Tips from an Orange County Test Prep Tutor: What is an Experimental Section on a Standardized Test?
Students have probably been hearing about the experimental section on many standardized exams, such as the SAT, from their Orange County test prep tutors and classmates. They are likely wondering what an experimental section is and why they have to complete it. Taking a lengthy standardized exam is stressful enough without having an extra part to worry about. Students are right to be curious and should know the ideas behind this type of testing so they can gear their test prep in the right direction. So, what is the experimental section anyway?
1. Reading, writing, or math?
On a core subject test, such as the SAT, the experimental section can be reading, writing, or math. Students won’t know which section serves as the experimental section, something that makes many test-takers nervous. Students who struggle with writing hope the experimental section will be on this topic in hopes that it won’t count towards their final score, while students who find math challenging expect the experimental section focuses on computation. However, the tests are designed so that students won’t have a particular advantage or disadvantage in their composite score (READ: “5 Awesome SAT Apps”).
2. Could it be the essay section?
No. The experimental section is never an essay section. The essay portion is designed to communicate to universities whether or not a student is a good writer or if they can analyze and argue logically. Because there is only one essay section students can rest assured that this will not be the experimental section.
3. Can I be excused from the experimental section?
No. Although it would be nice to opt-out of the experimental section, this is not possible. The point of the experimental section is that students don’t know which one it is. Standardized testing companies want students to think the section will count toward their final score so they will try just as hard to do well in that section as they would on any other. If there is an experimental section on a test, it will be mandatory.
4. What is the point of the experimental section?
The point of the experimental section is for standardized testing companies to compute an average student score and to make the test harder or easier based on these scores. If the student average gets too low, next year’s test might be a little bit more natural while if the test seems too easy, next year’s difficulty level will be adjusted. Students take this portion to help testing companies do research on their product.
5. How will it affect my score?
The experimental section will not affect the students’ overall score in any way. It’s simply taken out of the exam and used to do research. Essentially, it will be as though the student didn’t make that section at all. However, taking an additional section that doesn’t count can lead to increased fatigue because the student is investing time and energy in an exam that is taken over multiple hours. Students who are currently suffering from testing fatigue should work with their private Orange County tutor to determine ways to improve concentration and efficiency (READ: “Last Minute SAT Study Guide”).
6. Who will look at my answers for the experimental section?
The testing company will simply take out the experimental section and use it to do research for future versions of the test. Colleges and universities will not see the section nor will they know which questions students answered correctly or incorrectly. Students, educators, and college counselors will also not know which section was experimental.