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Last Updated: November 21, 2023

How to Prepare for the SAT?

Preparing for a competitive test like SAT can be a challenge especially while one is dealing with both graduation and other competitive exams required for higher education. Sifting through various suggestions online and offline that all guarantee to help one achieve a higher score can also be a little confusing. This page has been created to help candidates figure out the best way to prepare for the SAT exam.

Compare SAT and ACT exams

When to Register for SAT?

Parents and students are often clueless as to when they should start preparing for the examination. Some students prepare for the SAT from the time they have cleared their PSAT or even way before that. When this can be seen as an extremely ideal situation, it also burdens the students with too much to learn over the years.

Ideally, preparation can start when one registers for the exam. Registration then becomes the beginning point from when students can work with a deadline and prepare as much as possible without stretching the examination anxiety over a longer period of time.

Even if one delays the actual registration process, they can choose a date that fits their schedule with at least a 3-month notice. Students who start studying earlier with a specific deadline do better on the test than those who don’t as this builds more confidence to attempt the test.

Candidates can register for the test online or through standard mail, given that they attach all the necessary documents including a photograph, and make sure that it arrives on time. Ideally, one should need only around 16 weeks or less to prepare for the exam and so can start preparation after registration.

Understand the Format

The next step is to understand the format of the test so that one can prepare smart rather than cramming all the information necessary. Though the exam is divided into two sections, when it comes to dividing the sections according to time and content, it can be considered to have 2 divisions in all. These divisions are Reading and Writing, and Mathematics.

Students have 70 minutes to finish the Math portion and 64 minutes to finish the Reading and Writing portion for a total of 2 hours and 14 minutes. The Reading and Writing section has 54 questions and the Math section has 44 questions.

Understanding the format helps plan for the exam more easily. Candidates will realize that time is an important factor and that they should learn to pace among other things.

List of SAT Vocabulary words

Take a Diagnostic Test

Once the deadline has been set and candidates have studied the format of the exam closely, they can move on to taking a full practice test. Yes, before candidates start preparation, they should take a diagnostic test to know where they stand.

Ensure that the practice test format matches the official test and if possible, work on a previously released official SAT practice test. Do this within the exact time frame allotted to each section and do NOT cheat.

Once the time is up, correct the paper according to the answer key to get the raw score. This will give the candidate an idea of where they stand and how much they have to study in order to reach the required score.

Find Out Strengths and Weaknesses

During the assessment of the diagnostic test, keep a note of recurring concepts that one couldn’t answer and information that they are unaware of. Candidates will also be able to identify that despite knowing certain concepts they are unable to attend to questions from that field. Such areas will be their areas of weakness.

There will also be areas in the test where one seems to be well-versed and has made every answer right. This can vary from topic to topic and can even be restricted to topics or sub-topics. But these areas will be considered as their strengths.

Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses makes them identify the areas of the syllabus that they have to completely learn afresh and areas that they can just review a little before the official test. This will help candidates create a study schedule where they can focus on turning their weaknesses into strengths.

Set a Target Score

Identifying a target score does not rely on average SAT scores in any field. Target score deduction requires research regarding different colleges/universities candidates want to apply to. These colleges would have put out lists of percentiles about students they selected in the previous academic year. From this, one will have to pick out the 75th percentile score and make that the target score.

The 75th percentile score refers to the performance of students on the SAT with respect to all the other test-takers. Most colleges will have a requisite grade above which they will choose students.

Compile a list of requisite grades for the different colleges/universities the candidate wants to apply to and then find out an average SAT score one will need to apply to all these places together. It is important to be realistic in this aspect. Aim for at least a 100-point improvement from the score received in the diagnostic test but also realize that anything above a 300-point improvement is less likely and would require hours of toiling.

If one simply wants to outperform most test-takers, one can also aim for the highest score obtainable and achieve the same. But this goes only for students who are used to scoring on higher ends and want to enter Ivy League Colleges for their higher studies.

Find the Best Prep-Method

There are mostly 3 methods in which one can prep for the SAT exam.

Create a Study Schedule and Stick to it

Be realistic while creating the study schedule. Keep enough time for other activities so that one will be able to stick to the plan as closely as possible. Spend a stipulated amount of time every day based on how many points one needs to increase in order to reach their target score.

The study schedule can include around 3 hours on a school day and a maximum of 5 hours on weekends. Devote weekends for practice tests and self-evaluation so that one can plan the topics to be dealt with in the following week.

Do NOT cram a lot of content the day before the exam. Understand that one must already have studied the content for school and requires only brushing up their knowledge.

Mastering the Strategies

SAT being a competitive test relies on a strategical approach to solving problems rather than following it content by content. This helps one manage time and finish problems without all the steps that are deemed necessary otherwise.

Strategies include

Practice until Perfect

Practicing for the test can be divided into two components firstly, candidates practice questions after every topic until the topic has been completely understood along with key strategies that help them solve problems in time. Here, candidates can stop after every question to confirm their answers and go back to where they have gone wrong until they learn from their mistakes.

Secondly, once done with the topics individually candidates can do full practice tests one after the other to manage overall time and get the hang of the exam. This helps one understand which areas they still lack and gives an idea of how much time they still need to make their performance perfect. Both these practicing techniques followed one after the other help candidates crack the exam easily.

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