October 1st marks the next SAT test date. SAT scores are one of many important deciding factors colleges use in their admissions process, so it’s important that you take advantage of all of the opportunities available to do well on such an important test. The following are things you should keep in mind when preparing for the SAT:
1. Cramming doesn’t get you a 2400 (or even a 1900): An abundance of students take the SATs in hopes of earning scores that will get them into the school of their dreams, but many are also not studying enough (according to the Washington Post, SAT scores are down for the class of 2011). Without dedicating a considerable amount of time to studying, the average student will get an average score. Whether you hate math or can’t write an essay to save your life, you know your weaknesses and strengths—focus on improving your weaknesses. Months before the actual test date, spend a couple of hours a day strengthening your weaknesses. There are plenty of SAT prep books and sites that provide practice tests and are modeled after the actual SAT. These resources will be your most important study tools and will allow you to become familiar with the format of the test.
2. Read, read, read: Reading everything from Shakespeare to your local newspaper will build your vocabulary and enhance your writing and comprehension skills—all of which are necessary skills for the critical reading and writing sections. The more you read and study vocabulary words, the more you will understand various concepts such as theme, tone, diction, rhetoric, symbolism, etc. Reading a wide variety of literature may not be your favorite hobby, but it certainly helps you tackle the reading and writing sections.
3. Math is where it’s at: Many students are intimidated by the math portion of the SAT, but adequate studying makes this section much more approachable. The only way to do well on this section is to do tons of practice problems (yes, literally tons.). You’re allowed to write in your test book, so use it for scratch work. Many problems seem hard, but are really just multiple problems in one (this is where critical thinking and knowing how to use basic concepts comes in handy). The more you tap into your creative thinking skills, learn how to use various mathematical expressions, and familiarize yourself with how to work through SAT math problems, the more likely you’ll feel confident and do well on this section.
4. Keep a Steady Pace: In each section of the SAT (excluding the reading section), the difficulty of questions ranges from easy-medium-hard, so questions become progressively harder in each section. You lose a fraction of a point for wrong answers, but lose no points for questions you don’t answer (including the grid-in questions in the math section). So, it’s important to spend your time wisely while answering questions; answer easy and medium questions first and then work your way through the hard ones, if time permits.
5. Be on time: You’d be surprised at how easy it is to think you know where a place is located, only to get lost on the day of your test. Some of the last things you want to do are get lost on the way to your SAT or wake up late. On the night before the test, gather all of the necessary materials such as pencils, pens, valid photo ID, admission ticket, calculator, and watch. Also, get a full night’s sleep the night before and make sure your transportation arrangements are solid—this ensures that you don’t waste precious time in the morning and you arrive to your testing location on time.
Most importantly, don’t let the SAT intimidate you. It’s just like any other exam you have taken throughout your high school career—it just requires much more time and discipline to prepare for. Relax, be confident, take full advantage of the study tools available for you to prepare and you’ll earn a score that you’ll be proud of.