Truly Away from the Formulaic? An SAT-Less Year of College Admissions

The coronavirus has complicated the standard college admissions process, including standardized tests such as the SAT. However, it seems far-fetched for many students to abandon the tried-and-tested.

For years, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, better known as the SAT, has been a universal rite of passage for many high school students.

This year, this might not be the case.

The global coronavirus pandemic has interfered in almost all walks of life—with education being no exception. Over 400 colleges and universities preparing to receive applicants from the class of 2021 have modified their application standards: namely, dropping either SAT and ACT score requirements in high school transcripts. While most schools have opted to maintain this test-blind policy for this year only in order to accommodate for a large number of students who are unable to access testing facilities or face a deluge of canceled tests, others colleges have relaxed SAT score-sends for three years or even permanently. To say that this is abnormal is an understatement: this is unprecedented

Some may shrug this off as a one-time incident. But for many, this is bigger— a chance. It is a chance to prove a point to abandon the formulaic. We as students have been told time and time again that standardized tests are not the end-all be-all of college admissions but seldom does it feel that way. Heralded is the test-blind leeway afforded to students this year, lauded as a potential difference-maker for college admissions in future years. For years education experts have asserted that standardized tests like the SAT are poor indicators of student success in higher education. This year could be the catalyst for change as admissions officers are able to look beyond the arbitrary than usual and can substantiate in later years that a (hopefully) four-digit test score shouldn’t be one of the primary indices for classifying a student’s academic merits. 

But we may be squandering a chance for the future, as we woefully ignore an out-of-the-blue chance for change right before us in favour of our personal security. Call me a hypocrite—I’ve taken the SAT twice this year, and I wasn’t planning on stopping until I got my score—but aren’t we all hypocrites? The SAT will continue to be a staple of our admissions process year-in and year-out. According to CollegeBoard data, roughly 2.2 million Class of 2020 students took the SAT, up from the 2.1 million from the previous class. We high schoolers incessantly continue to sign up for the SATs month after month without a second thought even as we all breathe a sigh of relief that scores are no longer mandatory for the 2021 class.

“It might’ve been a great opportunity,” one senior remarked after being asked about numerous UC colleges dropping their obligatory SAT score inclusions, “it could’ve placed more stress on the importance of other aspects of our resumes—extracurriculars, service, and etcetera”. 

But when asked about whether he would send his SAT scores, the senior responded that he would, citing that “a lot of other seniors are planning on sending scores, so why wouldn’t I?”, noting “after all, it’s college admissions culture, all of us want to get a leg up on the competition no matter what it takes.” 

For years, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, better known as the SAT, has been a universal rite of passage for many high school students.

For years, this will continue to be the case. 

Lucas Lee ‘22

Featured Image: CNN

What to Do the Day Before the SAT

Just in a week… the long-awaited October SAT presents itself to students. Are you afraid? Well, fear not. Blueprint’s got you covered with some best tips that will boost up your scores last minute.

September is coming to an end. Two months into school, right when we finally seem to be adjusting to school, the deathly of the deathly is approaching. Yes, you guessed it right. The October SAT. Every year, the three letter haunts students down. Are YOU the victim of this doom? Well, fear not. Although last minute studying will DEFINITELY not help you out (don’t even try), here are some suggestions as to what you could do the day before the SAT to boost up the score with the little hope you have.

  1. Dress comfortably.

As soon as you come back from school, get comfy. The last thing you’re worried about at the moment is how you look. Get into the most comfortable position, comfortable outfit, and comfortable state. Who cares if you look like a zombie. Now is the time for you to pull off that score you so desperately wanted.

  1. Eat dinner.

Well, you might think now. Why does dinner even matter? Don’t I just have to eat my breakfast on the day of the SAT? No. Eating dinner now will not only keep you at a healthful state, but your brain will also be kept alert from the nutrition you take in the night before. Make sure to eat healthy, too.  It is important that you keep a good balance of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein.  An idea dinner would perhaps look like broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and beef. After all, nutritious food is where your brain and body will get their power source from!

  1. Review.

Yes, review. Don’t even bother learning the new stuff now. Trust me; by the time you enter the testing center, your mind will go blank with the materials you learned afresh. Let’s stick with what we know, and make the best out of it. Believe it or not, reviewing is the key to success. As long as you are able to correctly answer the materials you learned so far, you will be fine.

  1. Don’t panic.

Okay, I know. It’s hard not to panic, especially if this is your first SAT. Well, if you panic, things are going to get worse. Panicking now will get you nowhere. It will only keep you going in a deathly circle of cries and worries. We have a lot to review. There’s no time for panic.

