The SAT will let these students know exactly what it wants for an answer. Buried within every tedious problem, there is a nugget of usefulness. If they want "37x" instead of a regular "x," they will tell you. If they ask you what the "geometric mean" of two numbers is, chances are they've also provided you with the equation to derive it. Even the way they've named their writing questions is a leading proposition: "Improving Sentences" and "Identifying Sentence Errors." Think about the difference between those two titles-how the former isn't terrible but requires a bit of work, how the latter has an error that needs only be pointed out-and you'll see how generous the test makers really are. Though it might seem like the answer to a math question is just barely out of reach, the designers are going to make sure that a good student takes his time and works around to it.
Can you trust that what you've done up until this point-a little practice, a little experience-will lead you to your goal, be it Princess Peach or Stanford admission?
There is no expectation of prior knowledge beyond the order of operations (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction) on the math, and the timbre of good English for all the rest. How many tests do you know that give you 90% of the formulas you'll need to answer the questions right there on the page? The SAT does-including reading passages from which to mine your answers for the comprehension portion to a box full of circles, triangles, and other details to aid students in the math.
What it really comes down to is confidence. Can you apply those formulas? Can you trust yourself to guess that a word that sounds bad-like "truculence"-means something bad? Can you test a theory in the moment and find the telltale signs of progress or digress? Can you trust that what you've done up until this point-a little practice, a little experience-will lead you to your goal, be it Princess Peach or Stanford admission?
To put it in terms we can all relate to, let's focus on a game. In 1998, the puzzles in Ocarina of Time gave all of us gamers more than we bargained for. Pushing and pulling cubes, the infamous Water Temple-it was inarguably frustrating at times, but it was also worth it. Think back: When a set of bars slid down before you, sealing the way ahead, there's no way you thought, "Ah, whatever. I give up." You thought: "What can I do to open them?" You would walk around the room and look for switches or try to apply your old skills in new ways. You'd pull out your weapons, or hold up your shield - anything but give up. When, with the mirror shield on your back, you wandered through a beam of light only to see it reflected cleanly across the room, you didn't think, "Oh how pretty." No, if you're a real gamer, you thought, "That's going to be useful."