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How to Prep for the SAT

Make a Study Schedule

Count out the number of days you have left before you take the exam. Now count out the number of days when you can spend 45 minutes prepping for the test. Next, decide where you want to spend most of your time: Math, Reading Comprehension, or Grammar, which the test calls Writing and Language. Based on that decision note the days you will prep for math, reading and grammar. 

Reading Tips

Never forget that it’s an open book test and that the correct answer has restated what was stated in the text. 

Slow down when you read the questions and underline what you’re asked to figure out. Too many students do not completely grasp what they’ve been asked for and arrive at the wrong answer. 

As it’s a very literal test, the kiss of death is reading into it. It’s never what you think the text said, it’s always “What The Text Said.” For a lot of students, this is closer to fifth grade than the eleventh or twelfth grade as students are generally not asked to just spit back what the author said in high school Language Arts classes. 

Grammar Tips 

The test makes the assumption that most students’ essays are too long, so read each sentence looking to see what words you can delete. 

– Look for redundancy.

Example: Ben & Jerry’s gives eight percent of its profits each year to community based social programs that the company deems annually to be worthy of the ice cream company’s support. 

– Look for unnecessarily wordy sentences. 

Wordy: After trying to find a safe beach free of jellyfish to swim at for six hot  summers, Angela gave up because all of the beaches she liked to swim at were too dangerous for her, and so decided to swim at her  community center’s swimming pool. 

Revised: After not finding a safe beach to swim at after searching for six hot summers, Angela opted for her community center’s jellyfish-free swimming pool. 

– Look for a sentence that goes off topic. Quite often that sentence will jump out at you as it will refer to something that does not follow what was said, and does not introduce the idea in the next sentence. Generally speaking, sentences on the SAT like to introduce what’s coming up.

Example: My father works at a small plastics factory. This factory creates 75,000 plastic plates and 125,000 plastic cups daily. 

Math Tips 

Understand how the test is structured and set a goal. Particularly if your most recent PSAT or SAT score is below 600, it often makes a lot of sense to skip the hardest problems. In both SAT Math sections, the questions are arranged by difficulty within each of the two subsections — that is, the multiple choice questions are arranged from easy to difficult, and the student-produced responses are arranged from easy to difficult.

Focus your study on the skills that occur the most on the test — the SAT tests a ton of algebra, particularly concepts from Algebra I, and much less geometry.

The five most recurring ideas on the test, in some order, are:

  • solving single-variable equations (single and multi-step)
  • solving systems of linear equations
  • creating, using, and interpreting different representations (equations, tables, and graphs) of linear functions to solve problems
  • ratios, rates, proportions, and units
  • using percentages to solve problems in a variety of concepts, including percent change

Lastly, mark your answers on the page, and only bubble in when you turn the page (unless time is running out). Don’t take yourself away from the test by bubbling after each question — this is likely to slow you down. Work through each problem, solve, CLEARLY mark the answer in the margin next to the answer choices and only bubble when you’re ready to proceed forward. This will also help avoid misbubbling mistakes.