How To Study For The SAT: Tips and Strategies for Success

14/02/202327 minute read
How To Study For The SAT: Tips and Strategies for Success

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized test that assesses high school students critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. The exam is widely used as a benchmark for college admissions in the United States.

The importance of SAT scores for college admissions cannot be overstated. Many universities use SAT scores as a significant factor in evaluating prospective students' academic aptitude and potential. In addition to high school grades, extracurricular activities, and personal essays, SAT scores help college admission committees make informed decisions about which students to admit.

A strong SAT score can give students a competitive edge in the college admissions process, demonstrating to admissions officers that they possess the academic skills and potential necessary to succeed at the university level. Additionally, some universities may use SAT scores to determine eligibility for scholarships or other forms of financial aid.

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How is the SAT formatted?

The SAT consists of two main sections:

  • Math
  • Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (EBRW)

The Math section tests students’ understanding of algebra, geometry, and other mathematical concepts, while the EBRW section assesses reading comprehension, grammar, and writing skills.

Recently, changes have been announced regarding the SAT. For the new digital SAT, each section will be further subdivided into two modules, where the second module will be adapted according to how you fare in the first.

  • Module 1 (Fixed): Mix of easy, intermediate, and hard questions
  • Module 2 (Adaptive) Easier Variant: Mix of easy and intermediate questions
  • Module 2 (Adaptive) Harder Variant: Mix of easy and hard questions

The digital SAT will be offered to international candidates from this year onward. As for US-based candidates, they will be provided the paper-based test until next year.

For the digital SAT, the content and format are as follows:

Digital SAT Format
SectionTime (minutes)Questions
Reading & Writing Module 1 (fixed)3227
Reading & Writing Module 2 (adaptive)3227
Math Module 1 (fixed)3522
Math Module 1 (adaptive)3522
TOTAL144 mins98

As for the paper-based SAT, it is as follows:

Paper-Based SAT Format
SectionTime (minutes)Questions
Math (no calculator)2520
Math (w/ calculator)5538
TOTAL180 mins154 qs

What topics do you need to study for the SAT?

Reading Test

Craft and Structure

  • Words in Context
  • Text Structure and Purpose
  • Cross-Text Connections

Information and Ideas

  • Central Ideas and Details
  • Command of Evidence (Textual, Quantitative)
  • Inferences

Writing Test

Standard English Conventions

  • Boundaries
  • Form, Structure, and Sense

Expression of Ideas

  • Rhetorical Synthesis
  • Transitions

Math Test


  • Linear equations in one variable /two variables
  • Linear functions
  • Systems of two linear equations in two variables
  • Linear inequalities in one/two variables

Advanced Math

  • Equivalent expressions
  • Nonlinear equations in one variable and systems of equations in two variables
  • Nonlinear functions

Problem-Solving and Data Analysis

  • Ratios, rates, proportional relationships, and units
  • Percentages
  • One-variable data: distributions and measures of centre and spread
  • Two-variable data: models and scatter plots
  • Probability and conditional probability
  • Inference from sample statistics and margin of error
  • Evaluating statistical claims: observational studies and experiments

Geometry and Trigonometry

  • Area and volume
  • Lines, angles, and triangles
  • Right triangles and trigonometry
  • Circles

5 Tips to help you study for the SAT

1. Create A Study Plan

The familiar adage goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” With the new digital SAT, candidates will have more opportunities to take the test.

As such, a clear, detailed, and specific study schedule will be paramount. This will ensure that the preparation is sufficient and progressive without dealing with the unnecessary stress from last-minute preparation.

There is no one template or a right or wrong study plan. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the SAT. Take a practice test to identify your areas of strength and the areas that need improvement. This will help you tailor your study plan to focus on the areas where you need the most improvement.

Once you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, create a personalized study plan. Set aside specific times for studying and stick to your schedule. It's important to have a clear plan and schedule to ensure you cover all of the necessary content before test day. Make sure to include time for practice tests, reviewing incorrect answers, and working on areas that need improvement.

Generally, you will want to ensure you have done multiple timed practices of the entire test before your actual test date, with the necessary supplementary training for concepts or questions that tend to pose a problem.

Make sure you note down the test date, and once your plan is up - stick to it!

Example SAT Study Plan Template
1Practice Test 1Take Crimson's practice test to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Identify areas that need improvement.
MathReview concepts and practice problems.
ReadingPractice with sample passages and questions.
2WritingReview grammar rules and practice with sample questions.
MathReview concepts and practice problems.
3ReadingPractice with sample passages and questions.
WritingReview grammar rules and practice with sample questions.
4Practice Test 2 Identify areas that still need improvement.
Focus on weakest areasReview concepts and practice problems.

2. Practice Makes Perfect

One of the most effective ways to study for the SAT is by taking practice tests. The more you familiarize yourself with the format and content of the test, the more comfortable you'll be on test day. You can find official SAT practice tests online or in SAT study guides, and you should aim to take at least one practice test per week.

