The Scholastic Aptitude Test, typically referred to by the initials SAT, is undoubtedly the biggest test most American students will take before they turn 18. Usually taken when a student is in their third year of high school (11th grade), the SAT was created to test readiness for post-secondary school, typically a college or university.
For many years, the test was divided into three sections: Math, Reading, and Writing & Language. In 2005, a third section was added: A written essay based on a prompt. The test was updated again in 2008 and 2012.
Today, SAT scores are a major factor in determining whether or not a high school graduate is admitted to college. Competitive schools prefer students with higher scores. Accordingly, most students spend years preparing for the SAT test, typically during the end of grade school. Parents invest big money in private tutors, training classes, and practice test materials to ensure their children receive scores that will get them into the best possible schools.
Studying the material on the test is certainly important, but it's not the only thing you need to do well on the SAT. Test how much you know about "soft skills" that may not seem critical, but when combined with plenty of preparation, can help you earn a top score.
By getting rid of just one incorrect answer on a test question, you can increase your odds of getting the question right by 25%. Eliminating two answers means you have a 50% shot of choosing the correct answer!
It's much easier to learn when you find something enjoyable. If a passage you've been assigned aligns with something you're interested in, take advantage and get immersed in it!
While you should always try to understand test passages fully, sometimes a surface-level skim is enough for you to answer a few questions.
Some find it a better use of time to move right into the questions. You can always come back to the instructions if you get unsure. However, this can also backfire, so be thoughtful about your process!
While you are allowed to use a calculator on the test, you still have to know how to use it. There's no way to get around knowing formulas if you want a high score on the SAT math section.
Once you understand the passage, you'll have more context for what the test's instructions are telling you to do. This is helpful because sometimes decoy answers can fool you if you're not certain of the instructions.
"Going with your gut" means trusting your instincts, the feeling you get about which answer is right before you spend a while thinking about it. That hunch isn't fooling you!
Athletes, entrepreneurs, and musicians are just some of the people who achieve success by visualizing themselves accomplishing their goals. By seeing yourself getting the answers right, you make it more likely to happen in real life.
When you have a strategy for the way you read your passages, you'll feel more confident and spend less time figuring out how to answer the questions on the reading and writing sections of the test.
Highlighting allows you to extract key points from each passage so that you have a better understanding of main ideas, which can make answering comprehension questions easier.
You only have three hours and 50 minutes to complete the test. Get the most out of this time by having a plan for how you will use it, which will let you devote more time to the areas that need it.
Getting off on the right foot is key to doing well on the test, so start off with areas you know the most. This will also help you build confidence to hit those tougher parts when it's time.
The context of a word you are unsure of can often help you understand the full question. Of course there's no substitute for old-school vocabulary memorization!
After two times reading a passage, you've probably learned all you are going to get from it. Conserve your time by doing the best you can with what you know.
By planning your essay with shorter segments, it's easier to settle on a single theme when writing. This will help you organize your thoughts and write something coherent even though you have limited time to do so.
Good writing is concise writing. Whenever possible, avoid using "fluff" or filler words that don't add anything to the main point of your essay. Test-scorers are looking for clarity, not extras.
You aren't penalized for a wrong answer on the SAT, so you might as well give yourself a chance at getting points by guessing at the answer you think might be right.
If you come into the SAT with an idea of which test areas you'll struggle with, it will be easier to do well on those sections. Taking several practice tests will help you know where you struggle most.
Optimism is scientifically proven to make you happier, healthier, and increase performance. Give yourself a healthy pat on the back when you need it with positive self-talk.
While bringing a fake rabbit's foot won't help you on the SAT, it will make you feel better about your performance—and a positive attitude will almost certainly boost your score.
Not only are notes helpful to refer back to, the act of writing has been shown to help improve recall. In fact, writing on paper is the best for recall, but any notes are good notes.
Holding a pencil or calculator too tightly can cause muscle cramps. Stretching will keep your hands loose so your body doesn't work against you during the SAT.
Taking notes is a powerful method for improving recall and memory. The simple act of writing something down helps you to remember it. Learn and practice this skill - it will be critical when you get to college.
It's not enough to be a good writer—you also have to be skilled at knowing what to leave in and what to exclude. Editing will turn a good SAT essay into a great one.
Mnemonic devices typically create new acronyms and phrases to help you remember other sets of information. For example, if you can remember the phrase, "Every Good Boy Does Fine," you'll know the notes on the lines of a musical staff in treble clef. This skill can help you recall long pieces of information that you need for the SAT.
Mantras may seem a bit too spiritual for the SAT, but they can help keep you on an even keel when things get challenging. You'll probably want to repeat your mantra silently while taking the test.
You have enough to stress about before the SAT. Don't add more anxiety to the day by having to rush to get to the testing site on time. Eat a healthy breakfast, do a few jumping jacks, and be on your way!
There's no bonus for finishing early—you might as well use all of the time you have available on the SAT to ensure that you get the best possible score.
The blurb is there to help you understand passages—while it may not give you all the info you need, it can help put things in context so you know what is important.
"NO CHANGE" is an option for almost every question in the writing section of the SAT, but it's only the right answer in about 1 in 5 questions. By counting the number of times you select this answer, you'll know if you're on the right track or not.
The mind can only focus on a single task for so long. Keep your brain fresh by taking breaks periodically, either on your own schedule or in line with the official breaks allowed during the test.
Just because you did well on the first section of the test doesn't mean you'll do well on ensuing ones, and vice versa. Whether you felt like you had a good performance or a poor one, leave it in the past so you can focus on doing your best on the next part of the SAT.
One of the best ways to show you understand something is being able to answer questions about it. Think of how you would answer hypothetical questions about each passage to make sure you know what it really means.
Math questions are particularly notorious for having several different answers that could be produced. Look for the phrase "solve for" to clue you in to what the question is really asking.
It's one of the most important moments of your academic career - spend as much time as possible preparing for it by getting your logistics in order the night before. However, don't stress out too much—aside from being early, follow your normal routines the morning of the SAT.