Preparing for the SATsPreparing for the SATs

Preparing for the SATs

Figure out how much time you are realistically going to dedicate to test prep, set a schedule and stick to it. Focus most on your weakest areas of study (whether it be algebra 1 and 2 or grammar or writing a persuasive essay). Prepping early is the best way to go.

You can select one-on-one or group instruction through paid companies like Kaplan, along with an SAT test prep class at your school or possibly at your town's community center. Consult some of the SAT prep books. If you can't afford paid classroom attention, an online course is cheaper.

Read your newspaper's op-ed section and analyze how they build an argument. You will be writing a persuasive essay on the SAT, usually answering a philosophical question with no right or wrong answer. You need to build an argument, support it and write the essay so that it flows. Don't fret too much over punctuation and grammar. While these things shouldn't be horrendous, they are weighted lower than the actual flow of the essay and how you support your statements. Keep reading! Make your selections diverse, from classical literature to the newspaper and more. Understanding how others write well can help you figure out how to write and how to answer critical reading questions posed on the test.

Source: Jennifer Karan, National Director of SAT & ACT programs at Kaplan

Knowledge is Power!

Some Test-Prep Tidbits Worth Remembering:

If you take the SAT more than once, you can combine your best scores from various sections of the test. Let's say you take the test in the fall and score really well on the writing/essay portion and the critical reading sections of the test, but not so well on the math. Then, you retake the test in the spring and are able to improve your math score. You can request to take the writing/essay score and the critical reading score from the fall test and add that to the math score from the spring test. The SAT reasoning test, including the writing (the essay), critical reading and math sections, always begins with the writing/essay section. So, make sure to have seven or more sharp pencils ready. A neat essay will be easier to read. And, by the time you get to the "fill in the oval" section of the test, the duller pencils actually work better for the computer scoring. If you plan to take a subject level SAT test, along with the corresponding AP tests, for example in biology, schedule these tests for the same time so you don't have to study twice.

The SAT essay is not the standard high school essay, but a persuasive argument essay. You won't have time to rev up to your point with lots of pre-writing. You have two pages; by filling it all with substantive writing you will improve your score. Take a side of the argument and stick to it. It really helps to practice writing this type of essay.

Math refresher classes are useful to improve your scores, especially when you haven't practiced a particular math skill in a while.

Take practice tests online offered at, from the folks at the SAT organization, or through another site. The SAT is a high school-level test, not a college-level test. It tests you on knowledge gained in high school. Be aware that the questions get more difficult the deeper you go into the test. Take your time and make sure to answer the earlier questions correctly and not just rush through to finish the test. You will be more likely not to know the ending questions in the test, so it helps to spend time on the earlier, easier portions of the test.

Source: Lynn Scully, founder of get IT Independent Tutorial

Your SAT To-Do List

DO take challenging courses in school. This will prep you for the test.

DO read as much as you can in a variety of genres (novels, nonfiction, newspapers and more).

DO surround yourself with writing opportunities. Join the school newspaper. Keep a journal or write letters and emails to friends and family.

DO familiarize yourself with the test beforehand. Take practice tests and prep classes. Check out for practice tests.

DO check out the books on test prep, especially the ones with sample tests.

DO take a practice test in a similar environment as the real test-timed and with a NO. 2 pencil and fill in the ovals! Replicating that environment can help you limit your stress on test day.

DO familiarize yourself with the directions and format of the test beforehand.

DO remember to get a good night's sleep the night before, and a good breakfast on the morning of the test. Try to keep with your usual routine on the morning of the test.

DO remember that cramming isn't going to help.

Source: Caren Scoropanos, spokesperson for the College Board