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Chris S. '11

Oct 26, 2007

Notes on the Interview

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Freshman Applicants

Here in Cambridge, Autumn is slowly creeping in.

You don't notice her at first - but there are telltale signs - a hint of gold above the treetops, an orange leaf carelessly strewn along a sidewalk, the squirrels anxiously scuttering about, storing away their last hoards before the winter.

I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that many trees have started to don a new coat of warm ochre when I was strolling down Memorial Drive. I must say, it was quite a relaxing escape from the frustratingly esoteric 7.012 test this week that no one (okay, I'm generalizing here - perhaps it's only me) understood. That was my big :( moment of the week, but the trees and the beautiful afternoons along the river cheered me up.

It's a standing joke in Taiwan that we only have two seasons in a year - "wet and hot" and "wet and not-so-hot." It's quite an experience to be in a place where the trees change color according to the seasons.

Saurav from India asks,

My interview is within 3 weeks, so I want to know how you prepared for your interview. What questions did you ask the EC? What aspects of yourself did you share with your EC? What questions stymied you?

I know probably for a lot of RA students, this is one of the most pressing questions on your mind right now, so I kinda wanna address this issue.

First off, I want to direct you (as this has been done many times before), to these two excellent blogs on the subject of interviews. I read both of those blogs when I was applying, and I thought to myself, "meh, it's just the same-old "words of comfort" that adcoms offer to students," and proceeds to skim the blogs without really reading them. Now that I have been through the whole application process, I re-read those blogs and was surprised by their sincerity and verisimilitude. Those blogs are really not "words of comfort" - they are advice to help you do well. If I had to pick one really good piece of advice, I would keep this list to heart.

Now that you have heard from the admission folks, I'll give you my spin on the interviewing process.

Some background: during the application season, I (mistakenly, in hindsight) applied to 15 colleges. Out of the myriad of colleges that I applied to, I received eight interview notices. Thus, I went through eight interviews over the period of a couple of weeks (it was literally a different interview every weekend). Very soon, I gleaned some tips about college interviews, and I'm going to share some of them here. But first off, a general note about the MIT interview:

MIT didn't design its interview to quiz you and reveal the shortcomings in your character. The interview (and this is still true across many other colleges) is quite often a way to help you know more about the school, for the school to know more about you as a person, and for you to address particular areas that you might not have had the chance to flesh out in greater detail on the application (how can you convey a lifetime passion of mountain hiking in a blank? how can you capture the brilliance of a sunrise at the summit in fifty words?). This being said, the first thing you should know about the interview is that...

0. Do It!
If you're offered an interview, TAKE IT! You might have heard a lot about the difference in admission rates between those that accepted an interview and those that declined an interview, but that's not the only reason why you should accept an interview. The interview is a great way for you to add another dimension to your application and also chat with an ex-MIT student about his/her experience there. There's no way to fail (see point 7), and you don't lose anything. Why not? Pick up the phone and call!

1. It is Not a Test.
When you finally meet up with your EC, don't regard him or her as a foe. The MIT interview is a mutually beneficial relationship, as it both provides you with additional information about life at the Institute and it also helps the adcoms to know what you're like in real life. Come on, you are more than just a conglomerate of standardized test scores and a 500-word essay. I know you are. Therefore, don't walk into the interview thinking that you're going to get an oral quiz over what you learned in high school physics - just be natural and be prepared to talk about....well, quite simply, you.

2. Be Prepared.
You shouldn't be stressed out about the interview, but you should do some preparation work beforehand. Some good topics/questions that will help guide your thinking:
-Be able to introduce yourself and provide a brief biographical sketch (e.g. name, family, school, interests/hobbies) in one minute. (you'll start the interview off on a good note and feel more confident)
-What activities did you do in high school? Why did you do them? (I tend to limit my response to no more than 3 activities in an interview - you want to hit your main passions, not provide a laundry list of your accomplishments. Remember, depth and quality over sheer quantity).
-What activities do you do outside of school? Why do you do them?
-Why do you want to come to MIT? What is it about MIT that attracts you? (do some general research beforehand. You don't want to start talking about the Michigan Institute of Technology, for example)

