‘I think I did OK on SAT’ better to hear than ‘I think I did great!’

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.

From Time:

“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.

49 comments Add your comment

Atlanta Mom

November 5th, 2013
10:20 pm

Well, if we spend their entire lives giving them trophies for showing up, why wouldn’t they expect to have done well when they merely recognized the material.
When we tell them they’ve done a great job, and give them A’s, when the work is closer to a C, how do they know that they don’t know?

T.S.

November 6th, 2013
4:04 am

It is an interesting question. However, just waiting for one of the usual suspects on here to smugly brag about how high their kids scored.

catlady

November 6th, 2013
6:44 am

I agree with the author. Too many kids think they are exemplary. And, statistically, more do okay than great.

shaggy

November 6th, 2013
6:51 am

“Mon, what does isosceles mean?” would predict a worse outcome, and make that career as a drive through window attendant MUCH more likely.

shaggy

November 6th, 2013
6:52 am

“Mom”…maybe I should check into that fast food career.

Justamom

November 6th, 2013
7:30 am

Not surprising that kids think they are better than they are. My stepson thinks he will have millions by the time he’s 19. I hate to be the bearer of bad news…..

Mother of 2

November 6th, 2013
7:46 am

Mine came out of the test saying that the math seemed easier this time around and his math score went up. The other 2 sections still seemed hard, and his score reflected it. I wouldn’t say he did great on any section, but he was happy with the scores. He wasn’t shooting for the stars though.

My friend’s son went through expensive test prep and walked out of the test saying that he thought he did great. We were all so happy for him (and his mother who paid for the test prep). The poor kid was crushed when his scores came in. I wonder if the test prep, which lasted several weeks, helped boost his confidence but did nothing for his actual performance.

I wonder what the difference is between kids who take test prep classes and those who study on their own. The prep companies tell you that they have increased scores by large margins. The classes can be very expensive, so I wonder if people believe that they must be doing great because they are spending so much money.

motherjanegoose

November 6th, 2013
7:48 am

@TS ….if you are referring to me…I will brag! Our neighbor’s son scored a PERFECT SAT. Top that! I personally know no other student who has attained a perfect score. He was Valedictorian of his class. He just graduated from GA Tech and has an amazing job. I am very proud of him and his parents too. A fine young man.

I think that children who have a PT job, during HS, may have a better taste of the real world. SOME people, who may not have done well in school, can be quite successful too.

I met a teacher whose nephew was brilliant and finished HS early and then college too. He was home schooled and had very little social experience. She told me that his employer was thrilled to get him but he was let go rather quickly as his social skills were lacking and he could not function in an office environment. Sad but true.

lk

November 6th, 2013
7:57 am

We are paying the price of protecting our children from feeling bad. The participation trophies don’t apply to real life and they don’t develop the skills of identifying when they aren’t succeeding and overcoming adversity in order to succeed. Too many of our young people feel if they show up they should get the credit. I see it in the work place when recent college grads don’t achieve their goals and then are surprised they didn’t get their performance bonus anyway. It really does seem to come as a shock to them.

motherjanegoose

November 6th, 2013
8:00 am

@ Mother of 2…we did not do the test prep and I did wonder if it was worth it. Mine had scores that got them into UGA, so they were good with their scores.

motherjanegoose imposter at 7:48 and 8am...

November 6th, 2013
8:07 am

…we know because we all know her son went to UGA, not GT -the first rule of imitation is to know your facts before looking like a complete dumb arse…

motherjanegoose imposter at 7:48 and 8am...

November 6th, 2013
8:08 am

motherjanegoose imposter at 7:48 and 8am...

November 6th, 2013
8:09 am

…and I was only trying to help…

motherjanegoose imposter at 7:48 and 8am...

November 6th, 2013
8:10 am

….I will go back to my “mon’s” basement now…

motherjanegoose

November 6th, 2013
8:15 am

I am motherjanegoose, as posted. Please read my post. MY SON went to UGA and my daughter is there now. My neighbor’s son went to TECH and HE is the one with the perfect score. What is your problem? No imitation here…please READ the post. Did I miss something?
TWG…how is it that this person posted FOUR times and did not get kicked out?

You lie!

