Our Top 4 SAT tips

The school year is taking off which means students will get quite busy with homework and school projects. For those who want to rush through SAT preparation like a hundred-yard dash, this means less time to study for the test.

Understanding SAT prep is like a marathon is the key to succeeding in the exam. Try the following 4 great tips out and your score will improve with less of the usual hair-pulling and nail-biting.

1. Read more (of everything)

A simple search on the internet reveals a great number of ‘strategies’ for the reading test, ranging from repeated exhortations to skimming the passage. Other pages will advise you learn long lists of words. The problem is this is tailored to a stereotypical two-week crash course. While this may help with confidence, it rarely improves scores.

The only way to get better at reading is to… read more

If you don’t know what to read, try this: follow ‘The Economist’ and ‘the Scientific American’. Reading a couple of these every day will prepare you much better for three of the five passages you get in the reading section (economics, science and social science). Try reading a novel every month (classics from Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf) and you’ll cover almost everything. You will improve your reading speed and your range of vocabulary will benefit too. You’ll also improve your grammatical structures.

2. Understand your errors on practice tests

Students sometimes pay little attention to their recurring mistakes while focusing on the all-important total score on the test. This causes them to repeat the same mistake and remain stuck in grammar purgatory. Although English grammar has a large number of quirks and exceptions, the SAT writing section only tests around ten of the most common errors. If you take a few hours to teach yourself these rules and always review your errors on practice tests in detail, the writing section will be a lot less intimidating.

3. There is one correct answer, all that matters is getting it

This tip is more relevant to the math section than any other part.

In school, showing the working and finding ‘proper’ math solutions is usually drilled into students.  And that isn’t necessarily a bad strategy as students get partial credit. The SAT scores differently. The answer is all that matters which is why shortcuts are key.

Elimination: eliminate the wrong answers instead of trying to work it all out

Plugging in: Facing a confusing equation to solve. A savvy test-taker will plug answers in and test the results for consistency. Working it out may just slow you down.

4. Do as many practice tests as you can.

Everyone knows this, right? Unfortunately, that is not always true. Test makers are restricted by the syllabus: this means there is a finite number of questions which can be asked. You will realize this if you do at least ten full-length test papers. With practice you will see test patterns and tricks which test makers utilize to throw students off balance. Do the 8 practice tests on College Board before you sit the actual test. Then buy prep books and practice some more.

Writers who advertise guaranteed ‘strategies’ are on par with car salesmen. Treat the SAT like the IB or AP exams. Study over an extended period of time and surely you will improve your score.

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