3. Be Inquisitive.
Remember, the interview is not a one-way interrogation - it's a two-way conversation. Ask your interviewer about what MIT was like when he/she was a student there. Why did he/she choose MIT over all of the other schools that he/she applied to? (I've gotten some pretty interesting responses from this) What was his/her favorite thing about MIT? (chances are, he/she will say, "there's wayyyy too many...") Hold off on asking your interviewer questions though, until almost the end of your interview - satisfy your interviewer's curiosity about you first. :)

4. Be Sincere.
When you walk into your interview, don't think that you have to be a "typical MIT applicant." Don't feel like you need to harp on your mathematical, scientific, and technological achievements when your interests really lie in another area. When asked about your favorite classes, you don't have to say "physics" if it really isn't! At the same time, if your interests DO lie in the scientific field, don't exaggerate your passion either. If you did research in high school, don't feel compelled to provide your EC with a 40-minute lecture on all the finer points of your research (I've found that a shorter 3-minute abstract works much better - unless your EC is genuinely interested in the subject.) Be sincere about your desires - remember, your EC is also human, and it's easy to tell true enthusiasm from feigned interest - couldn't you?

5. Be Punctual.
Schedule your interview on time (RD: before December 1st!). Show up on time. It sounds easy, but I actually missed the December 1 deadline by two weeks (I thought I wasn't going to make it into MIT because I've missed the interview deadline...) - don't let that be you. Also, I tend to show up for my interview around 15 minutes early. You can take a seat, scope out the location, and calm your nerves before your interviewer arrives. It all works out (and also saves you some of the grief of trying to locate exactly WHO your interviewer is in a crowded McDonald's when you're already running late).

6. Be Polite.
Be nice to your EC. They're doing this because they love MIT, and want to help a new generation of students to get in. When you email, use proper grammar and etiquette. When you meet your interviewer in person, greet him/her and shake his/her hand firmly (if appropriate). Throughout the interview, speak in a manner that is easy to understand, and bring whatever material is appropriate (in your opinion) to help your EC understand your point (if applicable). For example, I worked on my high school yearbook for 3 years, eventually becoming editor-in-chief during my senior year. I brought a physical copy of my junior yearbook to show my interviewer some the favorite pages I made. After the interview, be sure to follow up. Email/call/write a thank you note to your interviewer - let your EC know that you appreciated their time in coming out and speaking with you. When you receive your decision (regardless of acceptance or denial), let your EC know and thank them again. I actually had dinner with my EC twice after receiving my decision - it can be a two-way relationship if you want.

7. You Can't Fail!
You might walk out of your interview and say to yourself - "Man, that was a disastrous meeting." Perhaps you had a bad day, perhaps your EC had a bad day - but don't let it get to you that you "failed" your interview. There is no way to do that. You are not being graded, and your decision doesn't hinge on the interview. Out of my eight interviews, I had a truly disastrous interview - none of what I said connected with my interviewer, and (I think) my interviewer thought I was a hopelessly conceited student. However, I still ended up getting into the college in the end (even when I thought all hope was lost). In some occasions, you might just not connect with your interviewer - and if that happens, don't worry too much about it. Don't give up on the application or be scared to schedule an interview because of this (see point 0).

Anyhow, some interesting tidbits from my interviews:
2. I had the MIT interview on my birthday.
3. One of the interviews was a phone interview, and I could hardly hear what the other guy was saying for an entire hour.
5. I had three interviews in McDonald's.
7. For one of my interviews, the interviewer actually said, "If you want to do science, don't even bother coming here. Go to MIT instead!" and proceeded to market MIT over his own college.
11. For one of my interviews, we didn't talk about college at all. We discussed the US Foreign Policy to SE Asia instead (you might get a really quirky interviewer and this could happen).
13. The disastrous interview that I told you about on the top? The interviewer told me that I was one of the most mediocre applicants that he has seen and urged me to immediately seek out safety schools.
17. I discovered that one of my interviewers was actually part of my extended family who I've never met (this was AFTER the interview, not during).
19. My favorite interview question #1:
Interviewer: "What are your strengths?" (a very common interview question, by the way)
Me: "Blah blah blah..."
[immediately after my response]
Interviewer: "That's great, but what are your weaknesses?"
23. My favorite interview question #2: "What animal best portrays your personality?"
29. My favorite interview question #3: "What kind of person do the people around you see you as, in your opinion? What kind of person do you try to be?"
31. Most random interview moment:
[at McDonald's, at the end of the interview]
Interviewer: [points at his French Fries] "Do you know what kind of potatoes these are made from?"
Me: "Uh...Russet Potatoes?" (I've read about them on fast food fliers)
Interviewer: "Wow, I'm impressed!"

