How to Prepare for the SAT

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) can be seriously intimidating. You may have even heard from your peers and teachers that the test will determine you future. Relax! The SAT isn’t the most important thing you’ll ever have to do. It’s not even impossible to score well on as long as you put in a little work. Having a good idea of what you’ll need to know and using smart study strategies will go a long way towards helping you do your best.

Doing well on the SAT is an important step toward getting into a good college. But if your test scores aren’t what you’d like them to be, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams. You can improve by focusing on the subject areas you struggle with during test preparations. Then give yourself the best possible start on test day by being well rested and fed. Finally, use test-taking strategies to help you manage your time wisely and move through the test in a way that plays to your strengths.

Learn what’s in the Critical Reading section:

he SAT’s Critical Reading questions test how well you can understand sentences, paragraphs, and essays. You can expect. Two 25-minute sections and a 20-minute one (70 minutes total). 48 questions that require you to read written passages to find the answer. These passages can be about lots of different things. Art, history, and science are three common topics. You don’t need to know about these topics before the test. 19 questions that require you to complete sentences with the appropriate word/concept. Some questions will test your vocabulary.

Learn what’s in the Math section:

The math section is just what it sounds like — a chance for you to show how well you do math problems. You can (and should) use a calculator for the math section. All scientific calculators and most graphing calculators are eligible.

  • Two 25-minute sections and a 20-minute one (70 minutes total)
  • 44 multiple-choice questions
  • 10 questions that require you to write out your answer.
  • Problems are taken from four main focus areas:

Numbers and operations

Algebra and Functions

Geometry and measurement

Statistics and probability

  • For this section, you’re provided with a selection of important geometrical formulas. Click hereto see this sheet.

Know what’s in the Writing section:

Though it’s called the “Writing” section, there’s only one place where you’ll actually have to write. Most of the section is actually made up of multiple-choice questions that test your ability to think and judge pieces of writing like a good writer. The essay requires you to read and respond to a short prompt. Generally, the prompt presents a philosophical or moral question without a “right” answer. It’s your job to choose a stance and give a strong argument.

Know what’s not on the test:

Don’t waste time and energy stressing over subjects that won’t even appear on the test. Specific facts, names, dates, and places. You’ll probably be required to read passages from history, science, and the humanities, but all the information you’ll need will be in the passage itself. Scientific concepts. You don’t need to worry about anything you covered in Chemistry, Biology, or Physics. You’ll probably encounter passages about one or more of these topics, but you’ll be judged on your ability to interpret and analyze the passages — not your ability to write chemical equations, diagram a cell, etc. Logic and abstract reasoning. You won’t be asked to piece your way through complex logic problems or create new philosophical proofs out of thin air. The SAT is designed to test your ability in skills you’d use at school.

Expand your vocabulary:

Unfortunately, some of the questions in the Reading Comprehension section hinge on whether or not you know what certain words mean. Try to spend some of your time familiarizing yourself with “fancy,” academic words — adjectives are an especially smart choice. For good sources of vocabulary SAT prep, use Word Dynamo on, Knewton SAT prep, or College Board Vocabulary Prep. You can even make your own flashcards with SAT vocabulary lists, quizzing yourself when you have free time.

Practice reading quickly and carefully by focusing on key ideas:

Reading the passages in the section is vital for answering the questions. However, since the time you spend reading is time you can’t use to answer questions, you’ll want to get through the passages reasonably fast. Some questions will reference a certain line in the passage. If you can find the answer by reading only this line, go with it. However, don’t be afraid to read a sentence or two on either side of the line to get a better understanding.

Read problems carefully:

When it comes to math problems, a single missed word can lead you to an incorrect answer. Be sure you understand what each question is asking you to do before you answer. You don’t want to lose points on math problems you know how to solve because you overlooked something in the problem itself. One smart rule is to look for key words and phrases that change your answer. These include things like “other,” “besides,” “more,” “less,” “extra,” “in addition to,” and so on.

Give concrete examples:

A good SAT essay doesn’t just make claims. It backs up its claims with examples that illustrate how those claims are correct. Be sure to incorporate specific examples into your writing. These form a major portion of the essay’s score.

The examples can be from your schoolwork, personal reading you’ve done, people you’ve met, and even your own life experiences. The source isn’t important, but the example’s ability to support your argument is.

Try not to get too stressed out:

Don’t psyche yourself out — with a little practice and hard work, you can do your absolute best on the SAT. Even if this isn’t as good as you’d like, it’s not the end of the world. Here are just a few things to keep in mind. The SAT is just one thing that colleges look at when considering your application. Your grades, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and projects outside of school also play a factor. A bad SAT score won’t keep you out of college on its own.

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