The SAT is a core step into college readiness, and is a test score that can net you many scholarships and other great opportunities. As such, doing well on the test should be a key goal of any aspiring student. So, in this article, let’s take a look at how you should generally be studying for the SAT.

This article is split into a few parts, one for the Mathematics portion of the test (sections 3 and 4), and one for the Reading and Writing portions (sections 1 and 2) of the test, as they both have different strategies you can apply to them. After this, there are some general tips and tricks to help yourself get the score you want.

Mathematics

The SAT’s math section usually covers math up to around Algebra 2, but doesn’t normally extend too far into Algebra 2. This means that your main focus should be algebraic and geometric skills, with some graphing skills mixed in. This means that you should focus on reviewing your algebra skills, specifically:

  • Power Rules
    • This includes log rules, but they’re not on there often.
  • Equation manipulation
    • Be good at basic algebra! Knowing how to set up systems of equations can help you out a lot.
    • Make sure you can write a relation between variables given a word problem
    • Understand linear, quadratic, exponential, etc. functions
  • Graphical analysis
    • This involves slope, relations between two variables
    • Ensure that you know how to interpret a linear equation
  • Basic arithmetic
    • Make sure you’re well versed in fraction manipulation.
    • Don’t make silly mistakes! Double check your basic arithmetic.
    • Make sure that you’re answering with the value that the question asks for.

Reading and Writing

The SAT Reading section tends to cover straightforward reading comprehension. Similarly, the Writing section tends to cover basic grammar concepts to test a student’s ability to revise and edit sentences. For this test, you should focus on reviewing:

  • Specific Punctuation
    • Differences between semicolons, colons, hyphens, et. cetera.
    • Where and when these should be used or inserted
  • Sentence structure
    • How to use conjunctions to connect sentences
    • Sentence order for concision
  • Vocabulary
    • Practice scholarly vocab, and know their usages
    • Know multiple meanings of words.
  • Reading Comprehension
    • Make sure you can make claims and support them through evidence. Read through the passage and take notes over specific phrases that seem important
  • Employ reading strategies
    • Not everyone reads the same, so try experimenting with different reading strategies (reading the questions first, annotating, etc) to see which one works best for you.

Taking Practice Tests

At the core of both of these subjects is still taking practice tests. The SAT is not completely random each year, and has patterns in questions that can be learned over time. Although many test prep companies offer practice tests, we recommend that students pay particularly close attention to released, previously administered SAT practice exams. These official practice tests can give prepared students the most accurate possible look at exactly what they’ll be up against on exam day — some of these practice tests are actual tests that past students took in an official administration. A student can access these tests through the link below or by linking his/her College Board account and Khan Academy account.

Try to take these tests under actual testing conditions, all in one go with no distractions if possible. If you emulate the testing conditions as much as possible, you can more effectively prepare for the actual test and get used to sitting still for almost four hours straight.

Long story short, past SAT tests, especially official College Board tests, are some of the most valuable resources any student can use. Taking these tests can prepare you for the patterns that show up in questions.

Other Tips

Get good at using your calculator! The calculator portion of the Math section becomes arbitrary if you get good at using your calculator.

Annotate! If you’re struggling with reading, make sure to highlight and mark phrases that are important.

Helpful Resources

College Board’s past released tests

Khan Academy’s Online Practice

SAT Vocab list

1600.io (Math and reading/writing) (Free trial available)

This article was both written and edited by Derek Zhou and Aetizaz Sameer. Derek is a junior at Lubbock High school. He enjoys participating in First Robotics, Science Bowl, and Cyberpatriot. Aetizaz is a senior at Lubbock High School. In addition to Robin’s Nest, he participates in UIL computer science and ready writing.

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