How do I prepare for the SAT exam
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How do I prepare for the SAT exam

How do I prepare for the SAT exam

Preparing for the SAT can seem overwhelming when you also have all of your other responsibilities to manage during the school year. However, spending even a small amount of time planning and preparing for this very important exam can go a long way to helping you get the scores you want so you can get into the college of your choice. 

The first thing you must do in order to prepare for the SAT exam is to take a practice exam. Depending on where you are in your high school career, this will look different for everyone. If you are a freshman or sophomore, you might be able to take the PSAT through your high school. The PSAT is usually administered in October, but schools get to choose what day. It’s best to talk with your counselor to find out more.

If the PSAT is not available to you, or you want to get started right away, there are plenty of other options. 

The College Board offers eight downloadable practice exams. Any of these can be used as a diagnostic. Khan Academy, which partners with College Board to offer SAT practice, also offers a full test diagnostic option. Finally, you can also choose from several different SAT prep books that include practice tests. Whichever you choose, make sure you stick to the timing of each section so that you understand the pacing required for the exam.

Once you have taken a practice exam, you will be able to look at your score to determine your strengths and weaknesses. (This is where it is helpful to either take the PSAT if you can, or use the online option on Khan Academy because those options will score the test for you, saving you a good bit of time!) As you go through how you did on the practice test, don’t just pay attention to the number of points scored. Look at the questions you got wrong. Try to understand why you got them wrong. Did you make silly math mistakes? Were you reading questions too quickly? Did you miss all the questions that asked you about vocabulary words? Noticing the patterns in the questions that you missed will help you tailor your SAT practice to what you need to focus on most. If you are having trouble analyzing your results, our tutors are here to help you determine what sort of SAT practice you need to be the most successful. 

If you find yourself lacking in particular knowledge and skills, one of the best ways to improve is to really start paying attention in your core classes. After all, the SAT is meant to assess what you have been learning so far in school. Participate in class activities and ask questions, particularly in your core subjects (English, Math, History, Science). Even though subjects like History and Science aren’t exactly “tested” on the SAT, you still use skills like reading comprehension, analysis, and critical thinking in those subjects, which WILL be assessed on the SAT. Beyond that, take some time to do learning on your own. Read newspaper editorials or watch a video analyzing the latest superhero movie. Anything you can do to train your brain to pay attention to what you read and to think critically about it will help you immensely on exam day.

Another helpful way to prepare for the SAT is to simply learn about the format of the exam. Becoming an expert on the test will alleviate much of the stress on exam day because you know what to expect. The instructions and the timing of the test will not change, so practicing under those conditions as much as possible will improve your confidence. Furthermore, learning test-taking strategies, both in general and for the SAT in specific will be helpful. Our tutors can teach you many strategies that will help you move through the exam quickly and efficiently so that you can answer every single question.

As you work through your SAT preparation, take another practice exam or two in order to see how you have improved and what skills you need to improve further.  As you get closer to your chosen exam date, you may wish to mostly focus on your weakest skills, but be sure to continue some general practice to help keep it all fresh in your mind. 

Within a week of your SAT test, plan for the day of the test. Know what you need, like a photo ID and several number 2 pencils, and what is best to leave at home, like your smartwatch. Research your test center and read whatever information they provide about arriving for your test. Figure out where you need to park or have your parents drop you off. Even if you do not normally plan things in advance, this is the time to do it. Thinking about the logistics of test day before you ever show up will save you unnecessary stress. Think of your advance planning as a gift to yourself on test day. 

Finally, whether you have six months or six weeks (or even less!) to prepare for your SAT exam, be sure to schedule a time to rest as well! This does not just mean taking a nap. Go to a movie with your friends, Toss a baseball with your younger sibling, or read a book for fun. These and other activities help your brain rest from all the work it has been doing. Resting is just as important as studying because it will allow your brain some time to work behind the scenes to organize and process all that studying without you actually having to think about it.  In fact, the day before your SAT exam, you should not be studying for the exam at all! Even if you have to go to school that day, do what you can to go easy on yourself. Spend the evening doing something relaxing, eat a good dinner, and go to bed early enough to ensure that you get at least eight hours of sleep. You have done all the preparation you can. Now is the time to trust what you know and just take the exam!

At the end of the day, even spending a small amount of your time planning your SAT preparation, and putting that into practice, will go a long way to improving your confidence and your score on test day. For even more personalized practice, our tutors are here to help you with the strategies and techniques you need to do your very best.


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