Aug 28, 2018 By Team YoungWonks *
How can I do well in SAT? For high school students, this is an important, all too common a question. Indeed, the SAT, originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is an extremely important test for those planning to attend college in the US. First introduced in the year 1926, it is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the US and is owned, developed, and published by College Board, an American non-profit organization. The test aims to measure students’ literacy, numeracy and writing skills that are needed for academic success in college.
Given the importance of the test, it is a good idea to be well-prepared for SAT. Which brings us back to the question: How can one score well in SAT? Especially since more often than not, there is a lot of pressure on students to deliver. It’s also easy to feel overwhelmed or overloaded by information from a number of different sources. This blog tells you how you can best navigate those problems and prepare for SAT. Factoring in the following pointers will keep you in good stead for SAT:
- Starting early leaving you with enough time to prepare: You may or may not need a lot of time to study for your SAT; regardless of this, it’s always a good idea to start ahead of time. This will give you enough buffer time in case you realise you have more areas to work on. Typically, the minimum time one needs is around six months before SAT; the earlier the better.
- Reading up on SAT: This is a rather basic thing to do. Start with reading up on the exam and what exactly it entails. You also need to read up to make sure you know the answers to questions such as: How is SAT scored? What score do I need to maximize my chances of getting into my dream college?
It’s always a good idea to spend time learning what to expect from the test so that you’ll know what to expect on D-day.
- Drawing up an SAT plan that works for you: There’s no point in blindly following someone else’s schedule. So it’s imperative to look at your strengths and weaknesses and factor that in while drawing up a plan that is unique to you and thus, actually works for you. For instance, if you need to study four times a day for a shorter period of time rather than studying long hours in one go, that’s really okay. In fact, the opposite is fine too; so the bottomline is to do what will work best for you.
- Taking the first practice test: The first attempt should ideally be an official practice exam, as it is the closest one can get to SAT without taking it. These official practice SAT tests are published by the College Board and hence, extremely representative of SAT. It will serve as your baseline, telling you where things stand regarding your preparedness for the actual exam. It’s important to note here that one must take this test under actual exam conditions, so make sure you time yourself using official time constraints. This will help your practice score be as accurate as possible.
- Assessing your practice exam scores: Once you calculate your score in the practice exam, take some time out to reflect on these results. Spend some time reflecting on your results; especially the questions you got wrong. Why did you get it wrong and how can you get it right? If there are questions you got right by guessing, you need to address those too. Most official practice tests include answer explanations, which are a great tool you can make use of. Have an open mind; do not hesitate to get inputs from your teachers, tutors or parents for it is totally okay to ask for help and genuine feedback.
Evaluate the results to zero in on your strongest and weakest areas. The SAT includes subscores, so don’t ignore those results. The areas where you constantly struggle are the ones you need to focus on going forward.
- Setting and pursuing a target score for SAT: Now that you have a fair idea about what SAT is, and how you are currently faring in it, you need to set for yourself a reasonable goal score. While it’s good to be ambitious, you don’t want to be impractical either. So on one hand, you don’t have to give up on your dream school just because one practice exam didn’t go well. But you must also bear in mind that this goal should be within reach; plus your goal score must be higher than the average scores of applicants who have been admitted to the schools you plan to apply to.
You can even work towards your score goal by breaking it down into minor goals that are typically easier to achieve.
- Figuring out your ideal learning method and/ resource: Once you know how far you are from your score goal, you need to look at the resources available to you to decide on your learning method. The wider the gap between your current score and the goal score, the more intensive your methods will need to be. You will also have to consider what resources you can afford and what will suit you best: is it individual tutoring, a group class, or an online prep program? Are they endorsed by the College Board that conducts SAT or are they unofficial? What kind of credentials does the online class or individual tutor boast? Have their past students benefited from their tutoring?
For some people, even working solo might work. For self-starters, there’s no dearth of resources, right from SAT books and prep websites to apps and the SAT’s partner site, Khan Academy. Many of them are free as well. Group classes can be a good option too; here you can harness the assistance of both your peers and instructors. It helps to have someone keep track of how you are faring.
- Following through with your SAT learning schedule: Devoting somewhere between 30 minutes to three hours in a sitting is a good idea. It is ideal to study / practise for small, manageable periods of time, but if you are comfortable with studying for long hours at a stretch, that’s fine too. Try to use a combination of books and videos, so that you can keep mixing it up and it’s also important to not overdo it just for the heck of it. So make sure you also a decent break which helps you improve your grasping power.
- Taking more practice exams: You should preferably start doing this about a month after you start studying. Avoid taking it a few days before the actual test; this will put too much pressure on you. Again, score your practice test carefully, looking up the explanation for every question you get wrong. Figure out where you need to double your efforts and where you can ease off a little. Then again, don’t make the mistake of ignoring your areas of consistent strength either. Continue to make use of the resources that are beneficial to you.
The early stages of studying for the SAT allow for a more leisurely plan where you can take a practice test every month or so. In the later stages, you have to bump it up to every week or so. Try to maximize the number of practice tests you take without burning yourself out; four or five practice tests is a good number to aim for. Don’t forget to revise your study plan after assessing your results in each practice test.
- Not letting the SAT overwhelm you: Start slowing down your pace the week before SAT. You can even stop studying altogether a day or two before the exam, since last-minute stress doesn’t help at all. Instead, ensure that you’re well-rested; a good amount of sleep is necessary for you to stay calm and collected for the test. Gather your supplies sorted a day before the exam, tuck into a healthy breakfast on test day and know what time you need to leave so you are on time for the test.
All the best!
*Contributors: Written by Vidya Prabhu; Photo courtesy: Shutterstock