In this guide, we will focus on the SAT* and provide a whopping 25 pro tips to increase your score.
The SAT is a three-hour long test (with an additional 50 minutes if you take the optional essay, strongly recommended if you’re applying to competitive schools).
You will answer 52 reading questions, 35 writing/language questions, and 80 math questions.
The math portion of the SAT has two sections: one that allows the use of a calculator and one that does not.
Your performances on these sections lead to a raw score, which is converted into a scaled score. Your scaled score for each of the two major sections (math and reading and writing/language) is out of 800 for a total score of 1600.
If you are hoping to skyrocket your SAT score, this jam-packed guide with 25 pro tips is for you.
Tip 1: Start with a diagnostic
To create a plan for success, pinpoint your areas of strength and weakness.
If you have taken an official SAT, look through your score report. These reports identify what you got correct and incorrect on the exam and give insight into how you might better approach questions that you got wrong.
On the other hand, if you have not taken an official SAT, take a practice official SAT found on the College Board website. Be sure to take the practice test under test conditions, adhering to the time limit.
Once you have completed the test, score it and look for patterns. Ask yourself:
- What types of questions did I get wrong?
- How often did I get these questions wrong?
It’s important to pay special attention to your weaknesses every time you take a test. Pouring energy into your weaknesses is how you become a stronger test-taker.
Tip 2: Understand how you learn
You’ve likely discovered by this point in your academic career that there are certain approaches to learning that work better for you.
For example, you might struggle in classes that require intense textbook reading but love classes where you engage in frequent participation. Ask yourself the following questions to determine how you learn best:
- Do I need interaction to learn or do I work better independently?
- Do I need to take copious notes, or can I wing it?
- Am I an auditory or visual learner?
Your answers to these questions will determine what method of study to undertake. There are many different approaches to studying for the SAT, including using an SAT guidebook, enrolling in a prep course, hiring a tutor, or studying with peers.
Tip 3: Create a study plan
Study plans help you stay on track as the exam date approaches.
If you are enrolled in an SAT prep course, block off those times in your calendar/planner for the course dates, as well as a few hours each week to work on assignments and review.
If you are studying via an online course, create a list of topics you need to study and review, and set aside time each week to cover those topics.
Tip 4: Take different SAT practice tests
You should take a new practice exam every 2-4 weeks to redefine the areas for which you could study more.
Note: Each test should be different from the ones you’ve taken before. The Official SAT Exam will not look exactly like any of your practice tests, so it is important that your practice tests are different as well.
Tip 5: Use Official SAT material
There are many resources available to study for the SAT, but not all of those resources are from College Board, the company that creates the official exam.
Many of these materials attempt to approximate the level of difficulty found on the SAT and are not always accurate in that approximation.
To best prepare for the official SAT exam, practice with questions from the test-makers of the official SAT exam. These questions can be found on the College Board website.
Tip 6: Pace yourself. The SAT is a marathon, not a sprint.
Say goodbye to procrastination! Do not wait until the week before the exam to begin studying (i.e., cramming). Give yourself ample time to digest the material. Ideally, begin studying at least 2-3 months before your exam date. Some students even begin preparing up to a year in advance.
Carve out a realistic block of time to study every week. For example, you might opt to study for one hour each on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This reasonable but effective plan should not interfere with your other commitments, plus it leaves you the weekend free!
Tip 7: Track your progress
Tracking your scores on the practice tests will keep you on top of how much you’ve already learned and how much more you need to learn.
Score your diagnostic test or obtain copies of the score report for your first official SAT. By tracking your progress, you can visualize the concepts that you have mastered and the topics that still present a challenge.
Tracking progress has the potential to boost your morale, productivity, and efficiency.
Tip 8: Seek a mentor
If you have exhausted your resources and still do not comprehend a topic, enlist help. If you have a good relationship with your math teacher, ask for assistance.
Another step is enrolling in an SAT prep course. But if money is a constraint, there may be free SAT prep courses offered through your school, or through various nonprofit organizations.
Do not wait until it is too late to ask for help. As soon as you realize that you are struggling, it’s time to reach out.
Tip 9: Fuel your body
To maximize your concentration, you need to eat enough of the right foods during both the study period and the exam.
These include fruits, vegetables, and protein, as well as healthy fats like the ever-popular avocado toast. Avoid eating high amounts of sugar, which can contribute to energy spikes and crashes, as well as brain fog.
On test day, bring healthy snacks to refuel during breaks. Pack a few unsalted almonds or a bunch of grapes in clear plastic sandwich bags to avoid being accused of cheating.
Tip 10: Maintain a growth mindset
There will be times when all the material makes sense and you are getting high scores on practice questions. And then there will be days where you read one question five times, and you will still get it wrong.
Keep in mind: You are constantly seeking to improve each day, but you do not need to be perfect.
When you prioritize improvement over perfection, you can avoid being harsh on yourself and risking burnout.
Set realistic goals and aim to achieve them. Raise the bar higher when you have hit a milestone. Strive to pick yourself up and continue striving!
Tip 11: Skim reading passages
So, should you read the entire passage, or shouldn’t you? This is a hotly debated question.
The answer depends on your performance during your study period. If you find yourself running out of time in the reading section, you may benefit from utilizing a shortcut or two.
Skimming a dense reading passage is one viable shortcut and major time-saver. Read the introduction and conclusion in full, combing for thesis statements and key words. Then, skim the rest of the passage before you answer the questions.