November 6th, 2013
8:33 am

Why would someone with a perfect SAT score go to Georgia Tech? Sounds fishy.

Techmom

November 6th, 2013
8:44 am

O’well at least Imposter tucked his tail when he realized the mistake.

My son did pretty miserable on the SAT and ACT but honestly, I didn’t expect him to do incredible. He’s never done well on standardized tests and spent all of about 1 hour using the study-prep software I bought. One of his HS classes did spent 6-weeks on test prep but who knows how much he paid attention. These classes are great ideas but I sort of wonder about their effectiveness. But he scored high enough to get into the state university he wanted to so there wasn’t much motivation to take it again (and “waste half a Saturday and another 40 bucks”). He is definitely the kid with that questions why people do things just to do things. It’s a good trait albeit frustrating sometimes!

Honestly if your kid is going to an in-state school in Georgia other than UGA or Tech, the requirements are pretty low and those are the only two schools turning people away.

motherjanegoose

November 6th, 2013
8:45 am

@ You…He could have gone elsewhere but that is where he wanted to go. He had other offers, for sure, and we wondered what he would do. I believe if it was announced at his HS, then it is probably true. His parents did not tell me. I congratulated them and they obviously were proud.

Can we get back to the topic?

@lk…” I see it in the work place when recent college grads don’t achieve their goals and then are surprised they didn’t get their performance bonus anyway. It really does seem to come as a shock to them.” I sit next to executives on flights and they say the same thing. This is why I wanted mine to work, while they were in school.

FCM

November 6th, 2013
9:01 am

“Hermione, we’ve been through this before.… We’re not going through every exam afterward; it’s bad enough doing them once.” – Ron Weasley

(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling)

non committal mind reader

November 6th, 2013
9:05 am

I think that this is probably (generally) accurate. I was a straight “A” student. I have two college degrees, and a CFP exam under my belt. I NEVER come out of a test saying that I did great. I come out of a test totaling up the things that I know I got wrong, figuring out how much wiggle room I have to score well.

RJ

November 6th, 2013
9:06 am

In the end, whether or not your child scores are okay or perfect, their success in life will be determined by their work ethic.

WitchyWoman

November 6th, 2013
10:00 am

@ RJ This is sooo true. I will only add to that the ability to deal with other people who at times are complete idiots or know it alls.

Off Topic:
Interestingly enough, there was an article on MSN the other day about how 60% of millennials (sp?) quit their ‘dream”jobs. One of the reasons was that they didn’t think they were getting paid what they were worth. It’s like they are thinking “I’m great. Everyone has said I’m great, Why can’t you see this?” Then they quit. My husband said one of the engineers they hired had a break down after 1 month because he couldn’t handle being responsible and not being seen as a something special (he was surrounded by other engineers). His father brought in the note from the doctor. They kept the job for him, but he later quit anyway.

Techmom

November 6th, 2013
10:27 am

I also think we put too much emphasis as a society on having a “dream job”. Most jobs are NOT dream jobs but they pay the bills and enable folks to be fulfilled in other ways.

Lorne

November 6th, 2013
10:38 am

“My husband said one of the engineers they hired had a break down after 1 month because he couldn’t handle being responsible and not being seen as a something special (he was surrounded by other engineers).”

That’s ironic since engineers are pretty much the only people who see engineers as “something special.”

Kat

November 6th, 2013
10:46 am

What child wants to tell their parent “Boy, I sure screwed that up!”? I think every kid that completes the SAT should feel as though they did great just by finishing the darn thing.

HB

November 6th, 2013
11:04 am

MJG, the person who posted 4 times was defending you against a mistakenly perceived attack. He/she fumbled, but really was trying to be nice to you.

Denise

November 6th, 2013
11:13 am

I agree with this. I never, EVER said I did well on an exam even if I knew I did well because I could count the ones I had questions about and always believed that I got the wrong. Neurosis….

Because of the way the SAT is/was (?) graded I wanted to make sure I applied to schools that took the ACT. I did better on the ACT. I didn’t get the score I wanted the first time, even though it was great, so I took the prep class for the second test. Waste of time, effort, and money. It only raised my score one point and I “needed” 2 points to get my “goal score”. (How ridiculous, says Denise 22 years later.) I think prep classes are for students that don’t know how to take tests or are on the bubble for not knowing enough material to get a qualifying score. There is no way I would have gotten a 13 on the ACT, which was a qualifying score for some schools so why did I bother. Because I wanted a 30! A 30 would not have gotten me a different scholarship than a 28, but you could not have told my competitive (neurotic) self that then.

