How to Prepare for SAT: SAT Tips & Strategies

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SAT test tips

Prepare for the SAT exam

SAT is a standardized test that is used to judge the preparedness of candidates applying to undergraduate colleges. When you prepare for the SAT or any other competitive exam it is important to understand the structure of the paper.

You can score a maximum of 1600 on the SAT exam. The Math section accounts for 800 marks and the evidence-based reading and writing section (including language) accounts for 800. Let’s take a detailed look at the important information:

Order in the Test Section Number of Questions Allotted Time in minutes
1 Reading 52 65
2 Writing and Language 44 35
3 Math- No calculator section 20 25
4 Math- Calculator Allowed 38 55
5 Optional Essay 1 50
Total 154+1(155 if the essay is attempted) 180(230 if the essay is attempted)

SAT 1 and SAT 2 – How are they different?

SAT 1 is basically a test of your overall abilities and knowledge. On the other hand, SAT 2 seeks to assess the topical knowledge of a student. SAT has sections such as Reading, Writing, Language, Math and an Optional Essay whereas, SAT 2 assesses your knowledge about a subject. Currently, there are about 20 different subjects on the list. Applicants can take choose to be tested on three subjects per test date.

It is not obligatory to take SAT 2; however, it is best to go through the admission requirements of each college that you intend to apply to. A majority of colleges do not make it obligatory on you to take the subject tests but top tier schools such as MIT, Princeton University, Caltech insist on one or more subject test scores.


SAT Study Tips 2020

There are many ways in which to approach your preparation for such an entrance test. Ideally, you must begin with the start date of the program and work backward to when you can take the test. Apart from practicing for the test and its various sections, the best way to study for SAT is to understand the testing format and the instructions that accompany the test.

Before you begin, here are some SAT Test Strategies

    • Self-analysis: The first and most important step towards a solid preparation is an honest understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. This will give you an idea of what you need to work on. You can take practice tests available online to judge your preparedness (College Board has several practice tests that can be downloaded free of cost). The scoring guidelines are available too and this will give you a fair idea of your skills. Your score can be analyzed to understand your strengths and problem areas.
  • Create a goal: It is far easier to work on something when you have a goal in place. Applying this logic, set a target score for yourself. Consider the average SAT scores of your preferred colleges before you arrive at the target score. Based on your initial scores, you will be able to tell the distance you need to cover to get to your target score. As you set the target score, it is best to be as realistic as possible (based on the time available) to avoid disappointments.

When you Prepare remember these SAT  test taking tips

Time Management

One of the most important things about attempting a competitive exam is time management. Considering that most students attempting/preparing for the SAT are still involved in school with exams or other co-curricular commitments, it may seem almost impossible to devote time. However, creating schedules and planning practice sessions is the right way to start. While things may seem overwhelming at first, it may help to remember Martin Luther King here. He said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”.

Habitual Reading

Let’s face it! Reading and comprehending 5 dense passages in an hour can be tough. This will what you can expect in the reading section of the SAT. Generally, 4 out of the 5 passages that you will come across in the exam tend to be based on non-fiction. Since high school students are more exposed to/prefer fictional reading, this can present a challenge. The only way to overcome this is to get into the habit of reading- especially non-fiction. There is a wide variety to choose from and they are quite accessible too. You can pick up magazines, articles online, newspapers or non-fiction books. The point is, the more you read ‘boring stuff’, the better are your chances!


Not everyone fancies numbers! For those who don’t, it is all about practice. However, if there is anything that is going to help you in this section, then it has to “mental math”. The ability to calculate and tackle small problems in your mind can truly set you apart. There are a number of shortcuts that can be used to arrive at the desired results quickly and effectively. Take advantage of these and solve mental math exercises readily available online. This will provide the right edge.

Avoid Cramming

Despite the fact that it may have worked for you in the past, DO NOT CRAM! Not only will you end up feeling exhausted but it will leave you feeling completely under prepared. Further, in a few days, there is a growing feeling that you do not remember any of it. A better option will be to understand the concepts and revisit the same in a few days. Reiterating and reinforcing concepts will help in a better understanding of concepts. As you prepare for the SAT, you will feel far more confident resulting in lesser errors.

Understand your mistakes

As you prepare for the SAT, you will make mistakes. The key is to understand the origin of your mistakes. Here, there are four possibilities-

    • Content- You must strengthen your understanding of the concept to avoid this
    • Careless mistakes- This can only be resolved with a sharper focus and more practice
    • Time pressure- Familiarizing yourself with the test, taking multiple mock tests and deep breaths can help with this.
    • Understanding the question- Again, going through multiple practice tests will allow you to read the question well the first time.

Practice in Plenty

The best way to prepare for the SAT is by taking full-length, practice tests. This will help you remain focused on the test day and familiarize yourself with the test format. In addition, prepare a study schedule for different sections of the SAT and familiarize yourself with high-frequency SAT vocabulary words.

Here are some tips that can help you be a better SAT test taker:

  • Take the PSAT or PreACT in October of your junior year if possible because it is good practice and also gives you a chance to enter National Merit and other scholarships.
  • Take at least one practice test and score it before you begin preparing so you know what areas need improvement.
  • Consider getting a private tutor or joining a test preparation program if your school does not offer one.
  • Make sure to leave plenty of time before each section of the test so that you are not rushed and that there is time for breaks between sections.
  • Practice taking timed tests under realistic conditions, as this will help build endurance and concentration on test day.

Best Way to Study for SAT

Coaching centers

Coaching centers are quite accessible these days and depending on where you live, you can certainly find one that suits your needs. Such centers can be vital as they help you to sharpen your skills, practice enough and work on your timing as well. For instance, Gyanone has a structured program that works to help you learn the concepts, practice and eventually master them. By providing consistent, comprehensive and exhaustive guidance, the highly personalized program can help you prepare for the SAT.


There are numerous online preparatory courses and programs that you can sign up for. Some of them are available free, you may need to sign up and pay a few for others. So, ‘self-study’ is a great option especially if you are committed, focused and diligent with your work.  The advantage here is that you can set the pace of studying without worrying about sticking to a predetermined schedule. Therefore, your prep must mimic the test day which means that every time you practice, you must do a bit of everything if you spend an hour practicing, you must divide it between all sections and not focus one or the other.

Find a Partner

The idiom ‘partner in crime’ has not been coined without reason! When you have a partner, everything seems achievable. Further, there will moments when you do not feel confident and it is in these moments that a partner will serve as a ‘pick me up’. You can feed off of each other’s strengths and work at your weaknesses as a team.

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the ax”. Focus on the preparation, cover all your bases and you are sure to come out with flying colors!


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