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Use Crowbar, Ace Test

CJ Hayes | 29 Jan 2012 13:00
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I am a test preparation teacher and tutor. My bread and butter is the SAT. The test is a bit of a sham, but it's still the measuring tool of choice for American universities. If you want to get into a college, you take this test. If you fail, you face the consequences. I've spent thousands of hours with students, in groups and one on one, teaching them the ropes. I've worked with corporations and on my own. I have taken mediocre scores and propelled them forward into greatness. I have former students wandering the halls of most any university you can name. But it isn't easy. It takes work, from me and from them. Not everyone needs prep, but those who do are missing something vital, something I have to teach them.

I don't teach math, reading, and writing. I teach gaming.

I don't teach math, reading, and writing. I teach gaming.

Slack-jawed students stare at SAT books like they're written in another language. To the uninitiated, they essentially are: How would you solve a problem that has wingdings of alien faces in place of the numbers? How about a crudely rendered cactus where there should be a lettered variable? How would you tackle a problem that is entirely made up of variables, or one that references a graph that doesn't exist?

The only good answer to these questions is that you'd start with what's possible and work toward what isn't. You'd start with what you do know for certain and fill in the blanks on the things that you're missing. You'd walk right past the door to the final boss because you don't have that key yet, and you'd return when you did. That's how it's done in Hyrule and that's how it's done here.

On the SAT, like many other standardized tests, nothing is as obvious as you'd like it to be. Instead, everything is twisted, ever so slightly, away from the ordinary. Originally, the test was designed to see how prepared a student was to enter college, but today, it is nothing of the sort. Though the letters SAT used to stand for Scholastic Aptitude Test, they now stand for absolutely nothing: The SAT, stripped of its acronym status, has also been stripped of its academia. In place of that supposed stricture, you'll find logic and reasoning to the nth degree in a place where words exist only to test your ability to figure out words, where shapes and numbers are printed only to test your ability to manipulate them. It's an exercise in personality, choices, and diligence. All you have to do is adapt.

The first thing I teach my students about any test is just that. They've played these games before, but never with these stipulations. The gamers in my class understand immediately when I say there's a difference-like switching from Halo to Call of Duty, or Final Fantasy VII to Final Fantasy VIII. You've seen these things before: You've read, you've done math, you've corrected sentences, but there's something else at play here. This test is from a different designer and he has different ideas in mind for you. Discover what he wants if you plan to beat the system.

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