Also….engineers ARE special! WE are!!! I promise. :-)

Miss Priss!

November 6th, 2013
11:46 am

Jane … dear …. you’re screaming at your fans in all caps. Less is more, sweetie. Less about you, please.

Thanks, Techmom and HB...

November 6th, 2013
12:17 pm

…for trying to point out to mamajane that I really was trying to help – my reading comprehension got in the way of my ultimate goal – sorry if I offended you mamajane; as the others said, I really was trying to help and I did tuck my tail out of embarrassment and tried to make it right – I only came out of the basement because my mom said it was lunch time…

jarvis

November 6th, 2013
12:59 pm

WTF does this even mean, “experts advise overlearning by a factor of 20% beyond the point of mastery”.

Please….tell me how to quantify that 20%.

motherjanegoose

November 6th, 2013
1:41 pm

Well, I never said I had a strong SAT score. I guess I misinterpreted what those posts meant. I also misinterpreted what Obama meant when he said, ” If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor”. Lots of things are ambiguous these days. Seems many folks are at odds about it.

@Miss, sorry to annoy you. In my line of work people want to know what I am up to and how my ideas are being applied. Guess I forget that when I shared here.

@ Techmom…I do have my dream job and most days I love it. I was at a school today that has invited me over 100 times. They are almost like family now. Ditto for my husband and my son. Our daughter has just started with a new job, at a national company, and so I am not sure if this will be what she wants to do. I know many people who tolerate or hate their job and that seems so unfair but if you have to have a paycheck, you do what you can. I admire those folks who stick it out even if they are not happy but I wonder why they don’t try to do something else.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 6th, 2013
2:17 pm

witchy woman there was another millennial story from yesterday I will try to pull if I have time — very interesting demographic group –

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 6th, 2013
2:22 pm

jarvis — I am with you on that — huh???

motherjanegoose

November 6th, 2013
2:30 pm

@ TWG and Witchy…this is why I encourage kids to have a job and see what they are up against, before they hit their career days.
.
The store manager who hired my son 10 years ago, to work the counter, called his current store manager, when she saw his name in a memo and that he was being hired as Pharmacy Manager. She told him, ” You are darn lucky to have him!” He asked, “How do you know him?”
She replied, “I hired him at 16!” Their stores are about 30 miles apart.

My daughter was just hired because she works with another local company that is well known and the current employer told her that when she saw the name on her resume, she knew she would be a good employee. We will see how this pans out.

shaggy

November 6th, 2013
2:38 pm

I showed wife this study and laughed at her because she missed “hypotenuse” when she took her SAT. She thought it was some kind of pot holder. I was laughing really hard…until she hit me with a Pythagoras.
My head hurts…I’m going back to my shop and the little refrigerator with the beer.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 6th, 2013
2:52 pm

ASU journalism school does an amazing job helping the kids network and place them with internships — I think it makes a huge difference when they are looking for jobs. They are constantly having job fairs on campus.

jarvis

November 6th, 2013
3:03 pm

Millennials…..they are by and large oblivious to their worth. My good workers appreicate their pats on the backs, but the no so good ones think they should be getting them too.

I have a chronic underperformer on my staff that is constantly complaining about being “under appreciated”.

Techmom

November 6th, 2013
3:21 pm

@MJG – career changes are difficult at best. I’m not up for saddling myself with the additional debt of school or a significant pay cut in order to change careers. When I first started my career I did find it enjoyable, but add in the stress of corporate America and sluggish economy and it’s simply not enjoyable anymore. Maybe things will improve, maybe they won’t… in the end the mortgage company and grocery store don’t really care about my state of happiness, they just want to see the money. My point is that I think we put too much emphasis on being fulfilled by your job. Yes, it’s nice when it happens but there’s also fulfillment in knowing you can take care of yourself and your family and hopefully you can do things outside of work that give you fulfillment.

Yeah, jarvis, I had those underperformers, too...

