Preparing for the SAT (formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test) can be daunting. The pressure is on to learn how to do well on the SAT. After all, your score will become one of the main determining factors in the admissions process of most colleges and universities in the United States.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it sounds. Learning helpful SAT test tips on how to study, getting advice on the proper mindset, and discovering strategies for success on the test day can reduce your stress and boost your confidence.
So, what’s the best SAT advice to help you prepare for the exam?
Read on to discover the top SAT tips to ensure you’re ready to tackle the big test. We’ll also provide test prep resources and easy SAT strategies to help you get the best possible score.
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1. Begin Preparing Early
Give yourself plenty of time to become familiar with the material, identify areas of weakness, and make a plan to focus your studying on those topics. Plus, preparing early can boost your confidence and reduce your stress on test day.
When should you start preparing for the SAT?
For most students, it’s best to start preparing for the SAT about 2-3 months before the test date to provide enough time to develop a plan, study, and take a practice test.
2. Learn How to Take the SAT with Free Practice Resources
What’s the fastest way to improve your SAT score? Take practice tests!
Both shorter and full-length practice tests can familiarize you with the exam format. Plus, they can allow you to try out test-taking and time-management strategies. And you’ll discover your strengths and where to focus on improving.
Free SAT Prep Resources
Take advantage of free SAT online resources, prep courses, and practice tests to get used to the questions you’ll see on the exam.
- College Board
- Khan Academy
- The Princeton Review
3. Know the Exam Format and Structure
The SAT is a standardized test designed to test your ability to think critically and analytically. It has a format of multiple-choice questions. And its structure consists of four sections: reading, a writing section, and two math sections. The optional essay is available only in a few states and certain school districts.
By understanding the general layout of the exam, you’ll be able to navigate it better and maximize your score. And it helps to keep updated with changes and the new SAT format. For example, the test will be administered digitally by Spring 2024 or sooner—no more penciling in tiny bubbles.
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4. Make a Plan for Each SAT Section
Studying for the SAT can feel like climbing a mountain considering the sheer amount of material covered. However, if you break down the exam into manageable sections, you can focus on each section individually, making studying for the SAT less exhausting.
Make a Study Plan
Create a schedule that outlines when you will study each subject. This timeline will help you stay on track and ensure you study each topic. Space out the content over chunks of time. Then familiarize yourself only with the types of questions asked in each section.
5. Focus on Your Weaknesses and Work on Them
If you’re concerned and wondering how to pass the SAT, focus on your weaknesses and adjust your study plan around those areas of difficulty. Start by taking practice tests to identify what sections need the most attention. Then tailor your study plan accordingly to focus on your weaker areas. Soon you’ll strengthen your abilities and build confidence in those topics.
6. Develop Strategies for Answering Reading Comprehension Questions
The reading section contains multiple-choice questions to measure your ability to comprehend and interpret written passages.
Here are a few tips to help you succeed.
- Find resources that will help you increase your reading and comprehension speed.
- Practice reading passages and answering questions quickly and efficiently.
- Familiarize yourself with the types of passages typically included in the SAT (such as literature, history, and science)
Related Read: 7 Important Questions to Ask College Admissions Before Making a Choice
7. Sharpen Your Writing and Language Skills
The written and language section tests your ability to edit and revise text passages. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and usage. Also, familiarize yourself with the questions, such as multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and identify the error.
8. Strengthen Your Math Skills
The math section uses multiple-choice questions to assess a student’s problem-solving ability by testing mathematical knowledge, computational skills, and quantitative reasoning. While there used to be a section of no-calculator questions, the new 2023 exam allows calculators throughout the entire section.
Familiarize yourself with the types of problems that are typically included in the SAT, such as algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. Additionally, understand the types of questions that are asked, such as multiple choice, fill in the blank, and identify the error.
9. Stay Calm and Focused on Test Day
Taking any test can cause anxiety. Taking one that can have a significant impact on your future can take your stress to a whole new level. However, staying calm and focused on test day is the best way to ensure a good score.
Here are five last-minute SAT tips and tricks to help you stay calm and focused during the SAT.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Make sure you go to bed early the night before and get at least eight hours of sleep.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Avoid sugary snacks and drinks that can make you feel jittery and unfocused. A good breakfast will have you feeling loads better than test takers going in on an empty stomach.
- Take deep breaths. If you start to feel overwhelmed or anxious during the exam, taking deep breaths can help you relax and refocus your attention.
- Break it down. Don’t try to tackle the entire exam at once. Focus on one section at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed.
- Stay positive. Don’t let negative thoughts creep into your head. Remind yourself that you are prepared and capable of doing well on the exam.
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10. Budget Your Time
The SAT test takes about three hours to complete. This amount of time doesn’t include breaks. However, when the test goes digital, the test time will reduce to two hours.
Since the SAT is a timed test, you must be able to answer questions quickly and accurately to achieve a good score, which means managing your time effectively. Unfortunately, mistakes and wrong answers happen more often when the clock is ticking.
Bring a timer that’s not connected to the internet to the test. You’ll want to take no longer than a minute for each multiple-choice question. During that time, use the process of elimination, take your best guess, and move on to the next question.
11. Tackle the Easy Questions First
You don’t have to answer the questions in order. For each section, skim through the test and tackle the easy questions first. Then, go back and take on more challenging questions. You’ll save time and ensure that you’re answering the questions you know correctly.
12. Make Use of the Process of Elimination
Look over the answers and eliminate the ones you know are incorrect. By reducing the number of possible incorrect answers, you’ll increase your odds of guessing correctly. The closer you can whittle down the choices, the better your chances of getting it right.
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13. Trust Your First Answer
Believe it or not, your first response to a question is usually correct. It may be tempting to overthink a question and change your answer. However, take caution in doing so. Unless you see that you’ve made a mistake, leave it alone, especially if you’re not one hundred percent sure of all your answers.
14. Take a Guess
When all else fails, one of the most important SAT tips is to simply take a guess. While it’s in your best interest to skip questions initially, leaving a bubble blank means you lose your chance at gaining a point.
Among the choices, there’s only one correct answer, so you might as well take a guess. You don’t lose points for getting it wrong, but you earn points for every correct answer. It doesn’t matter if you got it right because you knew it or you guessed. You still get the point.
15. Understand How the Test is Scored
After the test, you’ll be given a score from 400 to 1600, with 400 being the minimum to pass and 1600 being the perfect score.
The score you need depends on the type of college you plan to attend. Many colleges will accept students with scores of 650 and above. A score of 700 or higher will open more doors, especially to highly selective universities.
The total score for the SAT is calculated by adding the scores for correct answers from the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections together. Each section is scored out of 800 points, with each correct answer worth one point.
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Final Thoughts on Taking the SAT
Preparing for the SAT can be overwhelming, but with the proper preparation and practice, you can do well and get the score you need for your college application.
Remember, the SAT is just one part of the college admissions process in addition to your grades and extracurricular activities. If you didn’t achieve your desired score the first time you took the test, you can retake it. According to research, students who took the SAT a second time often scored higher.