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10 tips on how to own! the SAT

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 30, 2014 11:12:00 AM

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare!

A typical approach is to try to cram in as much information as possible in the few weeks leading up to the test. This might result in a modest score increase but the best way to make sure you understand the types of questions you will be asked - and how you need to answer them - is to study a little bit each week for an entire year (or more, if you are feeling ambitious!). 

2. Practice, practice, practice!

Part of the SAT is that you only have a certain amount of time to complete a lot of questions. If you are taking a timed version of the exam for the first time on test day, you are likely to feel anxious about getting everything completed - and it could be to your detriment. Take as many practice exams as you can get access to (10-15 is an ideal number) - and time yourself. Learn what kinds of questions you can take your time on, and which ones you need to get done quickly and move on. Experts argue that there is a strong correlation to how many practice exams you take and how well you do on the test. iStock_000043382204Small-1

3. Take the PSAT.

This official "practice" exam can help you identify your strengths and weakness when it comes to taking the SAT so you can dedicate more of your prep time to the areas you need it most. 

4. Take the SAT more than once.

Plan on taking the SAT more than once. Even if you take lots of practice exams before the big day, it's nice to know you have a second chance. You can submit your best scores to your colleges of choice. Just keep in mind that taking the SAT more than three times is unlikely to lead to much of a score increase. 

5. Learn to avoid traps.

When taking multiple choice questions, the tests are often structured to lead you down the wrong path. While you don't want to over analyze every question, be careful not to choose an answer until you have considered if it is a trap. 

6. Know how the test is structured.

For example, in the math section, the easiest questions are first and the hardest questions are at the end of the test. You are penalized more for wrong answers than you are for skipped questions, so breathe easy, take your time figuring out the problem and try to get it right rather than just filling in any circle in a rush when you don't know the answer right away. Some experts recommend not wasting time reading a passage in the reading section first. Instead, start by reading the question, finding the answer in the passage, and then moving on to the next question. 

7. Communication is key in the essay section.

Experts advise that you spend the most time organizing your points and structuring your essay to communicate a clear theme and argument. Dedicate less time to using fancy vocabulary and perfecting your grammar. These are important, but creating a clear, structured, and organized essay takes precedence. Include an introduction and conclusion and support your argument and stance with examples. 

Book a free college planning appointment 8. Get a good night's sleep the night before the test and eat breakfast!!!

Your brain functions better on a good night's sleep. Don't stay up late cramming for the test. Instead, get good rest and start your test day with a healthy breakfast. You will need a lot of energy and endurance to get through the test and it can't be done on an empty stomach and little sleep! 

9. Don't waste your time on items not on the test.

Calculus questions aren't included. Don't focus on building up skills that won't do you any good on test day. Instead, focus your efforts on cleaning up your geometry and algebra. 

10. Invest in a test book or course.

Some free resources are available, and if you can find one (through your school or online) then take advantage. The College Board also provides some preparation materials - this is the organization that creates the SAT - so it is a good place to start looking for good test materials. 

Topics: SAT & ACT