Emergency Study Plans
What If I Have Only a Month to Prepare?
Don’t panic. First ask yourself whether you have to take
the test right now. If this is your last chance to take the SAT
before your application deadlines, you’ll have to bear down. Here’s
a good mantra for you: it is what it is.
Deal with it—you actually have less time for the luxury of anxiety.
First take a full-length test in testlike conditions to
generate a baseline score. Then spend more time honing your strengths
than trying to boost your weaknesses. Concentrate on thinking strategically
about your study plan. Here’s an extended example of what we mean:
You take a full-length test and get a 620 on Math, a 480
on Critical Reading, and a 550 on Writing. Be strategic about investing
your time on the most high-yield areas. Basically, you’re flying
a Bombing Run on your study time. Study how you
did in Math. You’re scoring well. Is there a discrete concept or
set of concepts you’re missing out on, for example, functions? If
so, master that. You’ll raise your score with little effort.
Do the same kind of thinking for the other two sections.
What’s the least time-consuming, simplest item type in Critical
Reading? Sentence Completions. Focus on those first, followed by
Short Reading Passages, then Long Reading Passages. With so little
time left to prepare, you are better off acing Sentence Completions
first, then turning to Reading Passages if you have time.
For Writing, don’t even worry about Improving Paragraphs.
It’s the highest investment item type. Concentrate on the sentence-level
items: Identifying Sentence Errors and Improving Sentences. As far
as the Essay goes, concentrate on organizing and planning for a
few minutes before writing. That will almost certainly raise your
You also want to focus on the basic test-taking strategies.
Learn how to fly Bombing Runs and use the wrong-answer penalty to
your advantage. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to know the
correct answer to answer it.
Finally, take a full-length test the week before test
What If I Have Only a Week to Prepare?
Do you really have to take the test?
If the answer isn’t “Yes, absolutely! This is my last chance!” then
put it off.
However, if you’re stuck, basically follow an accelerated
version of the plan outlined above, but spend even more time on
honing strategies, especially Bombing Runs, to maximize the knowledge
you already have. You’ll get a much bigger bang for your buck by
mastering test-taking strategies at this point than by
spending a day learning all about triangles.
So take a practice full-length test to get a baseline
score, analyze it, and spend your week tackling the test-taking
strategies in this book. Take another full-length test two days
before test day.
Even though you’re cramming, we don’t suggest you do much
the day before. Anxiety will probably be running high—whatever concepts you
shove into your head 24 hours before the test most likely won’t
do you much good.
No time for panic. Buckle down, maintain your sleep and
exercise, and maximize your score in the brief time you have.