SAT Strategies

Learn some SAT tips and practical strategies and how they can help improve your score.

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Test day is here. You have your #2 pencils and your calculator. You’ve been studying your preparation books and taking your practice tests, and you got a good night’s rest and had a balanced breakfast before arriving at the test location.

You believe you’re fully prepared to take the SAT, but as the proctor passes out the test booklets, a panic sets in as you realize you haven’t focused nearly as much on test day strategies as you probably should have.

As important as it is to get all of the facts and techniques into your brain before the test, it is equally important to make sure you can keep your emotions and stress levels in check

Before you find yourself in this situation, let’s explore some SAT strategies that will prepare you for a satisfying test day experience.

Know the Test

As you know, there are three types of questions on the SAT: critical reading, mathematics, and writing. These question types are separated into 10 test sections that will take you three hours and 45 minutes to complete.

In the three critical reading sections, you’ll only encounter multiple-choice questions. That’s good news for some, but before you mark the critical reading section off as “no sweat,” realize that these multiple-choice questions are designed to assess your reading skills on topics that may not interest you.

For example, passages on Argentinean honeybees might not be your first choice in reading material but you will still have to pick out key ideas, definitions and purposes throughout these passages.

As you progress through the three math sections, you’ll notice that multiple-choice questions are now joined by student-produced responses. Both of these types of questions will cover skills in numbers and operations, algebra and functions, geometry and measurement, and data analysis, statistics and probability.

Finally, in the writing section you will find both an essay and more multiple-choice questions. The essay section gives test-takers 25 minutes to develop and employ a writing strategy based on a given prompt. The multiple-choice questions test students’ abilities to find errors in sentences, improve paragraphs, and select preferred versions of writing.

If you know exactly what to expect throughout the SAT, you will feel more calm and prepared as proceed through even the toughest of questions.

Warm Up Your Mind

Your brain, like your car on a winter morning, needs a warm-up sometimes. You’ve probably found yourself in a similar situation: it’s early and you’d rather be sleeping, but you have an important meeting with your principal/teacher/advisor/employer and your brain just won’t work! You’re stumbling over your words and you can’t seem to express yourself. It happens all the time, and the cause is simple: you’re mind isn’t ready to perform to the best of its abilities.

You definitely don’t want this to be the case on test day. In order to ensure that your brain is working, do some exercises to get it going before the test:

  • Complete a few Sudoku or a crossword puzzle;
  • Do a bit of journaling…it doesn’t matter if it’s creative writing, stream of consciousness, an opinion piece or re-wording a news article;
  • Grab a creative friend and play a quick game of Would You Rather;
  • Get your heart pumping with some jumping jacks in the hallway.

While you may not look like the sanest person in the building, you’ll find that when the SAT is passed out, your brain will be ready to conquer it.

Don’t Panic!

If you find yourself stumped on a very difficult question with time running out, don’t panic. While it’s more easily said than done, remember that panicking will not help your score. The proctor won’t give you extra points if you sweat through the last 10 minutes and unfortunately your score doesn’t go up with your heart rate.

Take a deep breath and have confidence in your abilities. Write something soothing on the first page of your test booklet and refer to it when you get panicked. And remember, worst-case scenario: there’s always another test date in June.

As important as it is to get all of the facts and techniques into your brain before the test, it is equally important to make sure you can keep your emotions and stress levels in check. Finding a test-taking strategy that works for you is an important step to getting the score you want.

Related Standardized College Testing and Test Prep Articles

10 SAT Test Day Tips
Sample SAT Questions and Strategies By Section
How to Improve Your SAT and ACT Scores
SAT Test Prep Courses: What Will They Do For Your Score?
SAT Tutors and Coaches
SAT Prep Online

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