In short, you never know what's going to happen. But relax, and you'll do just fine.

If any of the EA applicants want to chime in with their own interview experiences, it's most welcome! :)

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

thanks for the blog! very helpful and amusing too ... russet potatoes? smile nice pictures

Posted by: 0 on October 27, 2007

I had my interview last week, and I was pleasantly surprised that my interviewer was very friendly and treated the interview as a conversation rather than the interrogation that I feared. To help me prepare, my parents asked me questions and I answered them like I was actually doing an interview. I thought that practicing basic questions like "tell me about yourself and your interests" was very helpful so I didn't panic in the first few minutes of the interview. After that, it was just like a conversation.

Posted by: Rena on October 27, 2007

First!!..ahem...its the first time Iv done that.
Hi Chris!! A very helpful post indeed! I emailed my EC a week ago and he hasn't replied yet. Do you think I should wait for some more time and then send him a reminder? Or should I just remind him right now??:)
And if you don't mind, can you tell me what animal did you choose for favorite question #2?? smile

Goodness knows your posts are helping us RA applicants a lot.Thank you!
n Keep posting!

Posted by: Nihar on October 27, 2007

Oh no!!...**beaten to it again**

Posted by: Nihar on October 27, 2007

Awesome use of primes...made me laugh, so it did.

Posted by: Matt, PSU '11 on October 27, 2007

I just had mine an hour ago!!! ( yeah i know it's late)
be prepared to talk about what you spend time on and What you enjoy.
I had a great time hearing about her experiences at MIT too!
The only thing for me was that I didn't go as thorough as I wanted it to be.
However, if you have not done it yet, and have an EC in your area, get in interview today!!!

Posted by: 0 on October 27, 2007

Great blog Chris! (Kind of odd calling you by your name since I know you by oasis =P).

I'm definitely going to keep this page favorited for next year =]

Posted by: llpitch on October 27, 2007

my interview last year lasted for 1 hour 45 mins...and we only finished beacause she was getting late for a meeting...I can't even remeber what we talked about now...lol

Posted by: 0 on October 27, 2007

Yeah, I remember my interview...October 20th, I think it was. First interview. It lasted forever but my one piece of advice from it (it was mostly a good interview) is to NOT CONTINUE TRYING TO MAKE THE INTERVIEW LAST LONGER if it clearly is over. I had a good hour or hour and a half of interview, then we sortof sat there for a half hour periodically talking but mostly being awkward. Don't let that happen.
But I wholeheartedly agree with the BE YOURSELF concept. Talk about what interests you-it'll show. My best interview was when I talked to the interviewer sort of like I talk to my friends-I was completely honest, and it was a great 2-hour interview which could have continued forever but she had to go.
Anyway, taking over the advice column is something I do on my blog-here I'll leave that to the official bloggers;) Props to Chris for being an awesome '11 blogger! And good luck on EA everyone!

Posted by: Elizabeth '11 on October 27, 2007

I was wondering about the application's part 2, section 14 - "Additional information"

Should I make an appeal or something there, or what? "I want to go to MIT because (all of the reasons I think MiT's awesome goes here)"

My interview was waived.

Posted by: EV on October 27, 2007

Thank you for your suggestion.
I'm a high school student in mainland,ZheJiang,I wonder if you can give me some advice about what and how I should do in my last two years in school in order to take the freshman application at MIT ?My email is luffyfang@msn.com . Excuse me.

Posted by: Fang Linglan on October 27, 2007

is 1840 on october sat good or should i give it again?

Posted by: 0 on October 27, 2007

After 3 SAT1s, I've got a 2160 (700CR, 780M, 680W).. should I take it again? Or a fourth will actually hurt my chances?

Posted by: jh on October 27, 2007

Hahaha. My interview actually has a funny story to go along with it. Since this was my first interview, I had no idea what to expect, so I had my nice suit and my resume and transcript and all these answers to questions rehearsed in my head. From email correspondence, I had learned that my interviewer was Chinese. I had arrived at the location 15 minutes early, and as I was waiting, an old Chinese man walked up to me and asked me a question about transferring a word file to another computer. Being in "test" mindset, I procceeded to tell "my interviewer" about USB 2.0 ports and anything else I could to make myself seem more tech savvy. Turns out, this man had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, and was just a random guy asking me for help.