November 6th, 2013
3:24 pm

..when it came time for layoffs mgmt., in their infinite wisdom, laid ME off – they could save a lot more money doing away with mgmt. rather than poorly performing employees who actually did the “not so much” work – this sounds like I was underperforming, too, since my charges were, but when they compared my group to the other managers group every month and quarter in our office, mine was the better performing group – yet they still got me – oh, well, live and let live…

xxx

November 6th, 2013
3:38 pm

How you felt you did is absolutely useless, when the score comes back and you KNOW how you perfromed, is the time to make decisions. That’s what wrong today, people want to feel rather than earn their achievements..

Miss Priss!

November 6th, 2013
4:09 pm

Well, sweetheart … just give them your web site address! That’ll save you so much more time to talk about your lazy husband and your daughter and your son and … your daughter and your son and your lazy husband and … Oh, God.

Denise

November 6th, 2013
4:41 pm

Theresa, my post is in limbo somewhere.

Anyway, I agree that how you feel about a test means nothing, just the score does. However, in the time between taking it and getting the score, feeling positive does help with the passing time. I am not an optimist, period. And I stress a lot. I have always been that way. I wonder if it’s genetic. :-) I would have loved to feel confident and had an easy time between test and score regardless of the final outcome. I’m sure the kids that don’t do well, even after feeling great about their performance, don’t feel bad long because someone tells them it’s okay to be mediocre. Or worse, that their mediocrity is actually excellence.

motherjanegoose

November 6th, 2013
7:40 pm

@ Miss Priss…you must be confused…my husband is not lazy.

As I told Techmom…I love my job …most days. I am happy to be paid to share what I know and I enjoy doing it too! Lucky some folks want to meet me in person and others want to pay to learn what I know.

DB

November 6th, 2013
11:38 pm

My son is a natural test-taker, he took the SAT twice, the second time to see if he could hit a perfect score (he didn’t :-) . My daughter, on the other hand, hated the SAT but felt good about the ACT, and turns out she did much better on the ACT.

Ironically, the “dream job” right out of the college is seldom the “dream job” two or three years down the road . . . goals change, priorities shift, and what was perfect at 23 can be a bore at 26. What I wish for students is the knowledge that they are masters of their fate — not the guy who might be temporarily writing your paycheck.

SmartyMom

November 7th, 2013
9:33 am

My daughter came home from the SAT test knowing she missed at least one question. She looked up the answer that day! When her results came back, She had only missed that one question. Sometimes confidence is just a reflection of reality.

I didn't know...

November 7th, 2013
10:38 am

…that they actually told you which ONE question (out of how many?) you missed on the SAT…

DB

November 7th, 2013
11:55 pm

@SmartyMom — yeah, my son was like that — he knew exactly which one he had missed, but I think it was on one of the subject tests that SAT gives, not THE test.

SmartyMom

November 8th, 2013
9:28 am

No, of course they don’t tell you which question you got wrong, but when she looked up the answer she knew she answered it wrong. So when the results came back with a score of 1580 ( this was the old scoring system), she already knew which question she had missed. She was the co-star student that year at her high school, got a great scholarship and got her degree from the Savannah College of Art & Design. She’s not arrogant about her intelligence and never takes success for granted. She knows how to work hard for what she gets.

Fk

November 9th, 2013
8:37 am

The SAT is reasoning. ACT is knowledge based. They are college entry exams and should not set your child’s life course. Some kids test better. Some kids run faster. Some are just smarter. Some are intelligent, but stupid at the same time. Some take longer to mature. You cannot change that. However, if you hit a roadblock, seek an alternate course, and then you may find yourself on a completely different path. That alt course just might open doors that you never even knew were there.

So your child does not score so well on the SAT. Take the ACT. So your kid does not get into #1 school choice. Start at another and reapply as a transfer student. Or, perhaps that #2 school offered opportunities that the first did not offer.

Life is a series of choices. Sometimes you make the right ones, and sometimes you don’t. Hopefully, we all learn from our mistakes and grow. Remember to take the time, to take a step back, to look at the big picture, and don’t get lost in myriad of details. It’s never too late to alter the plan. Reevaluate and move on. Don’t cry over things that can’t cry over you.