You may have heard that there are secret SAT hacks to help you to prepare for the intense college entrance exam. It’s not a magic formula. While there definitely are some ways to cram and prepare so that you get the best score you can, the SAT hacks to increase your score inevitably involve a lot of studying.
It’s the way that you study that can increase your chances of a solid SAT score above the range of 1400, which is a relatively high number for this rigorous test.
ABCs of the SAT Test
The SAT has three main parts and an optional 50-minute essay. The entire SAT test has an allotted time of three hours and 45 minutes. Aside from studying what you know will be on the SAT, to get a high score you should also prepare for what it will be like to sit down and take the actual test and all that it entails.
How Is the SAT Score Calculated?
The total score that you can get on the SAT ranges from 400 to 1600. There are two sub-scores that range between 200 and 800. These scores are for the math section and a combined reading and writing score.
Average SAT Score
If you are within the 50th percentile SAT composite score, then you are in the average range. The test is designed so that the typical SAT score falls just above 1000. This means if you have a score between 1050 and 1060 you are among the average test takers for the SAT.
SAT Percentile Ranking
Your total SAT score out of 1600 isn’t the only number from the test that matters to admissions officials. You will be given a percentile ranking along with your score. The percentile is an indicator of how well you did compared to students who did better than you on the SAT test.
A percentile of 25 means you performed better than 25 percent of the other test takers. If you have a percentile of 60, you did rather well in scoring higher than 60 percent of all of the other test takers.
Evidence Based Reading and Writing Score
The reading test on the SAT takes 65 minutes and contains five passages with related questions. It is only part of the evidence-based reading and writing section. The second component of this section focuses on your writing and language skills. The average evidence based reading and writing score is between 530 and 540.
Average Score for the Math Section
The math section takes up a large portion of the time it takes to complete the SAT. The average score is between 520 and 530. Anything above that is considered above average. College admissions officials may put more weight on a high math score on the SAT if you are considering an engineering, accounting or science degree.
Reading Portion of the SAT
The reading test has 52 questions that are multiple choices and relate to the five written passages that you have 65 minutes to read and respond to. Expect to spend no more than five minutes to read each passage that has between 500 and 750 words.
The passages may be in pairs or stand alone. Some will include graphics and other visual information that you have to interpret using the information in the written passage. Prepare to discern graphs, charts and tables to relate to the text. All of the answers to the multiple choice questions can be found in the text.
Reading Portion of the SAT Hacks
If you have taken an assessment test or online practice test, then you may realize where you are lacking in getting to that high SAT score you so desire.
- Take your time when reading. The most common problem in the reading section comes from careless mistakes.
- Practice skimming text passages to increase your speed and comprehension.
- Skip questions that you aren’t completely sure about. By answering the questions you know for sure first, you increase your confidence level as well as the information you retain. Often, when you skip the questions that give you pause and answer those you know, the information returns to you.
- Use some SAT strategies like eliminating obvious incorrect answers. If a question continues to puzzle you, remove any answers from the four multiple choice answers to narrow down the selections and increase your chances of choosing the correct answer.
SAT Math Section
The math section on the SAT is split into two parts. It tends to be the one segment that students fret over. You will have 80 minutes to complete the test that contains a total of 58 questions.
There is a no calculator section where you are given 25 minutes. This is followed by a 55-minute section where you are allowed to use a calculator approved by the test center. There is a short break between the first and second half the test.
SAT Tips and Tricks for Math
Studying for the SAT math portion of the test is helpful. However, you should also understand that all you will be tested on you’ve already learned. It's not going to ask you anything you haven’t already covered during all those hours sitting in math class over your entire primary school career.
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of a high score.
- Go over practice math problems a few days before you are scheduled to take the SAT. This will refresh your memory. Consider it a workout for your math muscle.
- Take online practice tests to understand where you may not understand specific math concepts. This will also help you to realize if you have a time management issue that you can correct before taking the test.
- For the geometry section of the math portion of the SAT, you will be given a geometry reference sheet that will include angles and degrees and other basic info. Memorize this before sitting down to take the SAT to save yourself time during the 80-minute math portion of the SAT.
How to Prepare for SAT Test Day
For many students, the SAT is the first time that they have had to take a standardized test. This can present a problem if the students find that they lose all information when they plant themselves in the hushed testing room surrounded by strangers.
To prepare yourself mentally to take the SAT, there are a few activities you can do that will ease your mind.
- Join a study group.
- Take test prep classes. These can familiarize you with how the test is formatted, offer more detailed information on what the SAT covers and shore up your confidence.
- Hire a private tutor or coach.
- Take free online practice tests. There are many varieties of online SAT practice tests that are free. Use a dedicated email to funnel test scores and studying suggestions that you get from taking these free online practice tests.
Retaking the SAT
The SAT test can be retaken as many times as you need. Most college admission officers will only accept the highest score and not look at how many times you took the test to get the higher score. On average, students who retook the SAT test after months of studying increased their score by 20 to 60 points.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.