Study Smart for the SAT: 7 Must-Follow Steps

SAT Prep

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the SAT. All those questions! All those words and numbers! Quick, what's the difference between tedious and soporific? What's the ratio of the sides in a 30:60:90 triangle? What's the proper use of a semicolon?

That's why it's important to be strategic about how you study. Here are seven tips to help you study well for the SAT:

  1. Make a plan. Learning how to allot your time when you're facing a big task is a very valuable skill, one that will serve you well in college and beyond. Sketch out how you will study between now and the day of the test, including how many hours you will spend preparing for each section.
  2. Skip what you already know. We all get a ego boost from working on our strongest subjects. It's fun to whiz through 10 questions and get all of them right! (Well, as fun as the SAT ever is). But if you're already great at grammar, or reading graphs, or correcting run-on sentences, then you shouldn't be spending time on those areas. Move on to something more challenging!
  3. Spend most of your time on the medium-difficulty areas. In a way, studying for the SAT is like taking the SAT. You shouldn't waste time on easy material. But you shouldn't get bogged down either! Think about the score you want to achieve. The odds are good that you can afford to miss a few questions. If you've spent every evening for a week trying to figure out the difference between "who" and "whom", and you still keep making mistakes, it's time to move on.
  4. Work systematically. The PowerScore course materials make this easy to do; the questions in the coursebooks are organized by topic area, so you can take things one concept at a time. Don't just skip from question to question at random; spent an hour or two mastering right triangles, then circles, then the volume of 3D figures.
  5. On the other hand....make sure you've left yourself extra time to take actual practice tests. Various topic areas will be all mixed up on the SAT, so once you've mastered the underlying material, you'll need to become comfortable jumping from one thing to another.
  6. Like or not, studying should feel like work. If you're just skimming through questions and then checking the answers, you're not going to learn very much. Treat the practice tests like real tests and try your hardest on every question. Go back and check your work two or three times. Then -- and only then -- should you look in the back of the book for the answers. Make a list of all the questions you got wrong, then go back and practice similar questions on the same topic. Studying for the SAT can be fun (really!) but, unfortunately, it's not something you can do while watching Modern Family.
  7. RELAX! Say it ten times slowly: the SAT will not determine your destiny. Practice, work hard, and try your best. But remember that at the end of the day, it really is just a test.