In the summertime, us high schoolers finally have the chance to enjoy ourselves with activities such as vacationing, swimming, sunbathing, and my personal favorite—studying for the SAT! Okay, I lied. SAT preparation isn’t the most enjoyable summer activity. But, with the right study habits, you can prevent the SAT from sucking up loads of time from your summer and, at the same time, still ace it!
Before studying, I recommend that you take one of the previous SAT exams. Then, take the time to review and understand your mistakes. Also, look for the areas of the test where you’ve made the most mistakes. If there’s a specific section of the test that you had trouble with, you should pinpoint the type of questions you had trouble with in this section. For example, if you had trouble with the reading section, perhaps the type of question that really stumped you was the vocabulary word questions.
Afterwards, you can begin constructing a schedule for your SAT practice. Since you’ve already pinpointed your weak spots, you can set aside more time to practice on these areas. I recommend that you begin studying at least a month in advance and plan to study a total of 40 hours. So, if you’re studying for a month, it’s a good idea to set aside 10 hours every week for SAT preparation. Then, you could study for 2 hours every week day. If you’d like to drastically improve your SAT score by 130 or more points, you should plan on studying 80 or more hours. In this case, you should set aside at least two months for studying. Whatever you do, be realistic and honest with yourself. If you know you become tired of working easily, you shouldn’t create a schedule where you’ll be studying for many hours nonstop.
Then, it’s time to search for SAT preparation books and websites. Look for books and sites created by people who have done well on the SAT themselves. The College Board’s official SAT preparation books are great sources too. Just because a book is written by a large company, such as Kaplan or Barron’s, doesn’t necessarily mean the writers know the SAT well. I recommend PrepScholar, which is a website created and run by people who scored extremely high, if not perfect, scores on the SAT. Once you find a preparation book or website, check to see if it gives tips on the thinking and structure behind the SAT. You want to find writers who will tell you patterns behind the SAT’s reading excerpts, questions, answer choices, and writing prompts. Once you learn to think like the test makers, you’re fully prepared for the SAT.
At the end of every week, you should complete one of the previous SAT exams and check your answers to track your improvement. I really encourage you to take only previous SAT exams. If you take a SAT practice test that wasn’t created by the College Board, it may not be an appropriate representation of the test. Be sure to review the explanations behind the answers to understand your mistake. The more often you read these explanations, the better you’ll learn to think like the test makers. A good SAT preparation book or website will, for each question of the previous SAT tests, provide explanations behind every answer choice, thoroughly discussing why it’s either wrong or correct. Also, you shouldn’t count the hours you spend taking SAT exams towards your total time spent studying for the SAT. When you’re taking the test, you’re not really learning the thinking behind the exam, so it isn’t directly helping you study for the SAT. It’s only helping you track your improvement.