With this weekend’s June SAT administration, most juniors should have taken at least one SAT by now. Those who took the test in March or May have already have received their score reports, and those who took last weekend’s test should receive their SAT scores on June 23 (I say “should” only because the May results were delayed two days).
So what happens if your score is not indicative of your true potential?
So many students take that first SAT as a junior with little or no preparation and they are shocked when their scores come back much lower than anticipated. If they had read about the SAT prior to the test, they would have known that it is a reasoning test that trips up most unsuspecting students and even some prepared test takers. Luckily, though, these lamenting students have all summer to study and prepare before tackling the test again.
Your first step in preparation should be to download and print the free test available here. It’s important you do this right away: sometime in the next two or three months the College Board will replace this test with a different one. That’s two free tests available for practice if you act quickly!
Studying for the SAT
The best way to study is different for each student. Some self-directed learners do well just using The Official SAT Study Guide (better known in SAT circles as “The Blue Book”) and taking practice tests on their own. For these students, we recommend taking timed practice sections and then reviewing the questions that were missed or guessed on. Students should study the wording of both the questions and the answer choices to try to categorize them by phrases, errors, and correct answers. They may choose to pull out all vocabulary words from the Critical Reading sections in blue book and sort them by the number of times the words appear; this will make a great study list of common “repeat offenders” (NOTE: You may also want to watch the PowerScore website for the soon-to-be released free list of 700 commonly-occurring vocabulary words).
Other students need an additional, more detailed book that breaks down the test patterns for them. For students who are trying to improve their math score, PowerScore offers The SAT Math Bible. It is a comprehensive text that explains the content tested, shows how it is applied on the SAT, and requires students to practice the tips, tricks, and techniques used by PowerScore instructors. The SAT Writing Bible and The SAT Reading Bible are not due out until later this year, so in the meantime, you can use the first 400 pages of the Blue Book to review or find test prep material at your local library.
Still other test takers need a more structured environment in a classroom, where test experts guide them through the patterns and the tests in the blue book. We encourage you to check out PowerScore’s Full-length, Weekend, and Live Online courses to find one that fits your summer schedule. These courses are designed to review content and teach the simplest and quickest methods for solving SAT questions. Only you can determine which method—self study or classroom preparation—is best for you.
Whatever you chose, be sure to include the blue book in your plans. It's the only book with real test questions and it's important to practice with these.
The current fall test dates have been tentatively set as October 1, November 5, and December 3. That means you have nearly 4 months until the next SAT test date. If you choose to study on your own, set the number of hours you plan to study each week. That way, if you are unable to study on a Tuesday, you can make up for that missed time later in the week. Flexible goals like this one are much easier to meet than if you insist on studying for a certain amount of time each day.
You should try to take several full-length practice tests over the summer. This not only gives you exposure to test questions and time limits, but it also helps build your stamina for the real test in October. Plus, you can score the test and see how well your preparation is paying off. If your score has not improved by the end of July, it may be time to consider some other preparation methods, like classes or tutoring.