Can taking the SAT be fun?

By Dennis Schulman on

I assume most people would answer no to this question. I will grant you that it wouldn’t be fun the way going to Disneyland is fun, but there are many types of fun. It would fit more in the category of playing chess, or doing crossword or other word puzzles or sudokus, for example. People enjoy all types of problem solving activities. To a large extent, the SAT is a problem solving activity. It becomes more fun when you understand it well and thus can be more successful “playing” it. As a math teacher I hear many students say that they don’t like math. But very few who say that understand math well. It reminds me of my encyclopedia sales trainer (now there’s an anachronism) who told the group of trainees, “a lot of people say they’ve tried selling encyclopedias and they didn’t like it, but what they really didn’t like was not selling encyclopedias.”

With the added element of the clock ticking, requiring students to work very quickly, it does force students to concentrate intently. I’m a sports enthusiast and I like to compare the intensity necessary to be successful on a test to the intensity necessary to be successful in a sport. When a student comes to understand the test well and can focus intently when taking the test, I believe they can have an experience that most people would call fun. I had a very interesting experience when I took the bar exam. I made it through law school many years ago and soon after took the bar exam. It is a long and demanding test, requiring intense concentration to be successful. In the middle of taking the test, I found my mind seemingly going off on its own, as if to say, “sorry, I can’t wait for your slow thinking, I’m just going to do this alone.” It really was an exhilarating experience as if solutions were being reached and decisions being made effortlessly. I work with students of all ages in mental math and try to give them a similar experience. We practice arithmetic skills mentally and at increasingly high speeds. In time it’s remarkable what the students are able to accomplish – and many will admit that it’s fun! I’ve even been stopped outside of the classroom by students (many live in my community) and been asked by them to give them some math problems, even sometimes fraction problems! This is not something that very many math teachers can say.

As to SAT prep being fun, I do feel students have more fun preparing when they become more successful. I also try to make my classes fun by adding humor – my east coast sense of humor is definitely a part of my presentation. A three hour prep class can seem a little daunting, particularly after a full day of school, but most students feel that the three hours goes relatively quickly and they do come to feel very comfortable in the class. Many comment at the last class meeting that they will miss the class and the camaraderie that was present in the class.

So the answer to whether the SAT can be fun is a resounding yes, just as most anything in life can be fun!