  1. Sleep early.

This is perhaps the most important out of the five tips. No caffeine allowed the night before the SAT. Maybe in the morning, but definitely not the night before. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nocturnal person. Too bad. The College Board decided to have test on the morning, so as of now, you will have to adjust your body system according to what the College Board scheduled for you. At the latest, get to bed by 10 PM and make sure you get a healthy 8 hours of sleep. This way, you will not feel sleep-deprived, sick, or tired.

Juniors, seniors, and to whomever this may concern:

SAT does not define you as a person, nor does it define your whole high school career. Great, if you manage to pull out the perfect score you aimed for. But, don’t worry if you aren’t able to. Let’s at least get the best out of it. We are now a week into the SAT, and that means doomsday for all of you. Let’s not panic, and try to stick to these amazing tips that will give you the best score you could get!

– Eunica Na (’17)

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How NOT to Study for the SAT II’s

October’s finally here, and you know what that means: the beginning of SAT season! As you’ve probably learned by now, if you’ve been studying for the SATs, none of us really know how to study for any standardized test; especially the SATs. You can ask as many people as you’d like about how they studied for the SATs but in the end, it’ll come down to you asking yourself this question: “Did you study, or did you procrastinate?”

But don’t worry: it’s a high school student’s nature to procrastinate, and you won’t always know precisely what to do when studying for the SATs. That’s why, rather than scrambling around and looking for the best tips and tricks to ace those SAT Subject Tests, I’m here with a collection of things that you absolutely SHOULDN’T do when you’re studying for those pesky SAT II’s

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

PC: CollegeBoard

Imagine you’re back in June 2016, and you just finished the AP Chemistry course. You took the AP Chem exam about a month ago, saw that you got a 5 (WOW), and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. In fact, you feel so confident for the upcoming SAT Chemistry Subject Test in October that you think, “Oh, I’ll be fine,” and don’t want to study for the SAT Chem test. So, you catch up with your friends over the summer, get reacquainted with teachers and classes in August, and then BAM – it’s October 1st, and you’re sitting in a classroom with the SAT Chemistry booklet in front of you, no idea what the heck you’re looking at. This is exactly what’ll happen if you don’t practice before the SATs. All of that knowledge from your AP classes disappeared by the first week of summer, so you better make sure you’re buying those SAT Subject Test prep books and completing as many mock tests as you can; trust me, you’ll definitely need the practice.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

PC: Bar Exam Toolbox

This is a pretty similar situation to #1. You’re either pretty confident or you’re completely stressed out and intimidated by the very notion of SAT Subject Tests, and so you neglect starting to study until a couple of weeks before the test date. Two or three weeks is NOT enough time to be where you want to be for the SAT 2’s; plan ahead, set yourself up a week-to-week, even a day-to-day schedule if you want, and make sure you stick to that timetable.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

PC: Amazon

Oh, you claim you can just use mental math on the SAT Mathematics Level 2 Subject Test? Yeah, good luck solving those 4×4 matrix operations and trigonometric functions. Even if you could somehow work out complex pre-calculus concepts in your head without technological aid, you most definitely will not finish the Math 2C in the time given. In case you didn’t know this about the SAT already; TIME. IS. EVERYTHING. Sure, you might be a genius with IQ level 160; none of that matters when you can’t finish the Math 2C test in time and unnecessarily lose valuable points that you might’ve received if you’d utilized a calculator.



PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

Well, since time is everything, then you should probably speed through the SAT Subject Tests and try to solve all of the questions as quickly as you can, right? WRONG. Yes, pacing is important, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of rushing through the test and missing key details in the questions. Remember, the SATs are designed to confuse you. Learn how to read questions quickly but carefully, looking for any key points or hints that can steer you in the right direction.

PC: U.S. News & World Report

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

PC: McDougal Littell

For those of you who’ve taken APUSH or AP World, you know that if you abandon your textbooks, you’ll be neck-deep in trouble. Even if you haven’t taken these courses, definitely put in the effort to find appropriate resources and actually read the material that you’re going to be tested on. Historical trends and broad ideas are a big part of these tests, but you’ll only be hurting yourself if you neglect to read and understand the small details. After all, you’ve heard those stories about memorizing literally centuries of history for SAT US History, yes? They’re all true. All of them.



PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

If you want to tire yourself out and study the SATs all the livelong day (and literally, night), then go for it. Just remember; a tired mind almost always performs worse than an alert one. I can guarantee that you’ve heard at the very least once from someone that you should get some sleep before a test. Well, for the SAT Subject Tests, there’s honestly no better advice for test day that exists. You do NOT want to have to sit through an hour of non-stop multiple choice right after you’ve pulled an all-nighter cramming for that test. Chances are, you’ll probably be taking more than one SAT Subject Test on the same day anyway, so a decent amount of sleep is doubly, perhaps even triply important in that case.

Female college student tired from studying
PC: Brainscape

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

What kinds of apps do you have open in front of you right now? I’m not asking about just your laptop, but your phone, your iPad, and any other electronic

PC: The High Performance Blog

devices you own. If your answers are dominated by social networking or gaming apps, then you’re clearly doing something wrong. While some people can actually multitask and use this skill to their advantage, multitasking when studying for the SATs often isn’t the brightest idea. Still having doubts? Ask yourself this: do you really think that talking with five other people about where you guys are going to go for a trip over the winter will help you with studying Mendelian genetics and the law of cosines? Hopefully, you’ll answer no to that question.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

What if you have a question regarding projectile motion in the SAT Physics Subject Test or Jacksonian democracy in the SAT US History Subject Test? You’ll definitely want to create

PC: Magoosh

some sort of a study group and get together once in a while to make sure you’re all still on track. Besides, you’ve always heard from teachers that the best way to test whether you know your stuff or not is to see if you can teach others what you’ve learned. Having a study group and holding Q&A sessions every now and then is a great opportunity to do a self-check of where you really are in your SAT studies.

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

Let’s say you got three or four questions wrong on a SAT Math 2C practice test. Those few questions may not seem like much, but reviewing what you got wrong will definitely help you in the long run. It’s not like you know how many questions will come out from each topic on the test, so those three or four incorrect questions may turn into eight, nine, or even ten incorrect questions on the actual test if you don’t review your mistakes.

PC: FiveThirtyEight

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

What is “cheating” when you’re studying for the SAT Subject Tests? In the worst case scenario, you’re partaking in illegal business and actually cheating on the day of the exam. However, cheating when you’re still in the process of ‘properly’ studying for these tests is another story altogether. It may seem like I’m restating the obvious, but when you take

PC: The Sun

practice tests, make sure it feels as though you’re taking the real test. Put yourself in a quiet environment, set your timer, and solve away! Make sure you’re not peeking at any answer sheets or study guides when you’re conducting these ‘mock exams’ because that just won’t get you anywhere. All you’ll learn is how to copy answers and fool yourself into thinking that you actually understand the question. But please, for the love of Collegeboard, don’t cheat on testing day; you’ll find that you’re hurting others as much as yourself.

In all seriousness, this list of tips of what not to do when studying for SAT Subject Tests can really assist you when you’re trying to figure out just what kind of a study route you should take that’ll work best for you.

But remember, SATs aren’t everything. If you get a score below of what you had hoped for, so what? You might be a little disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world. So try to relax, don’t stress yourself out too much, and take the process of studying for SAT II’s just one step at a time. With any luck, these tips will help you out and you’ll get those 800’s you’ve always hoped for!

– Daniel Park (’17)

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Dilemma: SAT or ACT?

New SAT or ACT, which should you take? For this one obligatory decision every high schooler must make, Blueprint provides a side-by-side comparison of the two tests to MUYM.

There exist several questions in life that leave many on the horns of dilemma: Who do you love more, Mom or Dad? Do I finish this optional assignment? What should I get for dinner?

Now, around this time of your life, in the midst of your high school career, comes the almighty decision: SAT or ACT?

During the recent decade, with the growing trend of the global community, many students have decided to leave the country to study abroad, especially to the United States. In South Korea, a great deal of students from both international schools and normal Korean schools take the US college admission tests, the SAT and ACT. As ambitious as these students may be, according to the Institute of International Education, South Korea placed third in 2015 for the leading places of origin of international students with over 65,000 students traveling abroad to study.

In fact, such competition has given birth to a culture unique to our country—hagwons. Hagwons (in Korean, 학원) are private institutes known as academies or “cram schools” with their main purpose to provide students with supplementary assistance in education, whether it be helping them keep pace with the school curriculum or become one of those overachievers.

Among these hagwons dispersed throughout Korea are many solely devoted to the preparation of the US college entrance exams. Countless students, in hopes to achieve high academic goals on these exams, attend hagwons to be taught specific strategies and materials. Some students prefer going to hagwons, considering it as a source of great efficiency; however, some favor sticking with the traditional method, utilizing the non verbal resources to steer their own path.

But, that’s not the point here. Even before you choose to attend a hagwon or order your own Prep Book on Amazon, you must first decide which test you will take.