Talk about coincedence =)

Posted by: 0 on October 27, 2007

jh - There is absolutely no reason for you to take the SAT a fourth time. A 2160 is fine - find something better to do with the time and money you'd spend on taking the SAT yet again.

Posted by: Keri on October 27, 2007

jh - Keri is wise. 2160 is terrific. Have fun!

Posted by: MIT Dad on October 27, 2007

Prime numbers for the win.

Posted by: Marissa on October 27, 2007

I sent an e-mail to the EC reccomended to me.However,he lives in a city very far away.So he has given me the contacts of the EC in the city where I live.Would it make a difference?

Posted by: Abhishek on October 27, 2007

Yay prime numbers!

And yeah, interviews are funny. I didn't think my MIT one went well or bad, it was just in the middle - and I got in EA. I thought I aced the Harvard one and got rejected. I completely blew off the Brown interview (because I was already in MIT and I didn't care much about Brown) and I got accepted.

Funny how the world works ^.^

My MIT interviewer was really friendly. And he had a dog. I love dogs.

Posted by: Hunter '11 on October 27, 2007

Hi everybody,

I had my interview a few weeks ago, and it was fun because you have the opportunity to know MIT from a different prospective. If you will have one, just be yourself. Let them know who you honestly are.

Posted by: Rodrigo on October 27, 2007

hey...does 1840 need another try!!????

Posted by: 0 on October 28, 2007

hey.. thx a lot for ur advice.. it really gives one the extra boost before one goes for the interview. I just had a few question.. Is a score of 2120 (800M 650CR 670W) in first attempt good enough or should I give it again? Also, will not taking TOEFL hurt my application? I have done my SAT II's so was curious if TOEFL was needed?

Thanks again!

Posted by: Apoorva on October 28, 2007

Hi... I ended up with the following scores: 520 CR/W and 590 Math, for a grand total of 1630...

Should I try again? (I'm not used to 'em multiple choice tests, what is funny, is that I've got an A in calculus here at my school, and an A on a national based exam with a way higher level than the SAT)

Posted by: B&G on October 28, 2007

coisa)!!! isso iria me ajudar muito na construcao do meu site...

Posted by: Carmen Electra on October 28, 2007

I've basically been doing nothing to speak of. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I feel like a void, but that's how it is. I've just been hanging out doing nothing. monarchy

Posted by: Natasha Henstridge on October 28, 2007

@ B&G
the SAT is completely different from what we learn at school.it all depends on how well u can take the testa dn think quickly.i think you should refer to some books on the sat and take a few practise test
good luck

Posted by: 0 on October 28, 2007

@ Apoorva
670 isn’t horrible, but it can hurt your application a bit. You can definitely still get in with 600s, but anything in the 700s is ideal. If you have the time and money, retake it, but otherwise don’t stress about it. As long as the rest of your application is strong, a 670 won’t be what keeps you out. And math is great, by the way smile

@ B&G
I’d take a few practice tests to get used to the multiple choice format, and then retake it – 520/590 is a little low for MIT. Remember that scores alone can’t ruin an application, but you do want to aim for high 600s at least. If you know the material, try to figure out what’s tripping you up on the tests (the wording of the questions gets a lot of people). You also might want to try to ACTs if you can, sometimes people who don’t do as well as they could on the SATs get better scores on the ACTs. But remember, even if you can’t raise the scores, still apply! Try to highlight your knowledge of the material somewhere else in the application – an A in calculus is great, have you taken any APs or A levels or whatever to go along with that?

Remember, I’m not an expert, but I had the same question and have gotten that advice from quite a few people. And good luck everyone!

Oh, and back to the topic of the post – just emailed my EC... He replied saying “relax and have fun at the interview smile”, but I’m still sort of nervous – excited, but nervous.

Posted by: Star on October 28, 2007

You know, the strange thing is that I don't get what I do wrong. Perhaps I skip to few questions (the hard+ ones) or something, because I've got absolutely NO problems with reading or writing English, or sovling advanced calculus.
I've got the following grades
- English (oral and writing): A
National based exam (writing): A
- Math (most advanced, calculus): A

In my teacher's opinion, I'm the best stundent he has ever seen in 15 years of teaching, bla bla bla...

