How do I Prepare for the SAT?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

The SAT, formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is a test taken by millions of college-bound juniors and seniors in the United States every year. The test is written by and given through the College Board, an organization committed to giving students the best opportunity possible to get into a great college. The scores from the SAT are required for most college applications. Being prepared for the SAT is essential to getting the highest score possible.

SAT scores are required for most college applications.
SAT scores are required for most college applications.

Prepare for the SAT by first learning what will be on the test. The SAT tests students on math and verbal skills, specifically critical reading, mathematics, and reading and comprehension. The questions on the test are all problems that the College Board assumes a high school junior or senior could answer. Students can look at practice SATs both online and in several SAT preparation books to see actual questions that have been on previous tests.

Create a study schedule to avoid cramming and sleeplessness.
Create a study schedule to avoid cramming and sleeplessness.

Knowing several test-taking tips can also help a student prepare for the SAT. Students should answer easy questions first, and leave the harder questions for last. Making educated guesses, by first eliminating unlikely answers from multiple choice questions, can help students to answer more difficult questions. Remembering that the test is time, and deciding how much time to spend on more complicated questions can also help students.

Planning ahead can help make it easier to prepare for the SAT. Last-minute cramming, without any previous studying to back it up, will not improve a student's score as much as an organized studying method. Start preparing for the test several weeks in advance, setting aside time every few days to review questions, learn test-taking techniques, and do practice tests. During the last week before the test, students should cut back on their preparations to give themselves a break and a chance to get rested up.

Taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is one of the best ways for a student to prepare for the SAT. This test is usually given several months before students take the SATs, and provide a great opportunity for students to see what the actual test will be like. The students can use their experience, and their scores, to better prepare for the real test.

The night before taking the SAT, students should eat a healthy dinner and go to bed early. A good night's sleep can be very helpful in preparing a student for the SAT. Eating breakfast the next morning is another good idea. Students should get everything that they will need gathered up the night before: a calculator, #2 pencils, their picture IDs and registration ticket, and food drinks for during breaks. Students should put new batteries into their calculators the night before, to assure that the batteries won't die during the test.

After taking the SAT, students should expect to get their scores back within three or four weeks. The scores will also be mailed to any colleges that the student has specified. Students can always retake the test at another time if their scores are not as high as they had hoped. Retaking the test gives students more time to prepare, and more experience with the test materials. While it is better to fully prepare for the SAT the first time, second or third attempts usually give students a higher score to show to prospective colleges.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments


I saw a news report the other day that suggested more and more colleges are using other criteria besides SAT and ACT scores when considering applicants. Standardized tests only demonstrate one aspect of a prospective college student's academic development. Colleges and universities are now looking at other factors such as community involvement, leadership qualities and critical thinking skills.

I'm not saying the scores from an SAT aren't relevant or will become weightless in the future, but I'm saying that a less-than-stellar SAT score is not necessarily going to be an impediment to a quality education at a quality university.

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