Preparing for the SAT

Taking the SAT is one of the most tedious and stressful tasks you will have to complete during your high school career. Being one of the key factors to college admissions, the SAT assesses students on different levels of knowledge of mathematics and the English language. When preparing for the test, you must evaluate how you study rather than just how much you study. With that being said, here are some ways that can guarantee success when taking the college admissions exam.

The SAT at a glance

Before beginning your journey to preparing for the test, you must understand how the test works. The first section of the exam is simply filling out information about yourself so that College Board can understand the demography of the students that are taking the exam every year. The second portion of the test is the reading section in which students have to read passages and answer questions regarding what they read. These questions can range from interpreting the main idea of the passage to defining vocabulary words in context. The next segment is the writing and grammar section, in which students will usually read a passage and correct grammatical errors if necessary, and sometimes have to relocate different portions of the text to maintain fluidity within the passage. After that, you move on to the mathematics half of the exam. Both of the sections within the mathematics portion of the test are fairly similar, except one of the divisions is calculator inactive and the other is calculator active.

So what makes this exam so difficult? One of the biggest challenges that students have to face when taking the test is keeping up with the time. The time of all four sections varies as some sections offer more time than the others to ensure that students fully understand the content and can complete the problems as quickly as possible. Another issue that students encounter when taking the exam is more focused on the reading section, in which they tend to find the passages boring and uninteresting which causes their minds to drift somewhere else. The third obstacle to doing well on the SAT is understanding the broad range of content included, in which recalling concepts from earlier levels can be fairly difficult. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help yourself jump over these hurdles and reach the finish line.

Studying for the SAT

One of the best ways that you can study for the exam is by taking practice tests. Khan Academy offers multiple practice tests that simulate the real exam. Each section is timed and you will be given your score right after you finish the last section. The scores are produced in a way that matches the curve on past SAT tests so that you have an accurate idea of how well you did. By taking these practice tests, you will familiarize yourself with the types of questions that are asked, allowing you to focus on your weaker points and avoid making the same mistakes on the real exam. This also allows you to practice your time management so that you will need to adjust your pace to fit the allotted time to prevent yourself from leaving blank answers.

There may be cases in which you want to take practice tests but only focus on specific sections. If this is the case for you, multiple websites offer practice problems for each section that match the rigor of the actual exam. Varsitytutors, for example, has multiple practice tests for different sections of the SAT such as writing/grammar and math. By taking these tests, you will help yourself focus on the specific types of questions that you struggle with and how to go about solving them.

What to do on test day

In order to stay focused during some of the more tedious sections such as the reading section, it is important that you maintain the right mindset. As boring as the passages may get, you should pretend to be interested in it, even though you really aren’t. This is a common technique used in other practices such as public speaking in which you “fake it till you make it.” This means that you try to trick yourself into thinking that you are confident or excited about something that is actually nerve-racking and difficult.

Aside from taking practice tests and studying, it is important that you also consider how much you sleep and what you eat before the exam. Make sure you sleep at least eight hours on test day to maximize brain efficiency and concentration. As far as eating goes, you want to make sure that you eat healthily and a reasonable amount so that you go into the exam without feeling groggy or dizzy. By taking these two precautions, your brain will perform at its highest level on test day.

There is no doubt that the SAT is one of the most difficult exams you will have to take in your academic career. Being an important test and key factor in college admissions, it is necessary that you put the required time in to ensure that you are ready to take the exam and are familiar with the types of questions that the test may ask. From getting enough sleep the night before the exam to taking practice tests, there are a variety of factors that you will need to take into consideration if you want to achieve your ideal score. So get practicing and try your best!


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