If your teen comes out of the SAT and says they did “GREAT!” that may be a bad sign according to Debbie Stier, author of the forthcoming book, The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT.
She recently wrote in Time magazine that research tells us that most students are overly optimistic when it comes to evaluating how they did on a test. In fact, a 2006 Brown Center Report on American education found that with the highest confidence in their math testing actually did the worst. Other studies found similar results: High confidence equaled low scores; under-confidence equaled higher scores.
It all comes down to familiarity versus mastery.
“People overestimate their performance because they have the feeling of knowing something, which turns out to be highly unreliable. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham explains that having seen or experienced something before can give the illusion that we know more than we do. Repeated exposure to a particular vocabulary word or type of math problem can lead to familiarity, but that should not be mistaken for mastery.”
When it comes to SAT, parents often worry that their child isn’t confident enough and mistakenly believe that high levels of confidence alone lead to better test performance. However, the data suggests otherwise. Erica Meltzer, the author of The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar as well as an SAT verbal tutor, distinguishes between the type of confidence that results from a solid grasp of a subject as well as the knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses, and the type of confidence that arises from an inflated perception of one’s abilities.”
“My highest scoring students think the test is hard,” she says. “I know I’ve done my job when I hear something along the lines of “There were a few questions I wasn’t totally sure about, but I think it went okay.” Meltzer says students who score in the 500-600 range are typically the least able to assess their performance accurately because they’ve learned enough to recognize the material but have too shallow an understanding to apply it in new situations. To avoid this situation, experts advise overlearning by a factor of 20% beyond the point of mastery. Chances are, over-preparation will lead to a better score and a more mature self-assessment.”
So what do you think: Did you find this correlation to be true? When they are over-confident they generally did worse than they thought? When they said it went OK, they often did better than they thought? What do you think about preparing 20 percent above mastery? I’m not sure how you gauge that because the kids are estimating that they have mastered it.