Test-Taking Strategies
Establish a Study Plan
Like anything else that requires practice, preparing for the SAT works better when you spread it out over time. Don’t cram in all your prep time at once. Studying for ten hours in one day is much less productive than spreading those ten hours over a week. Set up a schedule that ensures you do a little SAT work every day. Try to do at least half an hour a day, and try to avoid more than two hours a day.
Use your baseline scores to balance the time you’ll spend on each portion of the test. If you have a couple of months or more before test day, start with your weaknesses. If you have less than a month, start with your strengths to make sure you hone those, then jump to weaknesses with plenty of time to get up to speed as much as you can. These time-management decisions depend on a number of other factors, as we’ve discussed (e.g., your coursework), but you shouldn’t have too much trouble working up a study plan.
We suggest using a wall calendar for SAT prep. Make sure to build in full-length practice tests periodically so you can gauge your progress, build up your endurance, and even alter your study plan as you progress.
The key thing is to work your schedule backward from the application due dates for all the schools to which you’re applying. This way, your SAT prep is somewhat related to your school-selection process—the due dates factor into which test date you select. Leave one last-chance date open that will still get to your schools on time in case you’re not happy with your score. The average SAT scores of schools, along with a host of other factors, play a role in which schools you’ll select.
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