The SAT is one of the two standardized college-readiness tests that all students in the United States will need to take if they want to apply for college. In addition to looking at other credentials, such as your GPA and involvement in extracurricular activities, the score you get on your SAT (or your ACT) has a large impact on whether or not you’ll be admitted to a certain school. Therefore, it’s a good idea to learn how to prepare for the SAT as best as you can.
Begin SAT Test Prep
The first step in preparing for the SAT exam is to know how early you should begin studying. Most students take the SAT their junior year of high school and should start studying their sophomore year of high school, according to PrepScholar.
Once you begin your SAT test prep journey, it’s important that you have a positive attitude and mindset. Preparing for the SAT isn't always easy. It takes time, focus and the ability to know when to take a break when parts of the study process become frustrating.
Research Courses and Study Materials
The second step is to do some research regarding the best way to study for the SAT. This includes looking into all courses, materials and study paths available. There are many different ways to study for the SAT, and it all depends on the amount of time you have available to dedicate, your family’s financial capabilities and your individual needs.
For instance, some students may need help with a certain subject section of the SAT, or they might prefer doing book work as opposed to an instructor-led class, whether that be online or in-person. You can figure out which study plan is best for you by researching the various options available:
- An online SAT course, such as Khan Academy SAT prep, which is free
- An in-classroom course
- A private tutor
- An SAT study group
- SAT practice books, such as College Board's Official SAT Guide, according to PrepScholar
- SAT practice tests
- Self-study with online resources and physical materials
Sign Up for a Course or Tutor (Optional)
After exploring and comparing online courses to physical courses and private tutors, it’s time to make a decision about which course is best for you and to sign up. Courses and tutors can be very expensive, so it’s important to consider everything from cost, to study time to value in terms of how much the program can help you get a better score. Remember that not everyone is able to study in this way, and there are plenty of other methods to help you be successful on the SAT.
Create a Study Schedule
Whether you sign up for a structured course, a private tutor or decide to do self-study, it’s necessary that you make yourself a study schedule. Even in a structured course, you will need to do your homework. If you don’t practice what is taught in class, then what you’re taught won’t help you much.
Likewise, if you’re planning on studying for the SAT on your own, using practice books, practice tests and online resources, you’ll need to advocate for your own learning. Create a consistent study schedule and stick to it. Being disciplined with your study schedule is one of the hardest aspects when it comes to studying for the SAT.
When you make your schedule, have a target score in mind. You can figure out your target score by researching the SAT score requirement from the schools you'd like to apply to. Using this target score, you can evaluate your strong areas and your weak areas, and ultimately decide how much time you need to spend studying on each subject.
Lastly, be fair to yourself. Choose a few nights a week, or just an hour a day, that you can set aside for studying. Also, don’t forget to reward yourself and take breaks, too. You can go out on the weekends to enjoy time with your friends or take a day off from studying to do something fun when you need it.
Take the PSAT
If you're wondering how to practice for the SAT, the best way is by taking the PSAT, which is the "Preliminary SAT." This is a practice test that’s nearly identical to the actual SAT, despite a few differences in the amount of time allotted for each section, and the absence of the essay section in the PSAT (which is also optional in the actual SAT), according to PrepScholar.
Most students will take the PSAT in their sophomore or junior year, several months before taking the SAT. Though, some students take it much earlier than that. It’s good to have some foundation of what to expect before taking the PSAT, so you can treat it like the real test.
Once you take the PSAT, you’ll have a much better idea of how you’re doing in terms of your SAT preparation. You can look at the PSAT as a sort of benchmark to assess your study habits thus far. The score you get on the PSAT will be a good place to start.
After seeing your score from the PSAT, you can decide if you want to increase your score and by how much. According to PrepScholar, if you study for 150 hours, you can increase your score between 200 and 330 points.
Go Back and Review
By now, you’ll know which day you’ll be taking your SAT exam. As test day gets closer and closer, you should be using this time to review any areas of the exam that you’ve been struggling with. Use those same study tools and resources, whatever they may be, to go over questions that are giving you a difficult time.
Also, review SAT test-taking strategies and tips, including things like remembering that there’s no penalty for guessing, according to Kaplan. You only get points for the questions you get right, so put your guessing strategies to work when you come across a question that you don't know the answer to.
Pull Out Your Materials
The night before the test, eat a yummy dinner and get to sleep early. It’s important to get enough sleep so that you have enough energy for test day. In fact, you should be getting to sleep early the whole week before, so you’re as well-rested as possible.
Before you sleep, pull out all the materials you’ll need to bring with you to the test. According to PrepScholar, you'll need your ID, permitted calculator, pencils, erasers, your test sign-up confirmation and a water bottle, along with anything else you’re allowed to bring and would like to have. Likewise, leave anything at home that you shouldn’t bring, such as your cell phone.
Rest Before the Test
Finally, test day is here. If you’re starting to get some nervous feelings, that’s completely normal. A week or so before the test, it’s a good idea to take a break from studying altogether, though, if you have something that’s pressing and you want to look over it one more time, then do what you need to do.
On the morning of your test, wake up early, so you have enough time to get ready and eat a healthy breakfast. It’s extremely important to do these things so you're energized on test day. Make sure you already have your transportation to the test planned, and know where you'll need to go to report for the test.