Use study materials that closely mirror the content and structure of the actual test. The College Board, which administers the SAT, offers a variety of official study materials, including books, online courses, and practice tests. Using these materials will help you build a solid foundation of knowledge and increase your confidence in your test-taking abilities.

After taking practice tests, you must review and learn from your mistakes. This will help you identify improvement areas and adjust your study plan accordingly. Focus on understanding the reasoning behind each correct and incorrect answer, and develop strategies for approaching similar questions in the future.

The SAT math section has a wide range of concepts, from algebra and geometry to trigonometry and statistics. To master this section, start by reviewing basic math concepts and gradually work on more advanced material. Use practice problems to reinforce your understanding of each concept and focus on areas where you struggle the most.

The language component of the SATs is your ability to read and analyze complex texts and your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. To improve your performance in this section, focus on developing your critical reading skills and expanding your vocabulary. Read challenging texts, and practice identifying key themes and arguments. Also, review grammar and punctuation rules and practice identifying common errors in sentence structure.

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3. Focus on Vocabulary & Grammar

While mathematical concepts can be brushed up with good repetitive practice, it may be less straightforward when it comes to language.

For the Reading component, one must develop a strong vocabulary and a sound understanding of grammar rules that underpin the English language. Contrary to the mechanical nature of preparation for Math, building a solid vocabulary will take time, from reading more widely, learning new words daily, etc.

Books on grammar can be borrowed or purchased online and physically - alternatively, you may consult your English tutor at school or get someone well-versed in the English language to guide you.

It is also helpful to build up your reading appetite, whether an online article or chapter from a book each day, which can help improve one’s grasp of grammar and vocabulary tremendously.

4. Work on Time Management

For each segment of the SAT outlined earlier, calculate the maximum number of minutes you can spend per question. It is ideal to leave some time for checking, usually 5 minutes, however, it is also acceptable to aim to finish on time. Budget your time conscientiously!

Time per question: Digital SAT

  • Reading & Writing Module: 32 minutes for 27 questions (71 seconds per question)
  • Math Module: 35 minutes for 22 questions (95 seconds per question)

Time per question: Paper-based SAT

  • Reading Test: 65 minutes for 52 questions (75 seconds per question)
  • Writing and Language Test: 35 minutes for 44 questions (48 seconds per question)
  • Math Test (No Calculator): 25 minutes for 20 questions (75 seconds per question)
  • Math Test (Calculator): 55 minutes for 38 questions (87 seconds per question)

In Reading & Writing, there may be more than one option that seems plausible, but if anything about an option seems incorrect or outlandish, cross it out to start the process of elimination. Simply by way of probability, this can help increase your chances of a correct answer should you resort to guessing.

If you cannot eliminate any option, it may be best to leave it later if your mind is blank. Make a mental note of it, and go back to it when you are done with other manageable questions - do not dwell on any one question for too long!

5. Don’t Forget Your Mental Health!

While you conscientiously study for your SAT, what is equally important will be your mental state on the test day. During your timed practices, do your best to simulate the actual test environment. Perhaps isolate yourself before and during the test and practice strategies to calm yourself down (deep breathing, for instance).

Remember, you have prepared conscientiously for the day. Getting sufficient rest and sleep the night before is essential. Do not cram! A lack of rest can exacerbate your nerves on test day, not to mention further impede your cognitive abilities as well.

Get to the exam venue early (10-15 minutes) to account for any extenuating circumstances you may run into. Before the test, take deep breaths and affirm yourself with positive thoughts - like reminding yourself how diligently you have prepared for the test.

It can also be helpful to remind yourself that a lower-than-expected score is not the end of the world - you have opportunities to retake the test. A perfect score is ideal but not strictly necessary at the end of the day!

During the test, distractions and other thoughts may creep into your mind. Acknowledge them, steady your breathing, and direct your attention to the question. You should enter your ‘flow state’ within minutes and become focused again.

Additional Resources & Support

Studying for the SAT can be lonely, but it does not have to be. It can be much more enjoyable when you have a group of friends working together on it. Tips can be exchanged, and accountability buddies can be made!

If you seek a study group, they can be readily found online with communities on platforms like Discord. If you require extra help, consider online tutoring to get personalized service from SAT experts.

Try to reach out to your seniors or friends who have already taken the SAT - they can provide fresh advice without you having to part with any money to engage someone!

A perfect SAT score can be attained without tutoring or extra help. If there is a need for additional free resources, sites like Khan Academy offer other helpful practices free of charge.

Final Thoughts

With the proper preparation and mindset, getting a perfect score on the SAT is well within reach. The ingredients for a perfect score are consistent and focused study, using the right resources, and confidence on the actual day cannot be overemphasized.

With that, this guide ends with a quote from James Clear’s Atomic Habits: ‘You do not rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems.’

While we strive for a perfect SAT score, what truly matters or sets students apart will be the effort and preparation each day - your study system and discipline. The accumulation of small, efficient study habits compounded over time will be the key to your perfect SAT score.

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