How Should I Study for the SAT?
You’ve studied or what feels like a million other tests before. But now, the most important test for getting into college lingers before you: how to study for the SAT?
The easiest way to study for the SAT is to plan it out. The SAT exam is 3 hours long, with an additional 50-minutes for the optional essay portion. Aside from the essay, the exam has four sections: Reading, writing and math both with and without a calculator. But, don’t panic–your many years of education are the first and most important step in preparing. Many questions are concepts you have already learned. Here’s how to study for the SAT.
Stress-free study strategies
One of the great things about the SAT is that you can take it many times. You won’t need to cram—in fact, the best thing you can do is take it slow and steady. Start by counting the number of weeks until your exam, and from there, create a weekly study strategy. If you have a 10-section SAT prep workbook with 8 weeks to study, you could read two sections a week. The final 3 weeks reviewing the material you have learned, with extra focus on subjects that you find extra difficult.
It would also be a great idea to spend some time doing practice tests under test conditions. The best way to study for the SAT is by finding a quiet room, turning off all electronic devices and set a timer. The extent to which you want to do practice tests is really up to you. Some people are very intense, and insist that one must do a gazillion practice tests to prepare for the real thing. On the other hand, some people do 1 or no practice tests. I’d certainly recommend doing at least one, as this will not only prepare your brain for the test, but it will also calm any anxiety you have about the testing format to at least be a bit familiar with the SAT format before the big day.
Typically students are expected to take the SAT their junior year of high school, but there’s no pain in taking the test a bit earlier than that. You wouldn’t have to send these early scores to colleges; it would simply be an exercise in preparation. For high school sophomores and juniors, there is also a PSAT test that’s worth taking, as it emulates the testing environment of the SAT but is just a practice test. Note that you can also still take the SAT your senior year of high school, but it’s always a good idea to start early.
Studying materials and concepts
When considering how to study for the SAT, take note of the specific topics you’ll be tested on. As was mentioned earlier, the SAT consists of three sections, reading, writing (or English), and math, with an optional essay at the end. But what, exactly, do each of these sections include? Here’s a brief breakdown of what you can expect:
- Reading: comprehension, point of view, locating story details, plot summary, identifying words in context
- Writing: sentence structure, grammar and punctuation, word usage, vocabulary and meaning
- Math, with and without calculator: algebra, data analysis, probability, functions, geometry
In every case, an SAT prep book or tutor will certainly be your best bet when it comes to studying. But it can also be helpful to find less structured ways to study. For reading and writing, for example, reading a good nonfiction book with elevated vocabulary is a good way to get the information you need in a digestible format. For math, pay attention to when you need to do a mental calculation in real life—say, the odds of being elected school president or the amount you need to leave as a breakfast tip (20%, of course!).
Now that you know how to study for the SAT, it’s time to crack open your books. Good luck on your exams, and remember to relax—you’ve got this!
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