The Ultimate Guide to SAT Prep for High School Students

Performing well on the SAT can significantly increase your chances of acceptance into the best colleges or universities on your list. Because the SAT is such a high-stakes test, you want to begin early in your preparation for it. Below are some tips for making the most of your time studying for the SAT.

Know What to Expect

The SAT is a standardized test that is designed to assess your skills in the areas of Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. The results from the SAT are submitted to the colleges you’re interested in attending during the college application process, and these scores help colleges make decisions about whether or not a student would be a good fit at their school.

The exam itself is broken up into three sections, which are Math, Evidence-Based Reading, and Writing. Although these sections are composed mostly of multiple-choice questions with four answer options, the Math section may have items that require you to fill in a grid. Additionally, there is an optional 50-minute essay section as part of the Writing assessment. The total testing time if you choose to do the essay is 3 hours and 50 minutes. Without the essay, you’ll be testing for 3 hours. The Reading section, which focuses heavily on vocabulary and reading within context, is 65 minutes long. The Writing section, which assesses grammar and usage skills, takes 35 minutes. The Math section takes a total of 80 minutes but is additionally divided into two parts (a 55-minute segment in which a calculator is optional and a 25-minute section that must be completed without a calculator).

Use Class Time Wisely

The SAT isn’t meant to be a test that is disconnected from the learning you’re participating in each day in the classroom. According to College Board, the makers of the SAT, “By the spring of your junior year, you’ll have three and a half years of rigorous coursework under your belt to help you succeed on the SAT.”

Taking your classes seriously and taking advantage of every opportunity to learn from your instructors is vital to getting prepared for the kinds of questions asked on the SAT. Be sure to take extensive notes and request additional help in any areas you find yourself struggling in.

Utilize SAT Study Materials

There are plenty of study materials available for preparing for the SAT. We recommend our own Lumos StepUp for SAT Prep. This will expose you to the types of questions you’ll see on the SAT through practice tests that mirror the actual SAT. These practice tests will also give you an idea of where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Of course, discovering your weaknesses will show you where to focus the majority of your practice, and our program makes it easy. When a student completes one of our practice tests, a report will be created, which will auto-assign practice assignments for the student to work on his or her weak areas.

Get Plenty of Rest and Build Your Energy

The SAT is a long and strenuous test, and for that reason, you’ll need a lot of energy to perform your best on test day. It’s not a good idea to cram all night the day before the test. Instead, you want to stop studying early enough the night before to get a full night of sleep. This will help you to wake up refreshed in the morning and more mentally ready to face the test because you’re not struggling with drowsiness.

In addition to getting plenty of rest, you want to make sure to build your energy reserves in the hours leading up to the test. Eat a healthy, energy-producing breakfast, as well as plenty of healthy snacks before taking the test.

Getting plenty of sleep the night before and eating healthy the day will help you to have the mental stamina to give your best on every section of the SAT.

As outlined above, the key to preparing for the SAT is to begin studying early and focus your time and attention well. Take advantage of the best resources available to you, especially the instruction provided by your teachers, and read as much as possible to brush up on your vocabulary. On the day of the test, don’t stress and try to cram in last-minute studying. Instead, trust that the time you’ve spent has been valuable and get plenty of rest before taking the test.

Study well, and you’re sure to perform well on the SAT, which will help open the doors to the college or colleges you most want to attend.

Tom Farr

Tom Farr

Tom is a writer and high school English teacher in Texas. In addition to a lifelong obsession with all things Star Wars, he loves creating and spending time with his wife and children.