Why the SAT’s “Question of the Day” can hurt more than help

Written by Michael Ionescu

Since it’s January, I’m sure a lot of parents and students are starting to give some serious thought to SAT/ACT prep. Whenever I do my initial consultation for parents and students I commonly hear that they try to study “question of the day” that gets posted on the College Board website every single day.

From my experience working with students, the “Question of the Day” is a largely gimmicky and ineffective attempt to help prep students for the test. I’ll illustrate the main reasons below.

1. Lack of focused time: When I teach students about effective SAT prep, I emphasize the importance of setting aside at least 15-20 min to focus on prep problems. Anything less and I’ve found that students aren’t really focusing too much on the problems, which affects information retention significantly. So spending 30 seconds to 1 minute on a problem of the day is going to do very little to helping a student remember the information effectively.

2. Too little, too late: If a student was doing the daily problem every day for maybe 2 or 3 years then maybe a student would find benefit from doing one question per day. But how many people are honestly diligently working through the daily problem every single day for that long? Chances are, the small percentage of people who may be doing that are already supplementing their learning with much more effective prep material.

3. False Sense of Confidence: The real danger is that the “question of the day” may make students feel too overconfident about their test taking ability. When I work through problems with students I tell them not to memorize how to do a particular question, because they will never see that specific question again. They will, however, see variations of that problem; therefore I try to teach the foundational elements behind a question so that they can adapt to those variations. Simply doing one question doesn’t help students understand the nuances of the questions, which is a big reason why students can have lower than expected scores.

Overall there are lots of different ways to prep, but one of the main things I can recommend to parents and students is to develop a solid plan and stay consistent with your prep. Having fragmented test prep will lead to a fragmented learning experience. I will cover this more in depth in future blogs. Have a great new year!

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