9 Steps to Prepare for the SAT

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Robert Berarducci

There are a variety of books that can be used as studying material.

Jake McAllister, Staff Writer

The SAT is a very important test if you plan on attending college after high school. The SAT is broken up into two sections that are comprised of up to four tests: reading, math (calculator/no calculator), writing and language, and the optional essay. It is a long and rigorous test that lasts for three hours and 50 minutes— and possibly longer if the essay is chosen— so complete focus is required throughout the exam.

The College Board provides high school students the chance to take the SAT nearly every month. One day during the month is designated as a test day, and thousands of students test on that day. Scores are usually accessible after six weeks.

Here are nine helpful steps for studying for the SAT:

Step 1: Take multiple PSATs

There is no better way to prepare for the SAT than taking Preliminary SATs (PSATs). The PSAT is closely related in structure and style to the real SAT, allowing students to get a feel of the real deal. The PSAT is slightly shorter than the SAT, but it will also prepare your endurance for the test. You don’t want to be exhausted as you’re winding up the SAT, so taking the PSAT multiple times will help you build up test-taking endurance.

Step 2: Get familiar with the test structure

Questions on the SAT are in ascending order of difficulty. The first question in the section will be easier than the last question of the section, so you should be able to spend less time on the first question which will allow you to have ample amount of time on the final question.

The evidence-based reading and writing section has 52 questions, writing and language has 44  questions, the no-calculator math section has 20 questions, and the calculator math section has 38 questions.

Step 3: You have to read!

The SAT will test your skills regarding reading comprehension, so in order to best prepare yourself for the reading passages, take time to read articles on unfamiliar material and see if you are able to pinpoint the author’s main point/argument.

Step 4: Know the vocabulary

Knowing the vocab that you’ll see on the test is an easy way to score more points on the SAT. You can make flashcards and study them on the go or whenever you get the chance. Not only will enhancing your vocabulary help you on the sentence completion questions, it will also help during the reading comprehension questions.

Step 5: Write lots of practice essays

Brainstorming your essay, hurriedly writing, and double checking for errors is a lot to do in 50 minutes, but that will be all the time you’ll have to complete your essay. To help you complete your essay and to write down all the points you’d like in your essay, you need to use your time wisely and not stare at the clock. SAT graders want to see that you are able to structure the essay well, have a clear thesis, examples that support the thesis, and a conclusion that restates your thesis.

Step 6: Crucial calculators

Calculators are life savers on the SAT. They can save you from silly mistakes and they can save you time as well. Familiarize yourself with your calculator so that typing in formulas and numbers will become second nature on test day. However, the other section of math forbids you from using a calculator. Make sure to clear your mind before attempting the problem, attack it head on but do not sweat over one question. If you must, eliminate an answer choice or two, and guess.

Make sure you have an approved calculator! The TI-30, TI-34, TI-82, TI-83, TI-84, TI-89, and TI-Nspire calculator models ARE acceptable for the SAT.

Step 7: Memorize math formulas and rules

The SAT will give you some formulas, but try to memorize as many as you can, especially the Pythagorean Theorem, area formulas, special triangle rules, and exponent rules.

Step 8: Understand the advantages of multiple choice

The best strategy to tackling multiple choice questions is to try and eliminate one or two answer choices from the question. Doing so will give you a 50-50 shot of getting the correct answer. It is  okay to guess if you have to. Each question is worth the same amount of points, and it wastes a lot of time to sweat over one question for ten minutes. It is very important to answer as many questions as you can, because you don’t get docked for wrong answers!

Step 9: Don’t stress on test day

One of the worst things you can do on test day is to stress about it. If you put in the time and effort to prepare for it, you should feel confident that you’ll knock it out of the park. Make sure that you get a good night’s rest the night before test day and that you eat a good breakfast. If you find yourself beginning to panic during the test, take a moment and calm yourself down with a deep breath in and out.

Ultimately, the SAT is just a test. We’ve taken hundreds of tests throughout our lifetimes. Preparation for any test is necessary. The same goes for the SAT, so make sure you put legs on your dreams and help your chances of getting the score you want. Another great thing about the SAT is that you can take it as many times as you want! So breathe, smile, and do the best you can!