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Tip 12: Preview the questions
Like skimming the reading passage, previewing the questions is a precious time-saver. The questions will be a blend of fact-based and inference style. Distinguishing between the two before you delve into the passage will help you target your reading and laser-focus only on the parts necessary to solve the question.
This technique will help you stress less as you move through the passages and leave you more time at the end of the test to review your answers.
Tip 13: Memorize formulas and tricks for the SAT Math section
While the math section of the SAT does provide you with some of the formulas needed, there are certain formulas or logic relationships that can be beneficial to memorize.
For example, the math section does not include a list of Pythagorean triples (5, 12, 13 is one). However, remembering some of the most common Pythagorean triples could benefit you immensely by conserving your valuable time.
Tip 14: When in doubt, Khan it out
If you are struggling with a concept or looking for practice material, check out Khan Academy.
Khan Academy has partnered with the makers of the SAT to provide personalized practice for test takers. They also have an impressive video library of sample problems.
Tip 15: Read something challenging 10 minutes a day
The reading section of the SAT features dry, technical, or literary text that tests your ability to discern important points from nonessential details.
These types of readings may not have been incorporated into your coursework and likely won’t be things you read for fun, so it is important to practice reading more challenging materials.
Try reading something challenging for at least 10 minutes a day.
Some examples of challenging texts include readings from:
- Scientific American
- National Geographic
- The Economist
- The Atlantic
- Works by writers from the 19th century or earlier
Grapple with the difficult texts. Get comfortable with the discomfort of reading something that does not make complete sense to you.
Over time, you will adjust to the language utilized in dry, technical texts, which will help you increase your comprehension skills. This will, in turn, increase your score.
One final word: Familiarize yourself with infographics such as charts and graphs as these will pop up throughout the reading section, testing your ability to analyze visuals.
Tip 16: Join forces with a study partner
A supportive study partner will not only make the process of preparing for the SAT more enjoyable but also more efficient. Your partner may possess a strength where you are polishing a weakness, and vice-versa.
Knowing that you’re part of a team of two will make you feel accountable to someone who will, in turn, push you to excel.
Tip 17: Organize a study group
There is strength in numbers, so consider gathering a small group of 3 to 6 people as a supplement to your individual or partner study time. Meeting once a week with your group at the library or in a coffee shop can be a fun, stress-free way to study for the test.
Take some of the pressure off yourself and look to your group for moral support. Reciprocate with your best assistance and you’ll reap the benefits that come from selflessness while simultaneously mastering the SAT.
Tip 18: Brush up on your grammar
The SAT Writing and Language section used to be much more grammar-centric, but there are still basic concepts you should master. Understanding core ideas like subject-verb agreement, parallelism, punctuation, and misplaced modifiers will help you ace this section.
Websites for non-native speakers of English are treasure troves of grammar information and should be your one-stop shop for this section of the SAT.
Tip 19: Take an educated guess
There is no penalty for guessing on the SAT, so go ahead and guess away! Fine-tune your conjectures to educated guesses, meaning that you are putting forth your most sensible answer based on the information available.
Eliminating silly or obviously wrong answers is the first step in taking an educated guess. In many cases, you may be able to narrow the correct answer down to two choices, giving you a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right. Of course, if you don’t guess, there is a zero chance of getting the answer right.
Tip 20: Double-check those answers
If you’ve followed these tips so far and budgeted your time, you may be left with a handful of minutes at the end of the test. While you’ll probably feel like zoning out, channel this time wisely by reviewing your answer sheet and checking for inconsistencies.
Are there any empty bubbles? If so, take Tip #19 and make that educated guesswork for you.
Tip 21: Don’t over study
Yes, there is such a thing as studying too much, and it can be as dangerous as not studying at all. Overloading your brain with information leads to burnout, especially if you’re pulling an all-nighter the Friday before the test.
Recognize that if you’ve followed the tips in this guide, then you’ve devoted more effort than most students who take the SAT. Be confident in the fact that you’ve done your best and give yourself a well-earned break.
Tip 22: Don’t cram
Over-studying and cramming are connected, as students tend to do both at the same time. Cramming the night before the SAT will only take away time that you could be putting to better use by mentally and physically preparing for the rigors of the test.
Tip 23: Practice mindfulness
Whether it’s a yoga practice, meditation, a Tai Chi class, or simply sitting quietly in your room, practicing mindfulness is an excellent strategy to conquer the crunch time before the test. Research shows that people who practice mindfulness have better memories, a quality that is invaluable to test-takers.
Tip 24: Catch a full night of zzz’s
If you’re a night owl, switch up your routine the night before the test and hit the sack by 10 pm. A full 8 hours (or more) of sleep is crucial for being mentally alert on the morning of the test.
Yes, the SAT takes place bright and early on Saturday morning, so sleep is non-negotiable. If you’ve tried a mindfulness practice from Tip 23, drifting off into dreamland should come naturally.
When your alarm clock rings, eat a hearty breakfast like an omelet or whole grain cereal. Make sure you’ve got your number 2 pencil and your photo ID before you head to the test center to transform your hard work into action.
Tip 25: Ask Transizion for help
We offer SAT tutoring in person and online, and match elite tutors to students with specific preferences. Contact us using the “Free Consult” button at the top of the page or click here.
Our tutors are experienced, Ivy League-educated, and know the tricks to acing the SAT.
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