I've worked hard to achieve the grades above, but I can't understand why I don't do better on the SAT...

Posted by: B&G on October 28, 2007

"Esoteric," "myriad," "verisimilitude"... oh no, I feel the memories of SAT verbal cramming creeping up! =) I enjoyed reading this post, it should help out a lot of anxiety-ridden applicants.

Posted by: 0 on October 28, 2007

Thank you Chris, this is a funny post. I haven't scheduled for my EC yet cause I'm extremely busy at this time of the year (fooling around with my band and drums). I really admire that you went through 8 interviews in couple weeks, in contrary, I only apply for 4 colleges and MIT is the top one. Feeling very confident of the advise "be yourself". Also thanks for the links, they are very helpful. Good luck with your education at MIT, I hope we'll have a chance to talk if I'm admitted smile

Posted by: Trung Le on October 28, 2007

Good luck to you!
I voted! :D

By the way, I just submitted my application BUT I found one mistake...I put 2007 instead of 2006 :[
Do you think if I call the admissions office, they can change it for me?

Ahhh I'm like dying here X[

Posted by: 0 on October 28, 2007

I did my interview last week. I got in there, got nervous, went into what I can only call "Public Speaker Mode," and strung him on what I feed my teachers in essays. Still, when I got out, I thought I had done fairly well.

It was six hours later, sitting in front of my computer--looking at text but reading none of it--and shaking that I realized just how stressed out and bothered by it I was. I worried about all the things I should have said instead of that nice friendly chat we had about lots of other things. I even stressed over my SAT scores (2150; I'd had them returned earlier that day). I was beating myself up over not studying enough (I.E., I didn't study at all. Didn't even grab books for it). I thought that if I'd studied, I'd have gotten better scores and the school would HAVE to take me no matter how terribly my interview went. I was flipping out. Completely out of my MIND.

Stepping back and seeing that (though the shaking wouldn't stop) I went to bed and slept for an hour more than usual but woke up having taken no rest from it. All the stress must have had me tossing and turning in the night. Strange thing was, I felt totally fine again about the interview in the morning, and figure that while I doubt I nailed it, I probably did fine.

In conclusion: Where was this article on the 25th? Not done? Then I blame YOU. After having read this, I can tell you it would have been much nicer to have read this before the interview. Really. Ah well: If I mess this (and all the schools between)up, the CalState system is still legally required to accept me--if I can live down the shame.

Sick writeup, though!

Posted by: Pseudopadoz on October 28, 2007

B&G, don't worry about your SAT scores. SATs are useful in some ways but silly in others - MIT doesn't hold them to be God. They're not going to reject you from, say, forgetting a negative sign on an SAT when you've proven you can do calculus just fine.

Pseudopadoz, trust me, your SAT score is nothing to spazz about ^.^ (Well, I guess it depends on the breakdown, since V900, W900, M310 may not be so good... but 900 is impossible anyway, right?)

Posted by: Hunter '11 on October 28, 2007

Great post Chris.
And since everyone seems to be putting up their interview experiences, I guess I'll have a go too.
My interview had a horrible start, I was 30 minutes early, but the thing was that I'd arrived at the building where my interviewer's office was supposed to be, except I'd never asked exactly where he worked. He'd only said his office was on the 6th floor, and there were 5 different companies on the same floor. So I proceeded to ask around for 15 minutes until I finally found out where he worked. During that time, I freaked out, thinking that I'd be late and that I'd fail my interview because I wasn't punctual. But it turns out, I still got there on time, the interview turned out fine, and I managed to have a nice discussion about skiing with my interviewer. So, just goes to show that you should stay calm... I don't know how my story reflects that, but that's the point I was trying to get across.

Posted by: Hyun Jin on October 28, 2007

My interview was today. I felt confident going in but the questions didn't last for long. In total, my interview was about an hour. Is that an indication of a bad interview, or are some interviews just shorter than others? I hear a good one can last 2+ hours.

I asked my interviewer questions for about the same time he asked me question. But I guess they want us to come with questions about MIT, and that's what I did.

Posted by: ChrisW on October 28, 2007

Does MIT expect higher test scores for internationals? Since I'm one, i fear my 2160 may not be enough..

Posted by: jh on October 29, 2007

Keri and MIT Dad, thanks.

