A test acknowledged and valued by almost all universities, the SAT can be a terrifying experience, especially when you don’t know how to begin studying for it. So how do you slay this dragon? How do you get a fantastic score on a test that assesses your skills for test-taking itself?
In this article you’ll find a few pointers on how to break the preparation process down into a simple sequence of actions which can ensure that you ace this test with flying colors.
Get Familiar with the Structure
Before you begin preparing, be sure to flip through a couple of sample practice tests so that you know what to expect and there aren’t any surprises on test day. It’s important to know the order in which you have to answer sections and the amount of time dedicated to each section. This will make taking the SAT a much more comfortable experience and allow you to mentally prepare yourself for what comes next.
Moreover, familiarizing yourself with the style of the test and its questions will make sure you know how to approach each type of question and thus, will put you on the path to success.
Take a Diagnostic Practice Test
At first glance, the SAT can seem like a highly complex and difficult test, but you’ll only know where you stand by taking a complete practice test. This will not only allow you to be more comfortable with the structure of the test, but will also help you define areas for improvement so that you can focus on those to increase your score.
Practice Every Day
Once you know what topics are on the SAT and how well you can fare against the questions, it’s vital to build your skills everyday. This doesn’t mean taking an entire practice test each day (this would be a stressful and time-consuming experience which may not help you). Instead, try to improve on a few topics of math and a type of reading or writing passage each day. This will ensure you know how to answer any question which shows up on the test and are comfortable with all topics which could be assessed. Taking the test bit by bit will also make it a less daunting experience and will allow you to carry on with other activities instead of solely preparing for the SAT.
Learn from Your Mistakes
After all of the topics in the “syllabus” have been covered, it’s important to test how well you know the subject matter with a few practice tests (these can be found on CollegeBoard and Khan Academy). However, simply taking the tests isn’t enough. The practice tests will only help you if you learn from the mistakes made on them. This means going through all of the questions you missed, analyzing why you got them wrong, and forming a solution to get them right in your next attempt. By correcting yourself mistake by mistake, you will be able to lead yourself to a higher score.
Don’t Forget About the Essay
Although the four sections of the SAT can be a struggle to cover themselves, it’s important not to leave the essay for the last minute. Getting a good score on this optional section of the SAT is only possible with practice. You can do this by reading sample answers and examiner reports to gauge what an answer is expected to contain and developing your writing skills through practice essays.
Watch Out for the Clock
Once your section-wise preparation is done, and you have created a powerful database in your mind with all the information and tools you need to answer questions on the SAT, it’s time to focus on the time. You must know the amount of time dedicated to each section, and hence, the amount of time which you can take to go through each question or passage.
It may be helpful (in your practice tests) to mark off the time at which you are expected to finish a given passage or a certain number of questions so that you can set minor deadlines for yourself. This will allow you to give all of the questions in the test an equal chance and may even provide you with a few buffer minutes to check your work.
However, although the SAT ensures you are tight on time for each question, this is no reason to rush through the questions. As the test’s questions increase in difficulty from beginning to end, it is vital to get those first few simpler ones right.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
Always remember you are not alone in your journey to prepare for the SAT! There are vast collections of resources which can help guide you towards success (and many which you can acquire without spending a cent). If you desire a little more help on how to approach certain questions or to improve your overall score, you can:
- Buy a SAT Guide textbook which focuses on every aspect of the test
- Practice on Khan Academy which personalizes your practice sessions
- Watch videos which can offer advice on just about any part of the test
- Ask a peer or educator familiar with the test for help on how to improve
All in all, the SAT doesn’t have to be a fearsome beast sitting between you and your college success. With hard work and perseverance you can tame this dragon and get an impressive score. For related reading, see our post titled When is the Best Time to Take the ACT or SAT?