10 things you can do to help you prepare for the SAT

By Samuel Willis

The SAT (or Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized test that many colleges require be taken in order to be accepted. Many a student has been terrified by the idea of such an important test, but never fear! I just recently took my SAT for the second time, and have done well both times, so you have a valuable ally in me. And here’s how I’m going to help you, I’m going to give you…

10 things you can do to help you prepare for the SAT:

  1. The best but most expensive option: The first one is also the most obvious one. There is a huge variety of SAT study classes available to students who can afford them. Unfortunately, this option, while the most effective, is also the most expensive in terms of both time and money.
  2. Free and effective, but time consuming: The second option is easier to get to, though for it to be effective, one must still have quite a bit of time. There are tons of free SAT practice tests online that can give students like you a baseline for what you will do well on and what you won’t, as well as give you some foreknowledge as to the type of material that will be on the test. It’s not good enough to make a significant difference on your grade alone, but it’s a good start. A good place to start would be sat.collegeboard.org, as they have multiple practice tests you can take, and they are the makers of the actual SAT–so you know that the results will be accurate.
  3. Want something convenient? Ok… let’s say that you want something a little easier to access. Well, it turns out that there are plenty of SAT prep apps (several of them free) that can help you prepare for the test in different ways. Apps are convenient, and often free. A good place to start would be SAT Up, a free app with all kinds of practice material available.
  4. Need to study for math? Another cheap option to consider is this website: Khan Academy. This option is particularly helpful for studying math problems, as there are several videos on the web-site that help to familiarize you with the type of problems that the SAT uses in its math section. The videos do recommend having the first edition of Collegeboard’s official SAT study guide, but the book can be found used online for as little as $.20.
  5. Need to study for reading? Guess what? Read! Reading – even fictional reading – is very helpful for studying for the SAT, as it strengthens both your vocabulary and comprehensive reading skills. Unfortunately, in order to see a significant increase in your reading skills with this method you will have to spend a lot of time. So for those of you who waited until the last second, I recommend…
  6. Somewhere to read online: A good place is The Critical Reader: a website that gives you access to reading exercises that are based on the test, as well as several practice tests.
  7. Memorize the structure: You’d think that studying for the SAT would only involve the material, but one important thing to consider is the structure of the test. Memorize how it is organized, how the questions are asked, what type of questions will be asked, and how much time you will have for each question. This information will be invaluable both for studying using the methods above and saving time and energy during the test.
  8. Write practice essays: Test yourself with different practice essays.  Believe me: it is considerably harder when you have to write an essay on a 20 minute time limit. Don’t force yourself into a situation where you are unprepared for such a challenge. Try writing essays using the essay prompts available here, as they were the essays for the most recent SAT given. Remember to time yourself.
  9. Work with your calculators: Yes, I am telling you to mess around with your calculators. Familiarize yourself as much as possible with them, as long as you make sure beforehand that said calculator is allowed in the testing area.
  10. Finally, know when to skip questions: This somewhat goes hand-in-hand with structure. It is crucial to remember that you can always come back to finish questions you skipped, but you can’t get back time you spent on a question you couldn’t figure out.

The Unofficial one:
Don’t stress when you go in for the test. Stay calm, pray, and know that you will do the best you can. Stressing will literally make you worse, and it’ll shorten your life-span as well. So go ahead, study and work frantically to get a better grade, but don’t stress when you are in there–take it from someone who’s gone through it.

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