7 Things You Need to Know to Prepare for Your SAT

A piggy bank on top of a stack of books, good for saving for college themeWhile the SAT season is technically over for college seniors, there is still time for those who want to improve their scores to take the test again; and there are plenty of juniors who are still taking the test multiple times. Whether you’ve take the exam before or not, there are probably a few things you could do to better prepare for the experience.

1. Make Sure You’re Taking the Right Test

Is the SAT really the exam you need to be taking? The SAT and the ACT serve similar purposes, and a lot of schools accept either score. Professionals say the best way to determine which you should take is to do a home practice test for each. See which structure feels better for you, and keep an eye on the scores and how long each takes.

2. Preparing for SAT Subject Tests

There are separate subject tests you can take if you are planning on majoring in a specific area. Make sure you’re timing those tests according to your needs. If you want to study a foreign language, for example, you should take the subject test after several years of study. If you want to take a subject test in history, on the other hand, take the test while the course you just finished is still fresh in your mind.

3. Utilize the Test Book

Use the test book to your advantage. They’re only used once, as indicated by the way you have to tear open each section before each part of the test. Write in the book. Circle the questions you need to go back to and use the pages to mark off the answers you know are wrong so you can better choose between the unknowns. Just make sure you properly mark your final answer on the answer sheet.

4. Prioritizing Your Questions

While every question in each section is weighted equally, they are split into easy, medium, and hard difficulty levels, and they’re generally listed in that order. This means you should spend more time making sure your easy and medium level questions are done correctly before spending the remaining time on the difficult questions. In other words, don’t jump to the hard questions, hoping to get them out of the way first. You may waste time you can’t afford to lose.

5. Look for Good SAT Prep Classes

Look for a good SAT prep course, but don’t waste your time if you really aren’t into it. A friend of mine found out that one of his top pick colleges would give him a full scholarship if he earned a certain score. His parents immediately signed him up for a 3x per week review course. He was so miserable by the time he took the SAT again, and he did only marginally better than he had done the first time through.

6. Don’t Be Fooled

A lot of people say the math sections on the SAT are easier than on the ACT. Don’t be fooled. A lot of these tests are designed to trip up those who rush and don’t properly read instructions and questions. Be careful, take your time, and read every question carefully – no matter what section it’s in.

7. Learn Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking skills will help you with the process of elimination you’ll need to use when you don’t know the answer to a question, which is bound to happen because of the broad nature of the exam. If there are 5 answer choices and you narrow your odds down to three because you’re certain at least 2 are wrong, you are exponentially increasing your odds of choosing the right answer. Remember, right answers are given a full point. Incorrect answers cause a deduction of a quarter of a point. It’s better to get the right answer!

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