If you are anywhere near getting close to having to take the SAT, you know how important it is to prepare. But what do you do? There are so many options out there for SAT test prep it can be hard to pick one path and stick to it.
Or maybe you don’t know of the different things you can do. In any case, I’m going to outline here some of the ways that you can prepare for the SAT and give you a few study tips to help you get started.
Learn the Test
This is really the most important thing you can do. Learning the test means to know and understand the directions and how the whole thing flows. To know the type of questions there are and how to approach each kind. To know how to budget your time. All those sorts of things.
How do you learn that? There really is only one way to learn the test like this. Take a guess. If you thought, “well, the only way to do that would be to actually take the test,” you are absolutely correct!
The best way to prepare for the SAT is to take the SAT.
I know that probably doesn’t make sense, but let me explain. You can take the SAT multiple times. Because most colleges only take your highest score in each section, your total score can only go up each time you retake the test.
Aim to take it once a year each year of high school.
Also, the only way to really understand what something is like is to do it. A good example is soldiers in battle. They can train all they want, but there is nothing quite like real combat. Same thing with the SAT … but not as bad. Or scary. Or dangerous. It’s an analogy, okay?
Besides, once you have taken the SAT, you know the drill and there is very little pressure on you the next time you take it.
One more thing: if you take the test for SAT test prep purposes, it’s well worth it to plunk down the extra few bucks to get the score analysis and see your weaknesses more in-depth.
If you can’t or don’t want to take the real SAT as preparation, do the next-best thing: take practice tests! There are a lot of SAT practice tests out there. In fact, one of the books I recommend a little further down has no fewer than ten practice tests in it! That’s enough to last most people at least a couple weeks.
But don’t just blindly take a practice test, count up your score and move on. Analyze the test, look closely at the problems you miss. What subjects do you have problems with? What types of questions? Maybe you can never seem to get the triangly math problems right (most people call that trigonometry, by the way). Examine your results and focus on your weaknesses.
Okay, now we get into the fun stuff. It’s time to get ready for the SAT – what do you actually do? Well, there are three routes you can go: self-study, SAT tutoring and SAT prep courses. First, we’ll focus on my favorite: self-study.
If you want to get ready for the SAT by yourself, which is totally fine to do, by the way, you’ll need to get yourself some resources.
The two leaders in SAT test prep are the College Board and Barron’s. You’ll need to get one of those two books. They’re not that expensive and they’re well worth every penny you do spend on them.
The College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide is amazing. It’s written by the same people who make the test, so that’s a plus, too. It comes, like I said before, with ten full-length practice tests. It’s also chock-full of study tips and techniques for the SAT, as well as handy things like vocabulary lists and subject reviews. All good stuff. I personally recommend the version that comes with the DVD. One of the best parts about that is that you can actually take a “proctored” test – again, trying to make it as much like the real thing as possible.
An excellent alternative is Barron’s SAT, which is already in its 26th edition! (Edit: You can preorder the 27th edition here.) This book has only five full-length practice tests, but that’s still plenty for most ordinary people. The rest of the book is full of information similar to the College Board’s book. This book is very similar to the College Board’s – it gets slightly higher reviews on Amazon, but I’ve found that people who buy either one are immensely satisfied.
If you’d rather not study by yourself, you can always go the route of getting an SAT tutor. These are people who make their living by helping people do well on the SAT. They’re a gold mine of information, but they tend to be a bit on the pricey side. If you are having a lot of trouble, though, there is nothing quite as beneficial as one-on-one time with a tutor who knows their stuff.
You can find tutors in all sorts of ways – a simple “SAT tutors” Google search in your area can turn up quite a few all by itself.
Another great way to find SAT tutors is through WyzAnt.
SAT Prep Courses
There are some who prefer a more traditional route and would like to take a class on the SAT. Many schools offer a course like this for their students who are approaching graduation. Check to see if your school has one!
If not, you can always find a course online. There are quite a few out there, actually.
If you’re getting ready to take the SAT, take heart! There are plenty options and things out there to help you do really well… check them out, pick one and use it!
What do you think?
Are there any good SAT test prep ideas or study tips I missed? Tell me in the comments below!