Aaahh the SAT. Everyone’s favorite test, right?
But there’s no reason you should dread it. It’s not that hard to do well on the SAT, actually. It just requires a different approach than some other tests.
5. Learn the test now
Success on the SAT is as much about learning the format as anything else. The earlier you learn it, the better.
Take a bunch of practice tests and learn what the directions say. The five minutes you take to process those directions are five minutes at the end of the test that you could have used to answer another two or three questions. The SAT is all about managing your time well.
4. Be prepared on test day
I’m not just talking about knowing your stuff (for once). So technically this isn’t an SAT study tip. It’s more like a day-of-the-SAT test taking tip.
I’m talking about making sure you’ve got a bunch of sharp pencils, a calculator that’s allowed, water, a watch, a snack, enough sleep… stuff like that.
3. Always double check your answers
You should actually double check two things on the SAT. The obvious one is a quick glance to make sure your answer makes sense.
But you also need to make sure that you’re putting your answer from the test book in the correct bubble on the answer sheet.
My dad messed up on this one when he took the SAT – he’d almost completed an entire section before he realized he was just one line off on the answer sheet… but by then it was too late to fix.
2. Learn the art of guessing
The thing about the SAT is how it is scored. You get 1 point for each correct answer, 0 points for any unanswered questions, and -1/4 point for each incorrect answer. This information is vital to you, the test-taker! Let me give you an example.
Let’s say that Rutherford goes in to take the SAT. Rutherford really isn’t that smart, but he does know the answers to all the easy questions, say about 20 out of the 61 in the section, so he gets 20 points from those.
He doesn’t know the answers to any of the medium questions, but he can eliminate two of the choices on each one of the 20 questions. Rutherford does this, and proceeds to make wild guesses. Statistically speaking, he’ll get one third, or seven of them, correct, and two thirds, or fourteen, incorrect.
Let’s do the math… seven points for the seven correct. Each of those fourteen wrong answers will cost him ¼ point. That’s 3.5 points off.
Net gain of 3.5 points – so Rutherford now has 23.5 points. He came out ahead just from guessing!
But now Rutherford gets to the hard part of the section.
He can only eliminate one of the choices on each one of these 20 questions, so he does just that. Odds are, he’ll get 5 right and 15 wrong.
That’s 5 points minus 3.75 points… he still gets 1.25 points, bringing him to a total of 24.75 points.
But since scores are rounded in the SAT, he gets 25 points.
So even though Rutherford guessed on 41 of the 61 questions, he still came out ahead on the points!
Of course, you are probably smarter than Rutherford is, so you’ll have to guess even less and when you do, you can eliminate even more bad options giving you even more points.
Here’s the point: never leave an SAT question blank! Even if you can eliminate only one option, it’s well worth it to guess. Even if you can’t eliminate ANY options, you’ll break even on guessing.
1. Order of Difficulty
A great thing about the SAT is that the questions are actually arranged in order of difficulty: Easy-Medium-Hard.
Take advantage of this knowledge!
You should spend the bulk of your time getting all the easy and medium questions correct. Don’t rush through to get to the hard questions – every questions is worth the same! Make sure you don’t waste any points by careless mistakes on an easy or medium question.
Bonus SAT Tip: Block your answers
One SAT tip I found to be super helpful when I took the test is to block your answers.
Here’s how it works: answer 5 questions at a time, circling the answer in the test book. Then, transfer those answers to your answer sheet.
This will save you a good chunk of time going back and forth. Be careful, though, that you’re filling in the right answer in the right spot!
As great as these SAT tips are (and trust me, they are great), the best thing to do when you’re doing SAT prep is to take lots and lots of practice tests. There’s a ton of resources out there for this – take your pick and get started!
What do you think?
What are some SAT study tips you’ve used? What’s worked for you? Tell me about it in the comments below!