Test Prep | Minecraft | Fall 2012

5 Ways Minecraft Can Help Improve Your SAT Score

by Alexandra Ding | for StudentAdvisor.com

minecraftIn case you are one of the uninitiated into the world of Minecraft – Minecraft is a clever, award-winning game for people of all ages that as has sold over eight million copies on PC and over twelve million copies across all platforms.

Standing behind a cobblestone wall, you hear a hostile mob approach and get your diamond sword out. Is it a spine-chilling skeleton? An eerie Enderman? A zealous zombie? It rears its ugly head as you turn the corner and you realize that it’s something even more dreadful...the SATs.

In Minecraft, time spirals around like a glitched and caffeinated spider jockey as you try to rip your nerdy self away from the computer. You replace your pickaxe with a pencil and weed through a massive book, finding comma splices instead of emeralds, figuring out geometry instead of redstone. “Ughh... There’s no way I’ll be able to do this in time :(,“ you frown. But wait. Did you notice how you looked for that subject verb agreement as automatically as you spam torches around fortresses? Didn’t you just eliminate that response with the same vigor with which you massacre mooshrooms?

Let’s relate the seemingly unrelatable and see how Minecraft, a Swedish sandbox game, is like the dreaded American standardized test we know and love!

1. You’ve got to mine the cobblestone before you find the emeralds

Let’s be honest: the SATs are four hours of nitty gritty grammar, soporific reading sections, and barely masticable math questions. Preparing for them means many more hours of concentration, practice tests, and tutoring session, all for the ultimate goal: that 2400!

But thinking you’ll be able to go into the testing room without any preparation is as misguided as going into a ravine with nothing but an egg, a torch, and a stick (don’t try this at home, kids!). You’ll have to take the time to make that pickaxe, get some armor, and perhaps clomp through ten stacks of cobblestone before you get to those precious minerals, and when you do, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Aether. Recognize that the SAT isn’t just a 4 hour time trial; it’s a process that begins when you first crack open that study guide and concludes weeks later after you’ve amassed your forces and are headed towards The End.

minecraft-SAT-prep2. BUT I DIDN’T KNOW THAT MONSTERS COME OUT AT NIGHT!

“Minecraft: Surviving the First Night!”

“Minecraft: Thriving and Surviving”

“Minecraft: Killing the Ender Dragon!”

Whether you’re a seasoned senior taking the SAT for the 3rd time, or a wee freshman starting prep, you’ll want to get some resources to understand what you’re in for. The crevices of the Internet are full of tutorials to elevate your Minecraft noob status along with info on SAT tricks and hacks. How long would you last if you didn’t know that left click is “dig” and that you needed to acquire wood? How long would you survive during the test if you didn’t know how hard the SAT math could really get? Beyond the basic blue CollegeBoard book, Barrons, and Princeton Review, websites such as SAThabit.com can give you an edge over other test-takers.

Are you a Grandmaster at Starcraft and an A+ student in Harvard Extension’s Linear Algebra class. Or are you someone who’s still using Windows 95 and has just finished Freshman Geometry? Different study tools fit different people, but regardless of your expertise in other categories, the SAT and Minecraft are different trials that you need to familiarize yourself with through trial and error of a variety of study tools.

3. Marathons will leave you mentally mushy. 

WOO! Snow day! Whether you’re already cranking up the MacBook or creasing the binding of your SAT textbook, remember that moderation is important in both gaming and test prep. Ever played for an 8-hour marathon? Know that lugubrious feeling that you get within your soul, when you just come to accept that creepers are hissing around your castle and accidentally trade 40 emeralds for a wooden sword?

It’s the same with test prep; study for long enough and you’ll get burned out! Break your studying or playing into manageable time bits (typically 20-30 mins long) and be sure to take short breaks in between to avoid the headaches and decrease in performance that come with marathoning. That way you’ll be performing at your best and can see what you have issues with, instead of failing everything due to your overexertion.

minecraft-sat-prep4. What in the world is this biome...?

You’ve got your Extreme Hills, your Plains, and your Ocean. A cozy Forest biome bordering a Taiga, with plenty of familiar and fuzzy mobs. But what’s this? How did these mushrooms grow so big? And why are the cows red and bumpy? Surprise, Mooshrooms!

Just like Minecraft updates, the SAT experience sometimes throws you proverbial curveballs. Whether it’s the person in front of you who’s clearly too sick to take the test, the proctor that seems can’t stop clicking her heels, or the lolwat question in the Critical Reading about Synecdoches, the testing experience will be slightly different from what you studied for.

But no need to fear! Use the skills you learned in practice to deal with these new circumstances: find those Latin roots, use that Pythagorean theorem, or reach the Buddha inside of you to remain calm and ignore the distractions around you. You’re unfazed when spiders approach you at night, slaying them like a pro if they’re in your way; in the test room, stay calm and don’t let those bumps in the road distract you from pwning that test!

5. Relax!

You’ve built yourself a nice house, three blocks thick of stone bricks. You have all the wheat you need, five stacks of beef, and an Iron Golem to guard you against zombies. And as the square, orange sun sets on the Minecraft horizon, you realize that all you can do now is see if your hard work is enough. The night before the SATs, you’ve done all that you can, and going outside to set down more iron blocks will only put you in more danger. So take it easy for once; get some well deserved rest and relaxation and up your confidence. Be unfazed by the zombies moaning against your thick walls. Get yourself a slice of cake and jump into your 9/16 blocks high bed, and watch yourself conquer the Ender Dragon the next day.

Alexandra Ding is a senior at Lexington High. She likes to do everything from violin to medical research to stock analysis, and bring a touch of the Nerdy to SAT Habit’s High School Ambassador program. After conquering the SAT reasoning and subject tests, she spends her time playing in the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, captaining Science Olympiad, and perfecting her Minecraft strategy. Alexandra is currently applying to colleges.

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