1. Get familiar with the SAT format, feel, & structure
It can be nerve racking for highschool students to take a 4 hour exam that is a heavily weighted factor for college admissions.
You need to know what to expect when you take the actual SAT. This allows you to think & perform at your best.
How long does it take?
# of Questions
Writing & Languages
20 (no calculator)
Read one passage and write an essay analyzing how the author built their argument.
3 hours, 50 minutes
154 + 1 essay
Breakdown of Topics
Reading Test consists of multiple-choice questions based on passages you need to read and analyze.
• Literature (classic or contemporary US or world literature);
• Historical documents (Great Global Conversation or founding documents);
• Social Sciences (psychology , economics, sociology, etc.);
• Natural Sciences (biology, physics, chemistry, etc.);
*Some passages may include tables, graphs, or charts
Writing and Language section consists of multiple-choice questions based on passages you need to read, edit, and proofread.
• History/Social Studies.
*Some passages may include tables, graphs, or charts.
Math Test is designed to align with the math you’re learning in school.
• Heart of Algebra);
• Problem Solving and Data Analysis;
• Passport to Advanced Math (complex equations);
• Additional Topics in Math (area and volume, coordinate geometry, basic trigonometry).
Essay Test looks like a typical writing assignment – you need to read a passage, explain how the author built their persuasive arguments, and support your explanation with evidence from this passage.
• General topics.
• Required skills: reading, writing, analysis.;
• 52 questions
• 65 minutes
Writing & Language
• 44 questions
• 35 minutes
• 58 questions
• 80 minutes
2. Set a score goal
Now that you’re more familiar with the SAT structure & format. You can start to focus on the score that you are aiming to get.
A good starting point could be to look at the colleges you want to go to, research on how they weigh the SAT, and see where most of their admits have scored. You should aim for at least in the 50% range or more because that is where 25th-75th percentile of admits normally are.
The SAT is scored out of 1600. You can see an abbreviated score chart below to see the nation’s distribution in the picture below. (full link here)
SAT Composite Score
600 and below
If you have not taken a practice test, you should definitely do so & see where you currently are. Once you have an idea of where you’re currently scoring, you can start to plan how to achieve the score that you want.
Your plan to achieve your score goal will likely consist of
- what topics to focus on
- how many hours you need to study prior to the SAT
- when you will be studying
Here are rough estimates for point improvement are as follows:
- 0-30 point improvement: 10 hours
- 30-70 point improvement: 20 hours
- 70-130 point improvement: 40 hours
- 130-200 point improvement: 80 hours
- 200-330 point improvement: 150 hours +
3. Pinpoint your weaknesses to improve & practice?
Because the SAT is formatted with 3 main topics , you will be able to know after taking a 1-2 practice tests, where your weaknesses are.
Reading, writing & language is based going to range from 200-800
Math is also ranged from 200-800
There are many options on how to improve. There are many free options that allow you take practice tests, create note cards, and maybe even at your local library.
4. Read non-fiction & create vocab study cards
Reading is a large part of your score & your reading comprehension will be tested thoroughly. There are 5 long & dense passages that you’ll need to read within an hour. Usually the questions are not the tough part about these sections, it’s the reading.
Normally, in highschool curriculum, there is more of a focus on fiction reading than non-fiction. So it’s recommended that you make a goal to read 2-3 non fiction books a month to get comfortable with these types of passages. (You can also read articles or other preferred non-fiction texts)
Additionally, there will be vocabulary on the SAT that you may not have seen. To get prepared for the words, study cards are one of the best options. There are softwares like (link) that help you make cards if you like to study using your computer or phone.
You can also easily purchase notecards from a store like WalMart or anywhere locally that sells stationary to create your personal vocab study deck.
5. Create a study schedule & stick to it
Using your score goal & how much time you have before your scheduled SAT, you will want to create a study schedule to achieve that score.
We recommend that you use a consistent amount of time each week to study until you take your test.
For instance, if you need to study for 40 hours to hit your goal, and your scheduled to take the test in 8 weeks. You will want to break that down into about 5 hours per week for 8 weeks.
This allows you to study at a consistent pace to make consistent progress without burning out by cramming at the last minute.
Ideally, you would be able to slot out blocks of time in your schedule in advance. If you are a morning person, you might want to wake up early to study 1 hour before starting the school day. If you’re more productive during the afternoons, then possibly you can do 1 hour of SAT studying every day after school.
It’s best to make your study schedule into habit so you can easily get into the zone every time and be as productive as possible. Sometimes students also share their schedules with everyone at home to help them stay accountable to their study schedule.
6. Partner with a study buddy
It can be fun & effective to study with a friend for the SAT as well. We’re not saying don’t study by yourself ever, but you can also schedule times to study with a friend.
This can make it enjoyable & help you keep pushing. You can help keep each other accountable, share test taking tips, study strategies, and have emotional support.
7. Register for the SAT
Don’t forget to register for your SAT! Try to choose a time that you know you will be able to focus more on the SAT & that gives you enough time to study to reach your goal score.
Here is a link to register & see dates. Click here
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