How to Study for the SAT | Test Guide and Prep Hacks

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Anyone who’s dreaming of getting into a good university in the United States knows that they need to ace the SATs to get a step closer to their dreams. With the scale of this exam, however, this can feel like a major undertaking. The size of the test coverage alone already feels intimidating for many students. Fortunately, learning how to study for the SAT can be a great way to address this concern.

By learning the right techniques in how to tackle this standardized test, you can make the whole ordeal more manageable. For example, if you worry about your SAT math score, you can find an SAT tutor. To begin, you should check out new SAT to old SAT changes explained here. You may also want to take a look at SAT grammar rules. You should also know the difference between SAT and other tests in this GRE vs SAT dedicated article.

Check out our What is a Good SAT Score article to learn more and make a profile to access hundreds of exclusive articles.

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Wondering how to prepare for the SAT effectively? Let our quick guide below help you.

How to Study for the SAT: 6 Ways to Effectively Prepare Yourself for the Exam

If you think about it, the preparation for a big test tends to be more challenging part than the actual test. The process can be more nerve-wracking and stressful than having to answer complex questions on test day. This is particularly true for the SAT, especially since it comes with a lot of pressures that can make the act of taking it a lot more taxing. Having said that, we covered the debate of SAT Tutor vs. SAT Prep vs. SAT Textbooks. You should also find out what a SAT superscore is.

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How to study for the SAT

With a good preparation strategy, however, you can manage to get ready for the exam thoroughly and effectively.

If you don’t know where and how to start preparing, here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to study for the SAT:

1. Do your research.

The best way to get started in preparing for the SAT would be to do a good deal of research about it first. A lot of people look at this exam as if it’s an adversary that they have to take down and it really makes sense to do the same. By doing so, you will be more motivated to cover all your bases in order to be successful in overcoming it. To begin with, you should be aware of what the lowest SAT score is.

A good deal of research can help you get off on the right foot to do just that. By knowing SAT sections and every pertinent information about this standardized test, you can fully prepare for whatever it might throw at you.

For starters, learn what grade do you take the SAT or if you can take the SAT after high school.

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These will tell you a lot about when you should start preparing for the exam and help you plan a timeline. Usually, you should start researching when you start taking AP classes or at least sometime during your junior year.

By the summer before your senior year, you should already know a lot about the SAT. You should also already know what the answer is to the questions "is the SAT hard?"’ and "what is the difference between ACT and SAT".

Aside from the timeline and the difficulty levels of the exam, you should also be fully aware of what exactly the SAT is about. It’s often described as the exam that universities and colleges use in their admissions process. The score you’ll get here says a lot about your college readiness so universities factor it in when making a decision whether to take you in or not. We have also covered SAT percentiles so you know where you stand.

Your research should also teach you a thing or two on how to crack the SAT. You’ll find lots of tips, hacks, and strategies used by other folks that can help you get started on the right foot. You can also use them to craft a good study strategy.

Of course, you also shouldn’t forget to look up information on the format, scoring, and coverage of the exam. Including these details into your plans is the best way to prepare for SAT because it can really ensure that you know what you’re up against. Be aware that there are colleges which need you to write SAT essay while some others don't (see 'Does the SAT Essay Matter?' post for more updates)

2. Take a diagnostic test.

After getting yourself acquainted with what the SAT is all about, you should be geared up to start working on your exam preparations. The very first step towards this direction is to take a diagnostic test.

A diagnostic test is pretty much just a practice test for the SAT. However, the very first time you take one would serve as a diagnostic evaluation of your skills and knowledge. Since you haven’t really taken any steps to prepare for the exam just yet, it will provide you with a raw picture of what you’re working with.

The scores you get from your diagnostic test would give you a good look at what you already know and what you still have to work on. This should give you a good idea of how much work you still need to do in order to get a great score in the actual exam.

With the help of the results of your diagnostic test, you can also locate your strong and weak points effectively.

How to study for the SAT

Look for the questions and portions where you did poorly then take note of them. You should then put some emphasis in those areas to create the best SAT prep plan. Also have SAT Reasoning test in mind.

Where can you get an SAT practice test? There are tons of sources for this material but we highly recommend that you make sure to take advantage of what the College Board has to offer.

Fortunately, the College Board offers a few free practice tests that you can use as a diagnostic exam. Being the creators of the said exam, their study materials can be the very useful.

They offer the same quality of questions so you can make sure to get the same kind of challenges as you would when you’ll take the exam as explained in this post.

Aside from the College Board prep tests, the best SAT prep book you can get will offer valuable practice tests that you can use for your diagnostic evaluation. Just make sure to be very discerning in choosing which title to get, though, so you can be sure to get a high-quality sample exam.

After taking the diagnostic test, you can then check your answers using the answer sheet provided by the source of the sample test. In this process, you can brush up on the concepts you missed and take note of which ones you need to focus on more. The information you’ll get here can then be used to help you make sure that you’ll cover as many areas as you need to when preparing for the big day.

3. Find out what kind of learner you are.

This step doesn’t necessarily have to sit in this slot but it would be nice for you to learn what kind of learner you are before you proceed with the next steps. Why? By figuring out how you learn stuff, you’ll be able to effectively find the best way to study for the SAT.

For example, you tend to grasp new concepts and ideas better by reading about them. With this information, you can just opt to self-study and use the best SAT books as your primary study materials. The official SAT study guide would come in handy for such learners, so it will be best to get it if you intend to self-study.

If you need some assistance or instruction to learn new things, you might be better off enrolling in an SAT prep course, of which we reviewed several here. You can choose an in-classroom or an online program. These after-school programs are practically tutorial sessions that will have you work with an expert and other students preparing for the exam.

