Sample text for Zen in the art of the SAT : how to think, focus, and achieve your highest score / Matt Bardin and Susan Fine.

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A Critical Opportunity

How do you feel when you"re taking a test and get a question about
something you don"t know? Your heart rate goes up. You might feel heat
in your chest or your temples. If only you had read that chapter more
carefully or memorized that formula -- but now it seems there"s little
you can do. You make up some feeble nonsense in hopes of getting
partial credit. Whether
this happens to you all the time or almost never, it"s one of the worst
feelings you can experience as a student.

It"s also something that you can count on experiencing while taking the
SAT. However, on the SAT, this isn"t necessarily a bad thing. It may
even be a good thing.

In Japanese, the word for crisis (kiki) also means "critical
opportunity." That"s because every crisis can be a turning point. How
you handle a crisis can make the difference between disaster and

At some point on the SAT, you may face a crisis -- the anxiety caused by
a question you initially think you can"t answer. How you handle this
crisis will determine how well you do. (And how you manage anxiety more
generally will determine how well you do in lots of different things
throughout life.) This book discusses the critical skills you need to
do well on the SAT: reading,
thinking, and managing anxiety. The challenges on the SAT can initially
seem tricky if not impossible. Yet the guidance and suggestions offered
here will teach you how to handle the test.

With the SAT, it"s not enough to know the material. To excel on the SAT
you must be confident about your ability to read carefully and solve
problems -- even strange, inscrutable ones -- under timed conditions.
That"s what makes the SAT so intimidating. You can"t just memorize the
material and then
regurgitate it; you have to act in the moment. Sure, there are some
things you must know for the SAT. In fact, the new SAT is designed to
include more content, like a school test. But the SAT will always
demand less knowing than the tests you take at school and a lot more
figuring out.

That"s where Zen comes in. Zen practice trains us to bring our entire
attention to the present moment while releasing the mind"s hold on
fragments from the past and future -- ideas, worries, fears, and
phantoms that can generate an endless stream of anxiety and self-doubt.
You can learn how to
manage anxiety in order to cultivate and sustain the presence of mind
that will yield right answers because you are able in the heat of the
moment to figure out even the toughest SAT problems.

As you move through Zen in the Art of the SAT, you"ll first read about
the nature of the test and discover how different the SAT is from the
tests you are used to taking in school. Once you"re clear about the
nature of the test, you"re ready to explore some of the primary
obstacles many students face -- issues connected with reading and
anxiety -- and how to overcome them. There are self-assessments that can
help you gauge whether your reading habits are up to this challenge and
what role anxiety plays in your test taking. There is also information
that can help you make a study plan, and there"s a section about
parents. (You might want to encourage your parents to read it, too.)
And, while the SAT is different from school tests and doesn"t require
that you memorize lots of material, there are some things you do
need to know such as basic math, some rules of grammar and usage, and
ways to approach timed essays. The section called "Some Things You Must
Know" covers these basics.

For hundreds of years Zen practitioners have applied mental
self-awareness techniques to everything from flower arranging to
poetry. This book can help you apply similar ideas to the SAT. Since
the test measures your ability to read, focus, and figure things out,
sharpening your mental abilities can make a huge difference in your
score and in how you feel about the test. As you learn how to ace the
SAT, you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself and build your
self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, you will discover how you can
manage anxiety and turn what initially seems like a crisis into
an opportunity. You will learn to do your best on the SAT not through
any tricks or secret formulas but rather by getting a firm handle on
the workings of your own mind.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Scholastic Assessment Test -- Study guides.