right answers. Sometimes it will be as simple as eliminating the obviously wrong choices.

  • There will be times when you are not allowed to use your calculator and use of mental arithmetic is your only option. Don’t work out answers on a calculator if you don’t need to. 
  • You may be given ‘scratch paper’ but the booklet can always act as one.
  • Note down formulas and acronyms at the top of your paper.
  • Keep focus and avoid mistakes by writing down even the simplest of things. Just as with the Reading section, if you have to go back to review a difficult question, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off. If you encounter a difficult problem, then some amount of work will help you review it later.
  • When you’re given a diagram, mark it up with all the data that you’re given within the question. Many drawings are often not to scale so proportions derived by your intuition won’t necessarily be correct. If a drawing is not scaled correctly, redraw it.

There are a limited number of question-types you can and will be asked. At College Prep Genius you will learn how to approach each and every one of these. There are specific strategies that will see you power through by being quickly able to identify the type. Use your pencil to note what strategy you need to solve it. 


In this section, you also have very limited time per question. Without factoring in reading time, you have 36 seconds on the ACT and 47 seconds on the SAT. There simply is no way to finish on time. You need a system.

Here’s another hint: By marking one of the 13 recurring grammar problems, it is easier and quicker to find the correct answer. For example, if the underlined part of the passage contains the words, “not only” then circle it and find the answer choice that contains, “but also”. As you can see, there are rules you can learn to set you right.


You will handwrite your essay using the provided four-lined, blank pages. Print your work or use cursive, but either way, just make it legible. 

It’s worth remembering that the SAT essay is optional, but you will learn a reliable essay template at College Prep Genius to make it a shoe-in. You should always write the optional essay for many reasons (which is not the subject of this article).

What if someone at the test says you can’t mark your test booklet?

If you are in any doubt as to the permitted use of the test booklet, or you think others (such as the proctor) at the exam might be unsure, then be prepared. Download and print the official information found in the College Board tweet, and have it ready to present. The official College Board Student Guide notates several times: “Use the test booklet for scratch work.” You will also find information that states, “you will not receive credit for anything that you write in your test book.” 

Remember, mark-up your paper, cross out what you deem to be the wrong answers, and transfer your chosen answers to the answer sheet.

Something is awry if you’ve been asked to write your name on the cover of your booklet but told not to write inside. If for some reason, you are told not to or were prevented from writing in your booklet and it affected your score, then call SAT or ACT immediately. At the very least, you could be offered a refund or a future free test. You can also contact fairtest.org.

International testing

If you happen to be taking the test in an international center, then know there may be an exception to the booklet writing rule. This is quite normal and has more to do with booklet availability. You can request to write in the booklet if you do so before you sit the test. Make sure you do. Not being able to write in the booklet puts you at a great disadvantage.

Additional Podcasts on Financial Information for Colleges here.

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Additional Podcasts:

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