Visual learners, however, might find it more challenging to prepare for the SAT. Most printed materials are text-heavy so you might need to look for some alternatives. There are some instructional videos online, though, so there’s still a good chance that you’ll find good study materials that can help you out.

4. Create a study plan according to your learning style.

Now that you have all of the basic information that you need to craft yourself a personalized scheme to get ready for the SAT, you can already start creating a study plan. With this, you can map out the topics that you need to cover on a solid timeline that will have you ready by the test day.

How do you create an effective study plan? Here are some tips that you should try:

1. Set a target score.

This will allow you to visualize your goal and help you quantify the amount of work that you need to do in order to get your desired results. By computing the difference between your target score and your diagnostic test score, you can have a clear idea of how much work you still need to do to improve your numbers (see here how to improve SAT score by 200). If you’re even willing to get technical, you can use the difference between the two as a guide in determining how many hours you need to spend studying for the SAT. You can find lots of recommendations about this online so you can definitely take this route if you think it will help you.

2. Create a study timeline and stick to it.

With a specific test date and a good amount of topics to cover on top of regular schoolwork and extracurricular activities, you’ll need to manage your time effectively if you’re going to ace the SAT.

To help you make sure that you can do all of your tasks and won’t overlook anything, you should create a study timetable for your SAT preparations.

How to study for the SAT

This should specify a time for your SAT preps and outline which topics you’ll cover for certain schedules. This will also help you keep track of your progress and allow you to make sure that you’ll cover all of the topics and areas that you need to deal with to boost your SAT scores.

When creating a timetable for your SAT preps, make sure that it’s realistic and that you can and will stick to it. If you have other things to do on specific days, it might be best not to squeeze in hours of study time when you’re sure that you won’t be able to really do anything according to plan on those days.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible when it comes to your study plan, however. You don’t have to follow it very strictly but it would be very helpful if you can do so. This is why you need to craft it well so you don’t have to cram later on.

5. Sign up for a prep class.

As mentioned above, SAT prep courses may also be good ways to prepare for the big day. In some cases, even if you prefer to self-study, these sessions can come in handy. Some of them, especially the online ones, will still let you do things according to your preferences but you can still get some support when you need it. This makes it very useful for many.

6. Get a few of the best SAT prep books and other study materials.

This is possibly one of the SAT tips that a lot of people cannot emphasize enough. A good test guide can really come in handy no matter what your learning style is. It can serve as a reliable reference to help you make sure that you’ll cover all your bases even if you can’t always rely entirely on them.

A very good title, like the College Board SAT book, could also be everything some folks need to prepare for the big day. They can already help you brush up on the concepts and ideas that you need to know about to get a good score. They can also work as SAT practice books where you can practice answering SAT sample questions and simulate the actual exam to get better acquainted with its format and process.

Aside from SAT books, you can also use flashcards, apps, and other study tools to help you prepare for the test.

8 Additional SAT Tips and Tricks

In addition to the steps we’ve provided above, there are a few more useful tips for SAT that can really help boost your chances of getting a higher score. Here are some that you should make sure to give a try:

Balance your reading list with some non-fiction materials.

You should really practice SAT reading! The SAT involves a lot of reading so you really have to be used to read a lot without feeling exhausted after a page or so. Your classes will try to help you gear up for this with all of the reading assignments you’ll get in your English and Literature classes but those might not prove to be enough. To get you more help, we came up with the must-know SAT reading tips.

While high school classes will make you read a lot of fiction, you also need to get used to reading non-fiction. The SAT’s reading and writing portion will involve a lot of non-fiction passages so it would be beneficial for you to get used to them. They won’t just help you balance out the type of writings you consume but they can also help you learn a lot of different ideas and concepts. For this, it’s recommended that you pick up copies of or subscribe to the releases of the most reputable publications.

How to study for the SAT
Make use of your ‘dead time’.

No matter how much scheduling you do to maximize your free time and use it for studying for the SAT, you’re still bound to find pockets of ‘dead’ time here and there. You can always use this to study for the SAT as well.

To effectively make use of this time, you might need some handy study tools on hand. This is why it’s also recommended that you always carry a small SAT review book or some flashcards with you anywhere you go.

This way, you can effectively make use of any idle time you find to prepare for the SAT.

Brush up on your grammar.

Grammar tends to be a weak point for a lot of students, so it would be a good idea for you to pay extra attention to this area and learn SAT grammar rules we covered in this SAT Grammar Rules guide.

Perfect doing mental math.

Math is another area a lot of students tend to struggle in so it would be ideal for you to also pay more attention to SAT mathematics topics. Reading our practice tips for the SAT math section will benefit you if you’re one of the many who needs to pull your score up. Also, check out which formulas you have to learn to do well in the SAT.

Do not overstress yourself.

It would feel like your future depends on an impressive SAT score so it’s understandable that you can get stressed while preparing for the big day. However, you certainly don’t have to worry much about your score’s weight to your admission process.

The admissions experts of some of the top universities in the US say that a student’s SAT score is just one of the many factors they consider. It’s definitely not the deciding factor of the lot, so don’t aggravate yourself too much about it.

How to study for the SAT
Do not cram.

In fact, you should start preparing early. You’ll have lots of areas to cover in order to fully prepare for this exam so you should really allocate some time for it.

Find an SAT buddy.

To help you keep track of your progress, an SAT study buddy will come in handy. They can help keep you accountable for your goals and plans which can then force you to stick to your timeline.

Stick to your study schedule.

This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s a very important tip so it bears repeating. In order to really prepare well for the SAT, make sure to stick to your study schedule and scheme.

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