The PremedHQ Guide


How to Successfully Prepare for the SAT

Nervous and anxious about the SAT? Worried that you are not smart enough to do well on it? Scared that if you don’t do well, you will ruin your future? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, take a deep breath because you are definitely not alone. With the immense pressure that colleges put on this one standardized test, it is hard to refrain yourself from getting stressed out and psyched out. That being said, the good news is that with the proper studying techniques and enough practice, you can literally study your way to a great score. So, without further adieu, let’s get right into the top tips, in no particular order, that we have to getting you to that perfect 1600:


1. Start Early. By early, we in no means suggest that you start in middle school or anything….but instead we advise starting to at least familiarize yourself with the test sometime during your sophomore year. The benefit of starting earlier is that it gives you time to get comfortable with the format of the test (which can take some time getting used to) and that it helps you figure out your weak points early on which is helpful namely because you can then freely dedicate more time towards improving those weak sections (improving upon those will definitely take more time, so start them earlier so that you don’t need to balance learning everything at once with learning the harder topics in limited time).


2. Invest in a review book. Review books for the SAT are helpful for a variety of reasons. For one, they really go through the structure of the test and give you information about the way the SAT is timed and scored. Not only that, but they help you organize your studying, review/learn the material that is often tested, and give you a lot of practice problems that facilitate better understanding of topics. On top of all these things, review books also contain several practice tests as well as contain explanations for every question (will go into more detail in the next point). Thus, if you want to take a more organized, focused, and efficient approach to studying for the SAT, we highly suggest investing in a review book.


3. Take practice tests. As we briefly mentioned at the end of our second point, taking official practice tests is key to doing well on the SAT. This is because they help you get used to the timings/structure of the test and they give you practice on topics that will likely pop up on multiple tests, including the official one you take. Also, we emphasize quality with quantity. By this we mean and highly recommend taking these tests in a way that mimics the testing environment you will have the day of the real test (e.g. being in a quiet room with no disturbance, properly timing yourself, giving yourself the right breaks, etc). This is so that when you go for the test, you are not having to also adjust to the testing environment, on top of trying to focus on the actual content of the test and balance all your nerves at the same time. Personally studying for the SAT, I found that the more practice tests I did in a focused environment that mimicked that of the official test, the more comfortable and confident I got with the test, and the better my score got.


4. Review all of your tests. While taking tests in the first place is very important if you want to do well, reviewing the correct answers of the test in detail is equally important. This may be obvious, but we have found that several times students end up getting lazy and assuming that they know the correct answer, and thus don’t spend much time going over what they did wrong and why they got it wrong (this is evident due to the fact that they end up making similar mistakes on subsequent tests). Therefore, we highly encourage avoiding this slip-up, and spending a good hour or two after your test looking over what you got wrong. Following that, we also highly encourage that you don’t just review the mistake, but additionally go back and review the TOPIC that the mistake is derived from – you want to attack the source of the mistake instead of just the mistake because even though different tests of the SAT ask different questions, often the questions they ask come from similar topics.


5. Practice regularly/Set up a game plan for yourself. Be consistent with your studying! It is important to take your practice tests regularly so that you do not forget the stuff you learn while studying. Thus, try not to leave gaps between your practice. A good way to keep yourself accountable for this is to set up a weekly schedule for yourself where you specifically allocate time to study for the SAT almost every day. Doing this in advance will keep you on track with your studies as well as make you think about how much time you need to devote to certain sections (be specific in what you will be studying every week), which will make for a very efficient and thorough studying process.


6. Practice your vocabulary. Although this is more specific than the rest of our tips, we are including it because it is just that important. You may think that because there aren’t SO many questions on the SAT directly testing your vocabulary, it is not that important to really study. However, let us just tell you how far that is from the truth. Although you may not have every question on your reading comprehension section asking you point blank the definition of a word, the reading sections on the SAT are all indirectly testing your vocabulary. A common way that they do this by integrating complex words into the passage which are key to your understanding of the passage. Therefore, we highly recommend studying your vocabulary. There are many ways you can do this including finding lists online (there are several dedicated to SAT vocabulary), studying your vocabulary from your english books in school, and my personal favorite which is accumulating all the words that you did not know the definition from past tests that you have taken and making an on-going list/flashcards of those words. A majority of all the vocabulary words come from past tests so this is an especially efficient way of preparing yourself for the reading comprehension section.


7. Potentially consider joining a test-prep course. While this in no way is mandatory or necessary, it is often helpful to join a test-prep course (some common ones are Excel and Elite). The reason that they are helpful is because the instructor, who has extensive experience with the SAT, goes over most of the topics on the test and gives you a lot of tips, tricks, and practice (review books/vocabulary lists/practice tests) that are especially useful. On top of that, if you join a test-prep-course, you will not only have access to classes, but you will also have a membership to the center. Having membership to the center comes in handy because each center has several practice tests and corresponding answer booklets (that contain explanations for every question). Also, on the weekends they have proctored testing sessions where you are free to come in and take a test in a test-taking-scenario which is helpful for all the reasons listed above. Our coaches work hard to help students develop a study schedule, plan practice exams, and stay on track towards their target scores.

Although there is no secret formula to studying for the SAT, these tips will sure put you on the right track to doing well. Remember that at the end of the day however, it starts with you – if you are willing to put in the work, you are going to get the results you want. So, what are you waiting for? Get started now and make your first SAT your best and last test!