Posted by: jh on October 29, 2007

Sorry for the multiple posts.. I should not retake the SAT again because MIT won't reject me because of my 2160 (700CR, 780M, 680W)? And they won't accept me just because I get a 2300 (if I were to be lucky enough)?

BTW, would taking a fourth SAT1 be harmful to my chances as I may seem 'obsessive' towards the standardized tests?

Posted by: jh on October 29, 2007

Is 770 SAT II-Physics and 800 SAT II-Maths level 2 good ?

Posted by: Kenshin on October 29, 2007

@Kenshin
Are you kidding? A 800 on SAT II Math, and a 770 SAT II Physics are really really really really really really ^100000 good scores!

Posted by: 0 on October 29, 2007

I'm only replying to so many SAT posts because I was flipping out a week ago, and advice from a lot of current MIT students really helped to calm me down about my scores.

@ jh
I'd say retaking the SATs with your score, even if it isn't harmful, is just a waste of time and money. Plus, MIT wants to see you doing something worthwhile with your time, so even if retaking them doesn't directly hurt you, you could be spending that time doing something interesting and fun that could help your application. Remember, any 700+ score is in MIT's range, and really, once you've broken 700 a few more points don't matter anyways. And they don't count the writting section, which is your only score below 700 (I wish I was that lucky!)

@ Kenshin
I really want to assume you are joking, but if not, 770 / 800 are great scores! Don't worry anymore about SATs - go out and have some fun.

Posted by: Star on October 29, 2007

I emailed my interviewer but I haven't heard from him and I sent the email three weeks ago.

also is a 730 okay in physics and a 760 on math 2? I heard for math if you don't get an 800 it doesn't mean anything..

Posted by: yukiko on October 29, 2007

Responding to all of your comments! smile

@ Nihar -
You shouldn't bug your interviewer too much (remember, they are busy people!), but if two weeks have gone by and you're curious, it doesn't hurt to send a follow-up email.

@ EV -
A good rule of thumb for using the additional information section is how much effect you think you will get out of using the section. I wouldn't personally fill up the page with reasons of why I want to come to MIT, because probably 80% of the applicant pool is also as enthusiastic (if not more) as you are. When I was applying to colleges, I used the section to convey ideas that I wasn't able to address in my original application adequately (or things that just didn't fit anywhere).

@ChrisW:
There is no real "ideal" interview length. It's all about your conversation with your interviewer. I actually had a really good interview that lasted for only 40 minutes, but also an interview that I thought was okay-ish that went on for 1.5 hours. Like Elizabeth pointed out, if you think the thread of discussion is over, then don't deliberately try to drag it on. Returning to the cliche - "it's not about quantity; it's about the quality!"

@ Anonymous -
There's a reason why I used those words, actually...(I don't just bust out words like verisimilitude in my everyday speech ;D). It's just I didn't get to blog about it in this blog because I feel like I'm going on for too long. Kudos to you for catching it though! I'm impressed wink

(a side note: to the international students who know Chinese - if you prefer, you can email me in Chinese. I can get back to you in Chinese as well)

Regarding all of the Questions on SAT Scores
A lot of the above posters gave excellent comments on the subject of test scores, and I agree with many of them. True, test scores will affect your decision, but it is only a fragment of the whole picture. There is no strict cutoff on the SAT or the SAT 2s - you won't be rejected just because you don't have perfect scores (or even 700's) across the board. You should maintain an adequate level of performance, however (like I would say it would be difficult to get in with only 400s and 500s), but they don't make or break your application. In my opinion, the adcoms view your application like a picture. There may be some fuzzy edges - there may be some paint splatters, but it's the overall image that matters, not all the little details. If you are excellent in some area that you are passionate in, there's a very good chance that your chances of getting in with a 650 on a section wouldn't be any different than someone who got a 750.

On Retakes:
My general policy that I set for myself on retakes is that I only retake an standardized exam if I am *certain* that I would be able to improve. If you want to retake, you should have a definitive goal and a method of working towards it that you will be implementing before the exam. You shouldn't just say, "Oh, I think I will take the SAT again next month for the heck of it, and see if I'll do better." Chances are, if you don't do any preparation for the upcoming exam, you'll end up with exactly the same score (speaking from experience, unfortunately). However, if you had a bad test day, then it's a perfectly good reason to retake, but that's a different story. In general, though, if you are getting 2100s then I wouldn't recommend a retake, but that's really up to you and whether you think you can do better. I agree with Star in the sense that if you are currently getting 500s or low 600s across the board, however, then it might be a good idea to redo some of these exams. You can improve your performance on the SAT with studying (regardless of what CB tells you) and preparation beforehand.