Here is an in-depth breakdown of the two admission tests to help you make up your mind.

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is an aptitude test which mainly places emphasis on your critical reasoning and ability to analyze real-world problems. It basically demonstrates how “smart” you are to the colleges. In total, there are three major sections, Math, Reading, Writing and Language, with an optional essay which the majority of students yet choose to take. The length of the test is 3 hours, with an additional 50 minutes if you choose to write the essay. The composite SAT score is ranged from 400 to 1600, with the Math and English portions weighing a score of 800 each.

The ACT (American College Test), on the other hand, is an achievement test meant to measure the skills you’ve learned in school. Thus, your performance displays how hard you worked in school. The ACT, similarly, covers English, Math, Reading, and offers optional essay sections. However, an evident difference is its additional science component. Ironically, despite its name, you are not required to have prerequisites or prior knowledge for the science section. Rather, you must be capable of comprehending scientific research that may, for example, be displayed in charts and graphs. Even with its additional science portion, the ACT is timed 3 hours and 40 minutes to finish these 5 portions. Ultimately, your test scores are ranged from 1 to 36.

An evident qualitative difference lies in the timing of the tests.


The SAT, with a total of four major components including the optional essay, is timed for 3 hours and 50 minutes. Thus, according to Green Test Prep, you are expected to solve each reading question in 75 seconds, each writing question in 48 seconds, and each math question in 83 seconds.


When calculated, you must spend 52.5 seconds per reading problem, 36 seconds per English problem, 60 seconds per math problem, and 53 seconds per science problem. Such shortage of time given per question requires you to be cognizant of time and to pace yourself throughout the exam.

While time management is an important strategy when taking the SAT, it is a must, a necessity, an indispensable requirement for the ACT. It is that control variable in your lab that cannot change throughout the experiment or that mandatory five minute break during the SAT/ACT that cannot be wasted. Simply, time management is that crucial on the ACT. If you’re easily distracted or pressured by time restraints, ACT is perhaps a choice in need of reconsideration.

Content-wise, there also exists a critical difference in the skills each test requires you.


The SAT reading section is solely based on your verbal skills and reading comprehensions. It is said that the SAT is objectively easier, but intentionally confusing. Although the passages themselves are more school-curriculum familiar, the questions made by College Board are however known for its traps, with a tendency to paraphrase and generalize terms to test your general reasoning abilities.


On the other hand, the ACT, is known for its straightforward and detail-oriented questions. In general, the questions are much easier to comprehend. However, again, everything lies on your budgeting of time. The time constraints demand quick understanding of all of the content.

Having seen the quantitative and qualitative differences that prevail, let us see how the division is shaped in KIS.


“I’m not really a fast test-taker. ACT in general is a fast paced test, where you have to speed read passages and questions. I chose the SAT because especially for the reading and writing sections, I can take more time to read. Like all the other SAT takers, preparing for SAT is a huge struggle for me. However, the SAT is one of those tests where you get better scores as you study more. I am nervous about the upcoming October SAT, but I hope I can push my limit and try my best to prepare for it.”—Alice Yoo” (’18)

“I chose to take the new SAT instead of ACT because, in my opinion, learning and getting used to time management skills take more time than learning a new style of reading comprehension. Personally, my brain is dysfunctional when there are quick time restrictions, for they automatically pressure me and make me perform worse than my abilities. Preparing for the SAT might be the most arduous task that I have tried to accomplish so far in my life. The scores don’t just rise magically within a few days; it takes extreme patience, mind control, and quick adaptability to improve SAT scores. These facts make me very exhausted and even devastated sometimes.”— Kay Herr (’18)


“I believe I am stronger in STEM areas. While SAT only has a math portion, ACT has both a math and a science part as well. Therefore, I think the ACT is a better method of evaluating my academic achievements. ACT is definitely challenging, but also fun because you get a chance to solve a variety of problems!”— Amy Jung (’18)

“A senior I knew taught me about the ACT because it was the test he took, so I decided to stick to what I started with. Preparing for the ACT is more about repeated practice than learning new things. You have to quickly remember the facts you learned in school.” — Yoonki Jin (’18)

So, SAT or ACT? It is difficult to draw a definite answer. Nonetheless, despite the differences that exist between the two admission tests, neither test is prioritized over the other at colleges. In fact, some colleges have established a test-optional policy, allowing you to choose not to take the standardized college admission test. Yet, if you are still in a quandary, weigh the pros and cons to decide which test fits you, depending on which skills and strategies you have. Test the waters by solving a few practice tests because now it is a matter of personal preference, and really, is completely up to you.

