Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Practicing for the SATs

I’ve previously confessed that I’m a personality test junkie.  Who knew I’d become an SAT junkie as well?

A month ago, the high school sent out an invitation for a PSAT prep session along with all the good reasons our student might want to take it.  Even though Ling’s only a freshman, the reasons seemed compelling enough that I forwarded the e-mail to Scott and Ling, and all 3 of us decided to go ahead.

We had to go to the Kaplan site to register for the prep session. I’m convinced Kaplan's created a racket because there were a zillion options they offered, all of which seemed to cost $900.  About the only freebie was receiving a daily SAT question.  Ling and I thought that seemed reasonable, so she signed up, and a few days later, hounded by Kaplan emails, so did I.

SAT daily questions, how do I love thee, let me count the ways:

1.     According to women’s health magazines I’ve read at the gym and dentist’s office, doing puzzles and challenging our brains is an important anti-Alzheimers/anti-aging practice.  Now every day I get to participate in my own battle against dementia.
2.     As my aging brain petrifies, some questions stretch me to think again, using brain cells that haven’t been used since graduate school.  This actually feels good, like a gentle workout each morning.
3.     Because I’m batting 1000 on the verbal questions, I feel like I’ve improved and grown throughout adulthood, feeding the achievement junkie within

Of course, at least once a week the question of the day brings me to my knees.  Having avoided almost all math other than balancing my checkbook since calculus in high school, I’m batting about 500 with the math questions.  That might be good for baseball, but it isn’t good enough to get into Northwestern again. 

I actually scored higher in math for my PSAT, 3 SAT attempts, and GREs, but my brain has obviously decided that those skills were solely important for taking national standardized tests, and no longer retains the ability to process basic algebra or math. 

Here’s the question that brought me to my knees both times I attempted it:

If s=1+ 1/2 +1/4+1/8+1/16+1/32 and t=1+1/2s, then t exceeds s by:

a.     ¼
b.     1/8
c.      1/16
d.     1/32
e.     1/64

I just couldn’t get it right, even after clicking on the wrong answer 2 times.  (And only clicking randomly because the answer I kept coming up with wasn’t offered among the choices—that’s bad, when your answer based on an easily made mistake isn’t even offered!)

And forget about the probability/reasoning questions.  I'm batting 0 on those.

Turns out Ling was the only freshman who took the PSAT practice exam. 

Who looks like a Tiger Mom now?  (Or like a mom who was too easily persuaded by a high school email).  But who cares?  Please excuse me.  I need to find today’s question so I can head off to work happy.


cliff said...

The answer is e. (Math geek alert!)

Thanks for your wonderful blog - it is thought-provoking and comforting at the same time.


Janie D said...

You balance your checkbook? Wait...you use checks?

Kathy Tuan-MacLean said...

Well, I actually haven't been balancing the checkbook lately. . . But I do use checks--for kids' piano, tae kwon do, church and cleaners. All else is online!