Ultimate Guide to SAT Prep

There are two major standardized tests used in the college admissions process: the SAT and the ACT. The exams are comprised of slightly different content, one usually being easier than the other based on each individual’s abilities. If you’ve decided that the SAT is the test for you, there are ways to prepare that can boost your score. Here are some things you should be doing to get ready for test day and to get the best score possible:

Image Via: Start Up Stock Photos

Image Via: Start Up Stock Photos

Create a Study Calendar

As you must know, it’s best to start preparation with enough time to spare. You certainly can’t cram for a test like the SAT. So, when the test is a few months away, create a calendar on which you map out your preparatory journey. Practice exams are, like the actual exam, very time-consuming. Because you’re already busy balancing everything else in your life, you may only be able to squeeze in one each week. With a calendar, you’ll recognize this. Also, if you write down that you’ll prep on a certain date at a certain time, you’ll be less likely to stray from that plan.


Take Practice Exams

The SAT is a long exam – probably unlike anything you’ve taken in the past. It will take hours and drain your brain. It is such a foreign concept to most, it’s extremely beneficial to practice taking full-length exams before the actual test. In fact, you should simulate the entire testing process: wake up early, eat a healthy breakfast, have a timer on hand as well as your calculator, pencils, etc. Take each section of the test, with 5-minute breaks between some sections. Dress comfortably, as you would on test day.

Know the Test

This is what you’ll see on the test, which you will be familiar with after having taken practice exams:

  • Reading: 70 minutes, three sections – one 20 minutes and two 25 minutes
  • Math: 70 minutes, three sections – one 20 minutes and two 25 minutes
  • Writing: 60 minutes, three sections – one 10 minutes and two 25 minutes

In each section, you have the potential to score 200 to 800 points, making 2,400 the perfect score.

Image Via: Kaboom Pics

Image Via: Kaboom Pics

Practice Content Individually

Once you’ve taken some practice exams, you’ll know which sections are easier and harder for you personally. Some may suggest taking a prep class to supplement your practice, but prep classes can be expensive. Instead, take your practice scores into consideration and hone in on the areas requiring more practice on your own. If it’s the math you struggle with, purchase a book of math practice problems. Can’t master the reading? Practice reading foreign material and boosting comprehension. Finally, if writing is your weakness, write practice essays.


Know When to Move On

Time is a precious thing when it comes to standardized tests. You can’t afford to sit and stare at the same question for 5 minutes. Recognize when you have no idea how to approach a problem, know when to guess and move on. Keep in mind how the SAT is scored:

  • Gain a point for each correct answer
  • Lose one-quarter point for each incorrect answer
  • No gain and no loss for each incorrect answer


Get Familiar With Your Calculator

Your teachers have always praised the power of mental math. When it comes to the SAT, forget that. Turn to your calculator whenever possible to save time and ensure correct answers. Calculators can be tricky, make sure to use them in your practice exams and even dedicate additional time to them. If you are able to quickly navigate your Texas Instrument come test day, you’ll be one giant leap closer to a better score.

Image Via: Kaboom Pics

Image Via: Kaboom Pics

Mind Your Well-Being

In the days and weeks before the exam, make sure to take care of your physical health. Having a clear, healthy mind on the day of the exam is absolutely key in scoring your best. Don’t introduce new foods to your diet in the days before the exam, and don’t overwork your body, either. Should you come down with the flu, you’ll be unable to even walk into the exam room. If you come down with a common head cold, you’ll be sniffling, sneezing and ultimately losing precious time minding your ailment.

Acclimate your body to nutrient-rich foods – if it’s not already used to those – and avoid carbohydrates and processed sugary foods; reach for raw foods, items that come from the Earth and are high in fiber. It’s important to eat brain food around test day in order to stay full throughout the exam, and have your mental capacity at its best.

In accordance with maintaining health, stay away from new stressors as you’re preparing for the exam; the test itself is stressful enough. Try getting into one of the latest fitness trends and exercise regularly to burn steam and cleanse your body of its stress. Excess stress will weaken your immune system and open your body to illness, which will only hurt you on test day.

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Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks, a blog dedicated to helping readers navigate the job search and work world to find happiness and success. She specializes in career advice but is also a health nut and DIY junkie with a passion for living life to the fullest. You can follow Sarah @SarahLandrum

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