Your SAT score is important. Even though you don’t need to get a perfect 1600, colleges will still look at your score and compare it to that of your peers.
According to the College Board’s 2019 data, the average SAT exam score is 1059. That means if you can study hard and achieve a target score of at least 1210 or 1340, you’ll rank in the top 75th and 90th percentiles!
So how can you prepare yourself to get the best possible score and improve your college readiness? Here are some of the best ways to study for the SAT to help you reach your utmost potential.
Start Studying Early and Regularly for the SAT
As reported by the site PrepScholar, the recommended baseline for SAT practice test prep is approximately 40 hours. Those who allocate even more time than this improve their odds of getting higher SAT scores.
The actual SAT is not a test that you can cram for. On the other hand, there’s a TON of information you can cover, and as they say: the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. That’s why it’s recommended that you should instead study for the SAT actual test every day over a few months. Carve out a block of time after your regular schoolwork and family time, even if it’s just 30 to 60 minutes per session, and take full-length practice tests.
A good way to do this is to order an SAT study guide and start working your way through the material little by little. Alternatively, if you prefer, you could check out a guide from the library or sign up for College Board SAT prep materials.
Sign-Up for Boot Camp
If you want to take your SAT studying or prep class up a notch, then consider signing up for an SAT prep course or boot camp. Most high schools, community centers, or the College Board website usually offer some version of these prep courses periodically throughout the year, or you can take one online.
In addition to reviewing material that you’re likely to find on the SAT practice questions, prep classes are also useful in helping you understand what to expect on the SAT test day. This can be especially valuable if it’s your first time taking the SAT.
If your area doesn’t offer any physical SAT prep camps or there is no test center, don’t worry. You can always go online and find dozens of reputable official SAT practice questions. Most will cost a fee to enroll, or you could take this free one from Khan Academy. Either way, the vital thing is that you find materials to take the full-length practice test before the real SAT.
Take Practice Tests
Undoubtedly, one part of your SAT study sessions should be to take free practice tests.
Even though they will require a bigger time investment than the 30 to 60 minutes to prepare for the SAT, as we mentioned earlier, taking the practice tests using SAT prep books will reveal some valuable information.
- It will show you exactly what the real SAT tests will be like on the SAT date. This way, you’ll know what kind of SAT questions to expect.
- If you time yourself when taking full-length tests, you’ll learn to be more efficient and not get stuck on any question or section. Students who do not prepare within the time limits often find themselves unable to finish on the test date.
- Based on your practice test results, you’ll easily see which areas of the test you scored the weakest on and should focus your efforts on.
A good recommendation would be to take at least one fully-timed practice test toward the beginning of preparations, followed by one near the end of the final week, to see how much you’ve improved. You can also take SAT practice tests online for free at sites like College Board.
Khan Academy has different online resources and practice problems that high school students can use to get ahead and get the baseline score. It also helps to review testing strategies, create a study schedule, and develop a learning style before taking this important test.
Test takers who create a study plan and attend all SAT classes have a higher chance of giving more correct answers than wrong answers. Also, you will not be staring at your answer sheet at the testing center.
Exercise Your Reading and Grammar Skills
According to the online college prep service Elite Education Institue, the number one way students raise their Evidence-Based Reading and SAT Writing scores is to practice reading formal, actively sophisticated nonfiction daily.
Why do they recommend this? Because the SAT reading section has five passages, and at least four will be nonfiction material. In addition to understanding the purpose and meaning of various parts within the passage, when taking the standardized test, you’ll also be asked questions about vocabulary and grammar and must give the correct answer.
That means you need to switch out of how you normally talk or text with your friends and instead sharpen your recognition of proper English. Practicing reading from reputable publications daily will challenge you to read quickly, understand the vocabulary, and comprehend the writing portion material.
You can get started by going to popular news sites like CNN, Business Week, ABC News, The Washington Post, etc. Remember that acing the Evidence-Based Reading and SAT Writing test goes beyond your SAT books and what you are taught in high school classes from junior year.
Practice Your Math
Even though you can use a calculator for half of the SAT Math section, you’ll gain a ton of efficiency if you can do some math in your head, such as basic arithmetic. Practice your math skills with an online math course, or do a refresher with paper and pencil. The more your practice, the more you’ll absorb and be able to do without a calculator, making mental math easy.
Sometimes just recognizing shortcuts can be useful too. For example, there is almost always at least one question about solving the missing side of a triangle using the Pythagorean Theorem.
Knowing ahead of time that a basic right triangle with sides a = 3 and b = 4 has a hypotenuse of c = 5, you might recognize this style of the problem right away and be able to solve it quickly without using any math at all. Start solving math problems from your first practice test.
One of the Best Ways to Study for the SAT: Find a Study Buddy
No one ever said you have to take on the SAT alone. If you’ve got a friend who is equally serious about doing well on the exam as you are, you join forces by quizzing one another and attending boot camp together. A friendly competition to get a better test score wouldn’t be bad.
Students tend to create study groups and share helpful resources among themselves. You can ask around for such groups, ask to join, and create a study plan together.
Hire a Tutor If Necessary for the SAT
If you find that you’re truly struggling with one or more sections of the SAT, and you’re not seeing any progress with the prep books and boot camps, then perhaps what you need is to work with a tutor.
There’s nothing wrong with hiring a private SAT tutor to help you during your study hours; other students do. Wealthy families have paid as much as $1,250 per hour to hire tutors to help their children get ahead.
Regardless, sometimes you need one-on-one interaction and guidance to truly understand the SAT reading material. If nothing else, a good tutor can be an excellent coach and motivator who will encourage you to fulfill your obligations to your studies and stay on task. They will also make personalized practice recommendations, provide answer explanations, and give you SAT tips to help you get ahead.
Prepare for Success the Night Before
It’s the big night before the test. Tomorrow, you’re going to show them what you’ve got. So what’s the best way you can prepare for this?
- Eat a healthy dinner and snack the night before. Avoid anything greasy that might upset your stomach.
- Don’t study the night before. You’ve done enough already and could use a break.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Rest for at least 7-8 hours.
- Do some moderate exercise in the morning. It will help wake up your brain and get the blood flowing through your body.
- Eat a healthy and balanced breakfast. Avoid processed sugar.
- Dress in layers for the test. That way, if the classroom is too hot or cold, you’ll be able to adjust as needed.
Final Thoughts: Best Ways to Study for the SAT
With this guide, you’ve learned some of the best ways to study for the SAT. So practice your reading and math skills, study with a friend, and above all else, take a deep breath and relax. You’ve got this if you’ve followed even half of the above tips. Good luck with your SAT!