SAT Study Strategy
How can I improve my SAT score?
Score improvement occurs after consistent practicing and drilling concepts,
coupled with learning strategies to crack the SATs. The key to raising SAT
scores significantly is a long-term study strategy.
As the SAT evaluates the students according to three separate areas,
the most effective form of SAT preparation is that which recognizes
and distinguishes the specific skills and knowledge needed for each
area of the test. The following provides a brief introduction to the
studying methods and techniques that can effectively improve one's
results on the SAT.
- Read sophisticated material. Most SAT study manuals will provide a sample
list of the type of books that appear most frequently as Critical Reading
passages. Particularly for younger students in grades 7-9 or even lower, high-level
reading can produce drastic improvement on the SAT. Of course, picking up
Great Expectations two days before the SAT will do little, if anything, in
terms of improving your score. However, if a student develops the habit of
reading challenging material early on, the possibilities are limitless.
- Build your vocabulary. All too often, test-takers stumble during
Critical Reading sections because they do not know the meaning of
words contained in the answer options. To avoid this unfortunate situation,
vocabulary-building must be included as an integral part of SAT preparation.
For most students, flash cards prove most effective as a method of
memorizing words. However, flash cards, and all other forms of vocabulary-building,
only prove effective when they are employed regularly and frequently.
- Practice summarizing. Some of the most challenging Critical Reading
questions ask the reader to describe the tone of the passage or the
intention of the author. Such questions test the reader's ability
to recognize the more subtle underlying mood or message behind the
words. To improve your ability to judge tone and intention, the following
technique proves useful. While reading sophisticated material (see
Tip #1 above), stop every few paragraphs to mentally summarize the
main points, opinions, and feelings that have just been conveyed.
This will allow you to mentally train yourself to keep attuned to
the subtleties of feeling and purpose that are hidden in all high-level
- Improve your memory. Too many test-takers waste precious minutes
searching for particular words, phrases, or sentences in longer passages.
In order to shave off precious time and improve your test-taking efficiency,
you must train your memory. Just as you did in order to practice summarizing
(see Tip #3 above), pause every few paragraphs while reading. Then,
without looking at the book, try to describe what you have just read,
as specifically as possible. Do you remember characters' names, personalities,
and appearances? Do you remember how the plot has developed? Has the
narrator suggested anything that reveals his own personal opinion
about the situation? By answering questions such as these, and training
yourself to remember minor details and nuances in the text, you will
strengthen your memory in a way that will prove extremely beneficial
when you write your next SAT.
- Develop an essay template. Take advantage of the fact that you
only have to write one essay during the SAT. For example, what do
you find to be the easiest technique to use to form an interesting
introduction: rhetorical questions, a quote, or a shocking statement?
Choose one and stick to it. When practicing writing essays (see Tip
#5 below), never stray from your chosen template! You will then enter
the SAT testroom with a tried-and-true format for writing rapid essays.
- Build your vocabulary.
- Read sophisticated material. This, combined with Tip #2 above, proves
effective in improving results for both the Critical Reading and Writing sections.
- Drill yourself on grammar rules. Using flashcards, you can effectively
memorize the most common grammar rules and concepts that will appear in Writing
questions. On the front of the cards, write sample SAT Writing questions.
On the back of the cards, write the answers along with a very brief explanation.
Keep these flashcards (along with the vocabulary cards) with you at all times,
and review whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
- Practice writing 25-minute essays. Practice is of course an integral
part of preparation for all three subject areas, but considering the
particularly rigorous time constraints on the essay-writing section,
practice is invaluable here. By practicing diligently, you will soon
enough be able to write a substantive essay in the short 25-minute
timeframe, with a couple minutes left to review your work and make
- Drill, drill, drill. Students improve their SAT Math performance
primarily as a result of tireless practice. Compared with the Critical
Reading and Writing sections, score improvement in Math is generally
easier to come by. The key is to master your understanding of a concept,
and then challenge that understanding by practicing that concept again
- Practice writing under test conditions. Like with the 25-minute
essay writing, the Math section proves challenging in part because
of the time constraints. Therefore, it is important to adhere strictly
to the specified time limits while studying.
- Review your errors. Always go back to any questions you've done
incorrectly, and ensure that you understand where you've erred. Self-review
is a critical part of the improvement process, both for the SAT and
When should I start studying?
Ideally, a student should start studying in grade 9. At this age,
we typically recommend students to focus on building vocabulary and
improving essay writing skills.
To obtain scores of 700+ in critical reading, students need to learn
over 5000 new vocabulary words. By starting in grade 9, students can
memorize the words at a comfortable pace of 5-10 words per day.
The Best SAT Study Manuals
With so many manuals out there, choosing one can prove to be a daunting
task. The following are some of the manuals that have proven most
effective. The general manuals provide a comprehensive introduction
to all parts of the SAT, while the specific manuals focus on one particular
area or another.
What are the best study materials?
The best study guide is The Official SAT Study Guide by the College
Board. It is the only guide with actual SAT questions from past exams
and most closely resembles the test students will take. Barron’s,
McGraw Hill, Kaplan and Princeton Review also serve as useful supplementary
study material. We recommend younger students (Grade 8-9) to use Kaplan
and older students (grade 10-12) to use Barron’s and McGraw
Hill. PrepMe.com is the best online tool for SAT preparation.
11 Practice Tests for the SAT and PSAT (Princeton Review)
How to Prepare for the SAT (Barron's)
SAT 2400: Aiming for the Perfect Score (Barron's)
SAT I Second Edition (McGraw Hill)
Critical Reading Workbook for the SAT (Barron's)
Conquering the New SAT Writing (McGraw-Hill)
Math Workbook for the SAT (Barron's)
SAT Math Workbook (Kaplan)
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