How to Prepare for the SAT: A Beginner's Guide

22 JUN 2020

The SAT is a crucial test for students planning to apply to U.S. universities and is usually compulsory.

During the unprecedented COVID-19 period, more U.S universities are making the SAT optional, however, the majority of universities still require it. Getting a high SAT score boosts your application but knowing how to effectively prepare for the exam when SAT resources are hard to come by in Australia is a challenge.

To stay up to date with how COVID-19 is affecting US & UK university admissions head to Crimson’s COVID-19 support page.

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For those who are brand new to the SAT, here are some fast facts:

  • A perfect SAT score is 1600 - about 0.03% of students get this score
  • It’s made up of four sections - Reading, Writing, Mathematics (No calculator) and Mathematics (Calculator)
  • There is an optional essay
  • The exam is three hours long, plus 50 minutes for the optional essay
  • There are exam centres around Australia. These are typically schools that host the exam on a weekend
  • It’s recommended to take the SAT in Year 11 (or even in Year 10). You can take the test more than once

Learn how to register for the SAT in your area with the link below.

The first steps to getting a great SAT score

The first step on your path to a great SAT score is to complete a full diagnostic practice test. This will allow you to know where you are currently and what you need to work on. You can find diagnostic tests online to help you become familiar with the examination. In addition, Crimson Education provides diagnostic tests and practice exams on the Crimson App as part of the SAT Mastery Course.

After taking a diagnostic, you should have a better understanding of what the SAT is and what is being tested. Before starting your prep, you have to understand something: the SAT is a standardised exam. This means that there will always be the same type of questions, the same number of questions, and the same time limits. Because of that, you can (and should) get comfortable with the format of the exam well in advance.

The next step is to start your prep. Look through the result of your SAT diagnostic and pinpoint your weaknesses in each section. It makes sense that these are the areas you start to focus on first.

Don’t forget to set a goal for yourself! If you are aiming to apply to prestigious institutions like the Ivy League colleges, you should be aiming for a score in the 1550 range. Crimson has a blog post with some great study hacks from SAT experts on how to score a perfect 1600.

However, with this in mind, you should remember to be realistic and to set a sensible objective. Remember the acronym SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Many students struggle to improve their SAT scores because they are simply learning inefficiently. Here is some advice on how to prepare successfully: You are now ready to start with your preparation! In my personal opinion, the Mathematics section is the easiest section to improve on. The Writing section is next, and the most difficult section to boost your score on is the Reading section. The Mathematics and Writing sections are quite straightforward: if you know the rules, you get the point. So, if you can ace your grammar and punctuation rules, if you can master algebra and data analysis questions, it will significantly increase your scores.

Join Crimson’s upcoming webinar for more tips to help you prepare for the SAT.

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Final SAT Preparation Tips

Many students struggle to improve their SAT scores because they are simply learning inefficiently. Here is some advice on how to prepare successfully:

1. Personalise your learning system

Different students learn differently, and as you prepare for the SAT, start to understand what works for you, and what doesn’t. The SAT is a strategy game and the more comfortable you are, the better you will perform.

2. Practice, practice, practice

The more you do questions, the more you understand the format, and the more prepared you will be. Set aside thirty minutes a day and practice in little chunks.

Like anything, the more time you devote to preparing for the SAT, the better you get at it.

3. Do a full test every now and then

You may improve in certain areas, and worsen in others. Take note of that and adjust your prep program accordingly. As you get familiar with the structure of the test, learn to manage your time.

Final thoughts...

Remember that your SAT score isn’t the only thing admissions officers look at. They also look at your extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendation letters. So, try your best at the SAT, but don't let it be the only priority.

Dave.T Profile

Written by

Dave T.

Dave is a Melbourne student who recently gained admission to Cornell University. He’ll be majoring in engineering.

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