How to Prepare For the SAT

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Spring has officially sprung! And if you're a junior or senior in high school, you know what that means – it's SAT prep season. Whether you're writing later this spring, this summer or even at the end of the year, now's the time to get started and prepare for your exam.

And even if, like most people, you've never taken on such an in-depth study program before, preparing for the SAT doesn't have to be as intimidating as it might seem. By planning ahead and breaking your study program down into steps, you can stay on top of your goals – and put yourself on track for stellar test results.

Step 1: Get the Basics in Line

Part of making your study program is knowing exactly when you're going to take your test – so be proactive! Make an account and register at the CollegeBoard website now, so you'll feel motivated to start your prep.

If you're new to the SAT, register for a test date at least 3 months in advance, so you have enough time to prepare. If you've taken the SAT before, you could get away with a shorter timeline – though, ideally, you'll still want to start studying well in advance so you're thoroughly prepped.

Step 2: Immerse Yourself In SAT Prep

Sticking to a study schedule doesn't mean you have to have your nose in a book 24/7 – but it does help to ensure you can access your study materials any time you need to. Take advantage of SAT prep apps to easily fit in mini study sessions, even if you only have five minutes.

Step 3: Identify Your Weaknesses

Studying the material you're best in may feel the most tempting – but ignoring your weaknesses means risking a lower SAT score. So start your SAT study prep by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) to see how you score in each section.

Make identifying your weaknesses and tracking your progress part of your ongoing study program, too. Take advantage of timed SAT practice tests in the months leading up to your test to see how you're improving – or spot (and address) any lingering weaknesses before they impact your test score.

Step 3: Create a Personalized Study Strategy

Everyone has their own unique strengths, weaknesses and learning styles – which means there's no "one size fits all" guide to studying. Take advantage of online resources to find out what kind of learner you are, then tailor your studying around that.

If you're a visual learner, for instance, your SAT prep will involve making plenty of diagrams color-coding your notes for better recall later. If you're more of an auditory learner, seeking out a tutor or finding a study buddy to talk through the test prep can help you learn faster.

As for how often and how long you study, that all depends on your schedule. Try starting from a basic three-month study schedule – like this one, published by Khan Academy – and adjust it to your needs as you go.

Step 4: Upgrade Your Test-Taking Skills

You've put in the time to identify your weaknesses, studied for weeks to prepare and practiced, practiced, practiced. Now, it's time to ace that test!

If you get anxious during exams, that might be easier said than done. But you can overcome even the toughest anxiety by talking yourself up – "I can do this" – starting with the questions you have the easiest time answering, and sleeping well the night before.

Use our anxiety-busting guide for more in-depth advice on staying calm during tests. And check out these guides to taking more effective notes, as well as boosting your memory during study sessions.

And don't worry – soon, the SAT will be behind you, and you'll be applying to college with the stellar score you deserve!

References

About the Author

Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Before launching her writing business, she worked as a TA and tutored students in biology, chemistry, math and physics.

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