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Tips for Preparing for the SAT

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

SAT test in progressContributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

It just doesn’t seem fair that so much of your college future depends on one test on one day, but it does. The SAT (or ACT) is a critical factor in college and university admissions as well as scholarships.

A lot of a student’s success on the test comes from the knowledge they’ve gathered during their years in school. But there are some things you can do to help your score along. Here are ten tips for preparing for the SAT to make a high score just a little more likely.

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10. Get the right calculator

graphing calculator

Certain types of calculators, including graphing calculators, are permitted while taking the SAT. Get the calculator you’ll be using well in advance and practice using it with all different kinds of problems. That way you won’t waste precious test time figuring out how to enter a function.

9. Get practice tools

SAT prep books

It might be a book, or flash cards or a computer program. Or all three. But do invest in something that will allow you to do practice questions before you head into the SAT testing center. The sooner you can start practicing, the better. A few weeks of practice will help, but several months is even better. You’ll be more familiar with the types of questions, and less likely to be anxious on test day.

8. Work on your weak points

AP English prep book

Knowing what your weak areas are will allow you to work on those before the test. Use subject-matter help books to fill in missing information and help improve your skills. As with the practice test, the sooner the better for a higher score and less test anxiety.

7. Set aside regular prep time

planner page

You have the books, you have the software, but are you using it regularly? Cramming a lot of SAT prep into a day now and then won’t help your score nearly as much as working for a half hour every day. Make time in your daily schedule, write it on your planner and then do it.

6. Attend a prep class if you can

SAT prep class

Attending an SAT prep class might seem like cheating, but it’s not. It’s a chance to learn about the test and to master effective test strategies. You can take private prep classes, but they can be expensive. Many schools now offer free or low cost prep courses on campus. See if your school has them, and make time to attend.

5. Set a good sleep schedule in advance


Being rested is an important part of doing well on the SAT. But you can’t get rested enough in just one night. During the week before the test, try to get to bed a bit earlier than usual. That extra sleep will help you retain more of what you’ve been studying, and will give you a better chance of arriving at the test rested and ready. If you have trouble sleeping, consider using a subliminal sleep tape to help you relax and drift off.

4. Double check your ID, test location and time

calendar page

After all your study and preparation, what could be worse that getting lost on the way to the test, arriving at the wrong time, or misplacing your ID and registration papers? A few weeks before the test, double check the time, date and location. If it’s somewhere unfamiliar, consider driving there in advance so you know the route. Make sure your ID and SAT registration are someplace safe and accessible. Remember, all the study in the world won’t help if you can’t get in!

3. Wear a watch

Skeleton watch

We’re so used to checking time on our phones and computers, but neither of those devices are allowed in the SAT testing center. So while you’re preparing for the test, get used to wearing and using a reliable watch to track your time. When test day comes, look at the start time for each section and jot it down on your booklet. Then write the end time. That way you’ll know how much time you’ve used and how much time you have left for that section of the test. No surprises when time is called!

2. Take extra pencils.


The official SAT guidelines say to bring two Number Two sharpened pencils. That is not a limit, and I am here to tell you, that is not enough. All it takes is a couple of times pressing too hard to color in your bubbles and you are out of pencils. Yes, they will usually have extras, but that wastes precious time. Instead of only two, bring a dozen, all sharp and ready. You may only need three or four, but it pays to be prepared.

1. Set three alarms. Maybe four.

alarm clocks

It’s amazing how easy it is to oversleep on test day. Don’t let that happen to you! Set several alarm clocks, with some on the other side of the room, in the bathroom or in your closet. That way you’ll have to get up to shut them off!

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It’s hard to have so much resting on one test. But if you follow sound tips for preparing for the SAT, it will be easier to get that top score you want.


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