The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is an entrance exam often used as part of your application to a bachelor’s degree program at a college or university. It's just one piece of your overall application, but high SAT scores can show admissions officers that you're ready to begin your undergraduate studies, and can even help you stand out from other applicants.
Following a few SAT tips may help improve your score and increase your chances of being accepted into the top colleges or universities on your list. We’ve compiled a number of tips to help you determine how to study for the SAT, ways to prepare in advance, and strategies you can apply the day of your test.
Follow the tips below to identify the best way to begin preparing for the SAT.
An SAT prep course can be a helpful alternative to studying on your own because it tends to provide more structure, feedback, and support. Check with your high school counselor to see if your school offers a prep course. If not, they may have information about SAT prep courses that are available locally or online.
Whether you start a study group with friends or join one that’s already established, there are many benefits to studying with others. Not only do you tend to be more accountable about preparing than if you studied on your own, but you might receive more support, which can reduce your stress as you get ready to take the SAT.
If you’re someone who enjoys studying solo, there are numerous SAT prep books available to purchase or potentially available from your local library. They offer study tips, detailed descriptions of the testing format, pacing techniques, weekly study guides, and several practice exams, which you can time for realistic effect.
An SAT tutor can provide more one-on-one help than you might get from a prep course or study group. They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and set up a study plan. Keep in mind, however, that hiring a tutor can be expensive. If you're considering this course of action, be prepared to pay between $60 and $200 per hour.
Whether you’re preparing for the SAT independently, as part of a class or study group, or with a tutor, there are four key actions you can take to bolster your study time.
Understanding the different sections of the SAT, the types of questions to expect, and how long you have to complete each section will help you feel confident about what to expect on the day of your test.
|Section||Number of questions||Focus of questions||Time to complete|
|Writing & Language||44||Grammar, vocabulary, and editing||35 minutes|
|Math (with calculator)||38||Algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry||55 minutes|
|Math (without calculator)||20||Algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry||25 minutes|
Take a number of practice tests before you plan on officially taking the SAT. Doing so will help you get comfortable with the form and pacing of the test, as well as identify areas where you may need to spend additional time studying.
Take time to review your mistakes, noting what happened: Did you run out of time? Did you not understand the question or how to find the answer? Or did something else happen? Knowing what went wrong can help you avoid similar errors the day of the SAT, and can help point out areas where you should spend more time studying.
In addition to studying specifically for the Writing & Language and Reading sections of the SAT, spend time building on your vocabulary by purposely seeking out new words or reading more difficult articles and books. In fact, the College Board, the organization behind the SAT, recommends reading several classic novels to grow more comfortable with the type of language you’ll encounter on the test.
The day has finally arrived and it’s time to take the SAT. To improve your odds of success, it helps to take advantage of the test-taking tips below.
Don’t rush past the instructions to get to the questions, even if you’ve taken several practice tests and think you know what to expect. Make sure you understand what you’re being asked to do. Oftentimes, instructions may even contain helpful information to frame the way you should approach a question.
As you tackle each section of the SAT, answer the questions you know the answers to first. This can be a really effective time management strategy given that you have limited time for each section. Make a light mark next to the questions you don't know and return to them once you’ve worked your way through everything you do know. Note that questions typically get harder toward the end of each section.
When you're struggling with a particular question on the SAT, the process of elimination can help. Eliminating even one answer helps improve your chances for getting a question right. You may find that on some questions, you can find the right answer by eliminating all but one.
Remember that when you're finished with the SAT, you're scored on the number of questions you answer correctly, not the number of questions you complete. Therefore, if you’re not sure of an answer, then guess. You won't be penalized for guessing, and it's possible you just might guess correctly.
It's easy to lose track of time when you're taking the SAT, especially if it's your first time. Note how much time you have to complete a section and keep an eye on the clock so you make sure you leave enough time to get through all the questions or return to the ones you don’t know.
To learn more about college life, take advantage of the University of Washington’s 101: Understanding College and College Life offered for free on Coursera. You'll get information about your search for potential colleges and universities, choosing a major, living on campus, study strategies, and more.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.