As far as I’m concerned, the single most important difference between a good SAT taker and a truly adroit one is the ability to see the common threads that tie questions together. Pretty much everything you’ll find on this site was written to help you do that.

That’s why, if you try my math drills (1, 2, 3), the answer keys link you back to posts containing similar questions.  That’s why the Blue Book Breakdowns I’ve posted (Test 1, Test 2, Test 3, Test 11) do the same. That’s why, in my book, each chapter ends with a list of questions in the Blue Book to which the chapter applies. That list is meant to show you all the different ways the same concept can be tested, so that you can start to see the similarities, not the differences, between questions.

The lists also serve another purpose: they’re rough indicators of how frequently concepts are tested and how often techniques can be applied. Across sections, it’s important to internalize a sense of what you’re likely to see and what you’re not. The chances of you seeing an hard exponent question to which plug in might apply are pretty good. The chances of you seeing the word jejune (or any single vocab word) on the SAT are pretty small. The odds of you seeing a comparison error somewhere in the writing section? Incredibly high. And so on and so forth.

I’m spelling all this out now because it’s high season for self studiers, and I want to encourage you, if that shoe fits, to seek the forest behind every tree. As you take practice tests, focus not only on the mistakes you made, but the patterns that begin to emerge in the questions you’re getting right. Ask questions about your mistakes, sure, but remember that you’ll never see that exact question again, so the value of any explanation you get is in what you can take from it and apply to similar (or not-so-similar) questions going forward.

It’s easy to get hung up the details—and the details are important—but SAT prep is all about the big picture.

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