–Yoo Bin Shin (‘18)

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New SAT: a Radical or Promising Departure?

Is the New SAT truly an improvement?

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” Just as John Dewy has stated, education plays a critical role in our fast-developing world where almost everything is dependent on knowledge. As high schoolers, students are confronted with the so-called “educational arms race ” or the “life-determining test”—SAT. This standardized test, constructed by the College Board, is a norm-referenced exam that is globally recognized by multiple universities. It’s primary purpose is to determine one’s academic preparation for college, provide diverse opportunities and measure the ability and skills he or she needs. For about a decade, the SAT has remained constant with no changes; however, College Board announced just over a year ago that there will be a redesigned SAT called the ‘New SAT’. Their announcement not only raised concerns from students , but also debates on the effectiveness of the redesigned exam.


The current SAT and the New SAT have several divergent comparisons in its format, content, and purpose. Students who have taken the current SAT have encountered three sections: critical reading, writing, and maths whilst the New SAT will have two compulsory sections and one optional—essay writing. The critical reading section accentuates general reading comprehension skills and on specific SAT vocabulary terms; however, the latter test prioritises on one’s ability to cite evidence to their selected choices and on terms that are commonly used throughout highschool, college and even career. For the mathematics sector of the exam, the current one has questions from a broad range of concepts—such as quadratics and inductive reasoning. On the other hand, the Redesigned SAT gives students questions from a limited range that have been proven to supply for one’s preparation for college. Essay section, which is optional for the New SAT, focuses on student’s potential to construct an argumentative essay by utilising personal experiences, texts or historical events; but, the 2016 SAT puts emphasis on analysing how an author constructs their position in his or her writing.

“The new test will be more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education—rather than memorizing words and facts you’ll never use in the real world.”-College Board

Although it is said that the New SAT is an improvement from the current, many are still skeptical on whether or not it is a better way of assessing student’s academic performance. An anonymous KIS 9th grade student said in a recent interview, “I think it’s just a standard way of testing—evolving to match the new students standard.” This commonly held notion, however, is reputed in a recent New York Times opinion article. Richard Atkinson, writer of the article ‘The Big Problem with the New SAT’, rebukes the effectiveness of SAT; because, the exam ranks students rather than assess them to a rigid standard. Since the exam produces a bell-curve, parents and students tend to register for SAT-prep academies—degrading the College Board purpose of determining one’s skills and creating unequal opportunity for those who do not have the financial support to send their child to one. He, in addition, suggests that standardized or college entrance exams should be changed from  ‘norm-referenced’ to ‘criterion-referenced’—measuring one’s ability to fixed standards— so that it reduces the inequality among students and shows the true ability of one.
(Higher Education)

As juniors, sophomores, and freshmen prepare for the ‘radical or promising departure’ from the current SAT, students should always keep in mind that the best method of achieving well and acquiring true education  is to take rigorous courses throughout high school and work to best of one’s potential—and, remember, that the exam may not be a promising way of measuring your ability.


– Sarah Oh (’19)

SAT Testing Season 2015

It’s the season of stress.


On Saturday January 24, 2015, KIS students gathered early in the morning at the first floor of the high school building, awaiting the start of their SATs. This month’s tests included Subjects Tests from a wide variety, including Biology, Literature, US History, and Mathematics Level 1 and 2. Apart from the Subject Tests, KIS offered SAT 1 Tests as well.

Yunji Lee (’16)

The majority of the test-takers were juniors, but there was a surprising amount of sophomores and even freshmen who took the recent test. One out of five test takers were sophomores, and an overwhelming 76% of the test takers were juniors. With Advanced Placement tests approaching and school work never ceasing, it is necessary to recognize the extra time and effort that would have been invested into preparing for January’s critical standardized test.

Knowing that the SAT scores play a vital role in college acceptance, the KIS society naturally grows tense regarding the scores. Because of this, it is of great surprise that 40% of the test takers were absent of regrets and moderately pleased with their performance on the 24th. It is still imperative, however, to be cautious about potential cancellation of test scores due to notorious cheating scandals.

Last October, test prep companies in Korea and China were accused and found guilty of illegally obtaining test materials. Consequently, scores were canceled; not only were the scores of those with an unfair advantage canceled, but also the scores of those who had prepared with dignity. Sarah Choi, a senior at KIS, agreed. “It is unfair that innocent people simply become helpless victims of a heinous crime, in this case, cheating,” she remarked.

Hopefully, this year’s test scores will be clean from crime and accepted by CollegeBoard.

– Becky Yang (’16)

Header: Collegeboard