Last Updated: February 10, 2021
How to Prepare for the SAT?
Preparing for a competitive test like SAT can be a challenge especially while you are dealing with both graduation and other competitive exams required for higher education. Sifting through various suggestions online and offline that all guarantee in helping you achieve a higher score can also be a little confusing. Hence, we have dedicated this page to help you figure out the best way to prepare for the SAT exam.
When to Register for SAT?
Parents and students are often confused as to when they should start their preparation for the examination. There are students who prepare for 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.
Preparation can start when one registers for the exam. Registration then becomes the beginning point from which students can work with a deadline and prepare as much as possible without stretching the exam anxiety over a longer period of time.
Even if one delays the actual registration process, you can choose a date that fits your schedule with at least a 3-month notice. Students who start studying earlier with a specific deadline ahead do better in the test and builds more confidence to attempt the test.
You can register for the test both online and through standard mail given that you include all the necessary documents, a photograph, and make sure that it reaches 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 you can prepare smart 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 the like, there are 3 divisions. These divisions are Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics.
The Reading section has 5 passages with 10-11 questions each. This has to be completed within 65 minutes. The Writing and Language section has 44 questions spread across 4 passages which have to be completed within 35 minutes. The Mathematics section gives 35 minutes for the section with the calculator containing 38 questions and 25 minutes for questions without a calculator containing 20 questions.
Understanding the format helps planning for the exam easier. You will realize that time is an important factor and that you should learn pacing among other things.
Take a Diagnostic Test
Once the deadline has been set and you have deeply studied the format of the exam you can move on to taking a full practice test. Yes, before you start preparation you should take a diagnostic test to know where you 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 test and do NOT cheat.
Once the time is up, correct the paper according to the answer key to get your raw score. This will give you an idea of where you stand and how much you have to study to reach the score you require.
Find out your Strengths and Weaknesses
During the assessment of the diagnostic test, keep a note of recurring concepts that you couldn’t answer and information that you are unaware of. You will also be able to identify that despite knowing certain concepts you are unable to attend to questions from that field. Such areas will be your areas of weakness.
There will also be areas in the test where you seem to be well versed and have 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 your strengths.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses makes you identify the areas of the syllabus that you have to completely learn afresh and areas you can just review a little before the official test. This will help you create a study schedule where you can focus on turning your weaknesses into your 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 you want to apply to. These colleges would have put out lists of percentiles pertaining to students they selected in the previous academic year. From this, pick out the 75th percentile score
and make that your target score.
The 75th percentile score of a college refers to the performance of students in 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 you want to apply to and then find out an average score you will need to apply to all these places together. Be realistic. Aim for at least a 100 point improvement from the score you 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 you simply want to outperform most test-takers you can also aim for the highest score obtainable and achieve for 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 for you
There are mostly 3 methods in which you can prep for the SAT exam.
- Self-Prep is one of the most recommended ways if you are a well-disciplined and hardworking person. You will be able to have control over what to study. You will also be able to study according to a schedule of your choice. The other plus point is that this is the most cost-efficient method of all if you minus the cost of one or two good prep books you have to invest in.
At the same time, it will not always be easy to stay focused without external pressure. Figuring out your strengths and weaknesses may also be challenging in the long run. People often prefer self-prep for the Reading and Writing section and availing some form of guidance for Mathematics.
- Online Courses is a relatively new method, one that has gained prominence especially during the pandemic. This is a good investment since it will be easier to diagnose weaknesses, do practice problems, and track progress. You will also be able to have quality content with the best teachers available within the confines of your house.
- Private Tutor Investing in a private tutor can also be done online nowadays. Most online prep courses and other offline prep courses offer services and packages where students can interact with tutors on a 1-on-1 basis. Private tutors, though expensive, will help you create study plans, identify strengths and weaknesses and also create strategies that will suit you personally while preparing for the exam.
Create a Study Schedule and Stick to it
Be realistic while creating your study schedule. Keep enough time for other activities
so that you 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 you need to increase to reach your target goal.
Your study schedule can include around 3 hours on a school day and have a maximum of 5 hours on weekends. Devote your weekends for practice tests and self-evaluation so you can plan the topics to be dealt with in the following week.
Do NOT cram yourself with content the day before the exam. Understand that you have already studied the content for school and are just brushing up your knowledge.
Mastering the Strategies
SAT being a competitive test relies on a strategical approach to solving problems than following it content by content. This helps you manage time and finish problems without all the steps that are deemed necessary otherwise.
Strategies include eliminating answers in the multiple-choice section until you reach a plausible answer, answering every question even if you are not sure of the answer, underlining keywords in questions so as to not go wrong in calculations, completing the test before time to recheck answers, etc.
Practice until Perfect
Practicing for the test can be divided into two components where firstly you practice questions after every topic until the topic has been completely grasped along with key strategies that help you solve problems before time. Here, you can stop after every question to confirm your answers and go back to where you have gone wrong until you learn from your mistakes.
Secondly, once you are done with the topics individually you can do full practice tests one after the other to manage overall time and get the hang of the exam. This helps you understand which areas you still lack in and gives you an idea of how much time you still need to make your performance perfect. Both these practicing techniques followed one after the other helps you crack the exam easily.