Strategies for SAT Success

February 19, 2013

Do you have a student that plans to take the SAT in the future? Here are some tips to help them prepare:

1. Visit the College Board Website 
This website offers some free online resources including a free practice test, sample test questions, emailed question of the day, and tips for preparing for test day. In addition, this is where you go to register for the SAT and get your student's scores.

2. Familiarize Yourself with the Format of the SAT Test
Here is some general information to get you started: The SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes long and there are three ten minute breaks. The exam is mostly multiple-choice, and it's divided into three Math, three Critical Reading, three Writing sections, and an experimental section. The essay is always first. Sections 2-7 can be in any order, Sections 8 and 9 are either Critical Reading or Math, and the last section is always writing multiple choice questions.

The Writing Component: This part of the test consists of an essay prompt and multiple choice questions. The essay directions usually ask you to write a persuasive essay typically responding to a quotation. The multiple choice questions test the students' ability to spot errors in grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph structure or organization.

The Critical Reading Component: This section is made up of sentence completion and reading comprehension type questions. Sentence completion questions test the student's ability to determine how words or ideas work together to create meaning in a sentence. There are short and long reading comprehension passages which test the student's ability to understand what they read. At least one selection will contain two related reading passages.

The Math Component: The math portion of the test contains regular math multiple choice questions with five answer choices and grid-in problems that are not multiple choice that require students to supply an answer. The math questions ask about geometry, algebra, or statistics topics.

3. Know How the Test is Scored
Knowing how the SAT is scored will help your student to develop an effective test-taking strategy. You gain one point for each correct answer on the SAT and lose ¼ point for each incorrect answer, except on grid-in math questions. You do not lose any points for the questions that you leave blank. Scores on all three sections range from a low of 200 to a high of 800 for a total possible score between 600 and 2400.

4. Learn the Ground Rules
There are certain things that are never allowed on SAT test day. Your student should be familiar with these before the day that they go to take their test.

You are not allowed to jump back and forth between sections.
You cannot return to earlier sections to change your answers.
You cannot exceed the allotted time on any section.
You can choose the order in which you complete your questions within a section.
You can flip through the section you are on at the beginning to see what types of questions are coming up and formulate a strategy.

5. Strategize
Learning general SAT test-taking strategies and tactics for each particular section can greatly improve a student's score. In addition, many students find it very beneficial to learn some strategies for time management since timed tests are not frequently given in schools and many students are not accustomed to this type of pressure.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Students should make SAT practice a regular part of their day. There are at least four years of math concepts to be reviewed (Algebra, Geometry, and Statistics); reading strategies to learn and practice, and frequently occurring vocabulary words to study. In addition, most students will benefit from taking practice tests, including practice writing prompts, and reviewing the results with someone who can explain their mistakes to them.

Julie Baldassano, one of the Montgomery County perfect scoring teens, said something in the article that is very true for most students. She said, "I wasn't getting anywhere near 2400 when I started practicing, but the more you do the better it'll go and the easier it will get." It seems like the lesson here is, Practice makes perfect or Hard work pays off; a good lesson to learn for the SAT test and life in general.

If you have an ideas or helpful strategies for the SAT, please comment and leave them below. I look forward to hearing from you! Please visit our website for more information about the SAT or to attend a free SAT information session: 

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