Proper preparation to ace the SAT
The SAT will probably be unlike any other exam you’ve ever taken, but there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to prepare for this uncharted territory. SAT prep will not only help you feel more comfortable with the exam but it can also improve your score tremendously.
SAT Prep Tips
The earlier you start, the better. No, this doesn’t mean you have to start prepping for the exam in year 2! However, you should start preparing about six months before the exam. This allows you to ease into your test prep and have a lot of time to familiarise yourself with the exam.
Create a study schedule. Effective improvement stems from consistency and efficiency. Put aside at least an hour a day for test prep. An hour of complete commitment and dedication to prep will be way more effective than four hours filled with distractions and procrastination. Promise.
Try to focus on one specific section a day or a week in order to minimise your stress level and optimise your efficiency.
Most importantly, TURN OFF YOUR PHONE OFF!
Set realistic goals. Before you begin preparing for the exam, write down your ultimate goal and the motivation behind your goal. Whether it be to get a perfect score because you want to be the first person in your family to go to Harvard or to simply improve your math score by 50 points because you need a great score to go to MIT, writing down your goal will help you remember why you are studying so much in the first place.
Then, write a new goal for every study session you have. These goals will most likely be smaller and short-term, such as figuring out why you always get questions about fractions wrong, but will ensure that each study session is productive.
Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. The earlier you figure out what part of the exam you’re best at and what part need help with, the more tailored your study sessions will become. While you shouldn’t ignore your strengths completely, it is a waste of time to only practise what you are good at.
Instead, focus on improving your weakest points while continuing to review your strengths. The more you can improve your weaknesses, the higher your score will be.
For an extra challenge, try to find the hardest questions and work through them at the beginning of every study session. That way, you get the difficult stuff out of the way, and you save the best till last!
Familiarise yourself with the test structure. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable on the day of the exam if you understand the test structure and the instructions for each section. Take the time to look over the structure and the instructions at least once a month to familiarise yourself with what you should expect on the exam.
Read, read, and read some more. Reading will help you improve your vocabulary and comprehension, especially if you are not a native American English speaker.
Analyse everything you read. Figure out the author’s point of view, see if you can spot any grammar mistakes, and try to find the overall idea in everything.
Practice makes perfect. There are a million SAT books, phone apps, websites, and flashcards available around the world. Use them. Make sure you are using real SAT questions whenever you study so that you get a feel for what the actual exam questions will be like.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the SAT, take at least two or three full length exams under the real exam conditions (timing and all). Trust us, the three plus hours will be worth it in the end.
While many of these practice exams are available online, try to sit one using paper and a pencil instead (since that’s what you’ll use come test day).
Mix it up. Simply taking practice tests and answering actual SAT questions can get boring, especially if you are doing the same thing every day for six months! Luckily, there are many ways you can mix up your prep to keep yourself engaged with the material.
- Teach your younger siblings or neighbours: Not only does teaching other people the material you are learning help it stick, but teaching it to younger kids forces you to simplify the problems down to their essence. Don’t worry, they don’t have to actually understand the concepts; although, if you can get a 10 year old to understand how to do geometry, we’ll be very impressed.
- Use your friends: Discuss each step of different question to see what tips and tricks your friends have. Who knows, you may learn a thing or two!
- Put together competitions: Get a group of people together and see who can answer the most questions correctly. Sometimes all you need is a little friendly competition to help spark your motivation.
- Use colors and pictures: Both can be a great way to liven up your notes and turn that frown upside down!
Review your mistakes. This may be the most important part of your test prep. Every mistake you make, whether it’s big or small, happens for a reason. Understanding exactly what went wrong every time you miss a question is the key to improving your score.
Make a note of every question you hesitate on throughout your prep and review those questions as well as the ones you got wrong. Keep track of the specific kinds of questions you’re getting wrong, such as reading comprehension or analysing graphs and then delve deeply into why you got each question wrong.
If you don’t analyse your mistakes, you’ll never be able to nail those question, which will strongly impact your overall score.
Don’t forget to work through the questions you missed until you completely understand them or at least understand why you made the mistake you made, even if it was silly like misreading a question.
Once you take the exam, your subscores can help you further understand your pain points and what you should review and focus on.
SAT Test Day Tips
Take a break the night before. There is no point in studying the night before the exam. Your brain needs to rest, too! Take a breather and trust that your hard work has prepared you well. Watch a movie, go shopping, or maybe even go to an amusement park.
Try not to think about the exam and eat a good dinner, go to bed early, and make sure you eat a balanced breakfast.
Be prepared the day of the exam. Before you leave the house make sure you have:
- Your admission ticket
- Two or more No.2 pencils with erasers
- Acceptable photo ID
- Approved calculator
- A watch (your phone doesn’t count)
- Water and snacks to eat during your break (the healthier the better)
P.S. If you pack your bag the night before, you’re less likely to forget something!
Save the tough questions for the end. Make sure you answer all of the questions in each section that you are sure of, then go back and answer the tricky questions. Remember, it’s really easy to get stuck on a difficult question and run out of time trying to figure out the answer to one question. We’ve all been there.
Plug in. Take advantage of the multiple choice questions in the maths section by “plugging in” the answer you think is correct to make sure it fits in the equation.
Double check your answers. Save some time at the end of each section to double check your answers but don’t second guess yourself. Usually the first answer you choose is the right one.
Mark your answers on the test booklet first. Bubble your answers in after you check them, that way you don’t need to worry about making a mess by erasing on the answer sheet.
Relax. Take a deep breath. You will get through the exam and it will all be okay. Your hard work and preparation will pay off. Trust the system. The more calm you are during the exam, the better you’ll do. Just remember, you can take the exam again.