The SAT is not like a school exam in the sense that it tests a lot of basic material in a method that is unique to the test itself. It probably isn't a surprise to you that the SAT is very different from any multiple choice test you've taken in school. I know a lot of students actually that can do calculus but cannot get over 700 on the SAT Math section. I think the key to this is just lack of familiarity with the materials on the exam. The same goes for CR and Writing - practice is the key.

Oh - and I don't know whether the Writing Section is still not considered (I know it was for the Class of 07 across many colleges, but also a lot of colleges that I applied to last year already started considering it - I'd imagine the number will increase for the Class of 08). I don't know about MIT, though.

And finally - you do not, I repeat, DO NOT, need 2300+ to get into MIT. If you did, I assure you that more than half of the people I know right now wouldn't be here in the first place. smile Heck, I wouldn't even be here! =p

Posted by: Oasis on October 29, 2007

@Star: Thanks a lot.
@Oasis: Thanks. But would taking the test 4 times hurt me an any way?

Posted by: jh on October 29, 2007

hi...i got a 640 in math on reasoning in october n am givin my sat II math on november 3....i think i'll make a 710-740 in satII..shud i retake sat I..??Its nt tht my overall app n all skul grades dnt prove tht im a good student..i ace calculus n chemistry n my school grades show tht..so any advice???

Posted by: Alu on October 30, 2007

@ Alu
Again, if you can afford it / have the time, retake it and aim for at least 700. If not, don't stress too much, you can still get in with a 640. Guys, SATs are not the end of the world! (Can't believe I'm the one giving that advice...)

Posted by: Star on October 30, 2007

This post is good! Even though I already had my MIT interview quite a while ago since I'm applying early.
Upon seeing these comments regarding to SAT scores, I started to worry about my scores again. I took the SATs for the second time in October. I got 560 on critical reading, 750 on math and 590 on writing. The total went up like 160 points. (I got like 1740 on my first time) I retook the ACT last week also. I think I improved in the English part a lot, but not the other parts on the test. I got 22 on English, 29 on reading, 29 on science and 35 on math when i took it in June. My guidance counselor told me that my performance were understandable since I just moved to the U.S. last year (I started my junior year here), but it still depended on how much colleges would "forgive me." Anyway, I took her advice and took the TOEFL iBT. I got 102 out of 120, which I hope would be good enough. And when I went to the MIT interview, my interviewer told me that among SATs, ACT and TOEFL, whatever worked best for me worked best for them.
I feel funny that I'm still worrying about my scores now, because there's nothing I can do to change them. I'm such a typical Asian student who always gets all the worries from her anxious parents.

Posted by: Lish on October 30, 2007

thanx star...smile

Posted by: 0 on October 30, 2007

hey..just one more question (sorry)..I got a 570 in critical reading on satI but a 108 on 120 in teofl iBT....do you think my TOEFL scores will cover up for my CR??
THANKSSS A TON!!

Posted by: 0 on October 30, 2007

toefl*

Posted by: 0 on October 30, 2007

People stress way to much about their SATs. While I can't complain (800M, 750CR, 790W) and on my SAT IIs (800 M-lvl 2, 800 Chem), I really think that people make it way too big an issue. Just relax. A test score shouldn't determine your life and future that much. MIT wouldn't be fair if their whole decision hinged on something like that.

Posted by: A different Anonymous on October 30, 2007

@Lish

I'm with you...Asian parents do give you a lot of stress. It's just not right. And don't dwell on the past, because it's not going to change any of the admissions decisions! Just take things as they come.

Posted by: A different Anonymous on October 31, 2007

SAT reasoning math isn't a bunch of random calculus, B&G, it's just a bunch of elementary math questions with a little twist to see if your brain is dead. It's not hard, but it's very easy to make silly mistakes, I think that's why you didn't get that great. If your gonna do it again, be careful and double check.

I haven't taking the SAT test yet, but let's assume I got 2300+. If I take it again, will it hurt my chances? Can I take it again to show I didn't fluke it, and because I love tests?

And I've heard that you can make mistakes on the SAT II math section and still get 800. Is that true?

Just a random question, but Oasis, did you have your interview in chinese or english?

And finally, wow you ordered it in prime numbers... didn't even notice until people pointed it out...

Posted by: 0 on October 31, 2007

I emailed my interviewer but I haven't heard from him and I sent the email three weeks ago.

Posted by: yukiko on November 1, 2007

Thanks Chris. *gasp* amazing post there! I have had no idea of how those interviews were conducted at all, especially since i'm also preparing for a Cambridge one which is 100% academic. Can you post a few more examples of the most commonly asked questions?
Thanks!!

Posted by: elita on November 3, 2007

Wow, I wish I'd found this before my interview... but I suppose it went alright. I'd have to say the most interesting part of my interview was having a magnitude 5.6 earthquake right in the middle of it. Yeah, it's kinda hard to top an earthquake. (Thankfully it was just big enough to give us a good shake without breaking anything.)

Posted by: Daniel F on November 5, 2007

Daniel F

earthquake was in fresno right??

Posted by: yuki on November 7, 2007

Thanks for the excellent post Chris! This has definitely calmed me down somewhat though I have yet scheduled my interview. I need to cure this procrastination bug of mine.

Daniel F: I felt that earthquake too! (You live in the bay area, right?) Except unlike you, I was doing something random on the computer at the time. I hope your interview went well, despite the earthquake smile

Posted by: Ginger on November 8, 2007

Chris, you an excellent 'tour guide' wink and a phenomenal blogger! Great job!!! Congrats!

Posted by: Matt's MoM on November 11, 2007

DO YOU THINK I CAN GET INTO MIT
African American
SAT's 590 Math 540 Writing 520 CR
9th Grade
Honors Geomtry A
Honors Biology A
Honors English A
Honors American History A
Spanish 2 B
Gym A
Computer Techonology A
Yearbook A
10th Grade
Honors Chemistry B
Algebra II B+
Gym 11 B
Choir A
World Cultures A-
American Literature B
Spansih 3 11 B
Chritian Lifestyles B+
11TH GRADE
Honors Physics A
SAT Math A
SAT English A
American Studies A
Psychology A
Advanced English A
Spanish 4 A
Pre-Calculus A
Accounting B
12th Grade
AP Calculus A
AP Biology A
AP SpanISH A
AP Psychology A
AP Literature A
Buisness Law B
Computer Technology II B
EC'S
NAACP
FRESH START PROGRAM TUTOR
PLAYED GUITAR FOR 8 YEARS
PRAISE TEAM AND CHOIR MEMBER
LIBRARY AID
YEARBOOK EDITOR
SCIENCE OLYMPIAD
STUDENT COUNCIL
GOOD RECS AND A MGIHT GOOD ESSAY

Posted by: jOHN on November 14, 2007

I called my EC to set up an interview; and she asked me to email her to schedule it. So I emailed her a few days ago; however he hasn't answer yet. Should I call her again or send her another email? The deadline is coming nextweek so I don't know what I should do.

Posted by: Phuong Le on November 20, 2007

@john:MIT admission is not all about grades and numbers but I think you should go for a score improvement as 1600 score may not work well.apply to a few safety schools as well and you will be fine.
All the best.

Posted by: 0 on November 22, 2007

Chris,I am applying as an international.I got 750 on the math section on the SAT but 610 and 680 on the reading and writing.I have taken the TOEFL and have got score of 115.Given that MIT would consider better of SAT and TOEFL,do you think I would be fine and not at a disadvantage compared to the 700s in terms of SAT scores.Also,could you give me an approximate idea of the equivalent of score in 700s in the verbal section of the SAT on the TOEFL-would it be like 115-120 range?Thanks

Posted by: SAT Advice on November 22, 2007

@Chris
I am applying as an international.I got 750 on the math section on the SAT but 610 and 680 on the reading and writing.I have taken the TOEFL and have got score of 115.Given that MIT would consider better of SAT and TOEFL,do you think I would be fine and not at a disadvantage compared to the 700s in terms of SAT scores.Also,could you give me an approximate idea of the equivalent of score in 700s in the verbal section of the SAT on the TOEFL-would it be like 115-120 range?
I need advice.......please

Posted by: Henry on November 23, 2007

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