8 Tips to Help You Study for the SAT® Exam

Girl reading on computer

The SAT exam is unarguably one of the most important exams that can have a lifelong impact on a student’s academic career and opportunities. Your SAT score is an important factor that can help you get into the college of your choice and afford you a quality education that leads to better workforce opportunities.

In 2019, more than two million high school students took the SAT test. Of that number, only 45 percent met college readiness benchmarks. If you want to secure a high SAT score, it’s imperative that you study effectively and use reliable resources, like online test preparation tools such as UWorld. Given the time restraints that students have with school and personal responsibilities, knowing how to study for the SAT exam is as essential as knowing what to study. Here are eight tips to help you:

1. Find Your Weaknesses

Even if you don’t ace every part of the SAT exam, a well-rounded performance on all sections can round up to a good score. Figure out what your weaknesses are and work on improving them. Focus a larger portion of your time and energy on the areas in which you are less comfortable. Start by studying at fixed short intervals. See if you can retain more information in you study in smaller chunks. If not, try to change the hours of day you study or change the amount of time you commit to each study session. Tweaking your study plan can help you retain information quicker and more effectively.

2. Personalize Your SAT Coursework

Every student learns differently from their peers. Some learn best in a group, others alone. Some are great at studying for longer durations while others absorb information better in shorter, more frequent study sessions. Knowing your individual learning style is key to an effective study plan.

3. Leave Enough Time to Study

A general rule of thumb is to begin studying at least three months before your scheduled SAT test date. If you are looking to perform substantially better, at least six months of prep time is advised. This leaves you with more time to spread the workload around evenly and conduct at least one full-length practice test before the real thing. You can find official practice SAT tests that are published by the College Board or you can take one of Uworld’s online self-assessments. Taking a full-length, timed practice test will give you a baseline score that indicates how well you will perform in on the actual test day.

4. Choose Your Review Materials Carefully

You can’t just take practice tests to prepare effectively for the exam. What you really need is to analyze your answers to determine why you got a question wrong and how you can correct your mistakes next time. As mentioned above, you should take a practice SAT test and once done, evaluate every question you got wrong. UWorld offers detailed explanations for every answer choice. This is the most important tool for understanding and retaining key concepts.

5. Load Up on Nonfiction

When organizing material for SAT prep, nonfiction books are commonly overlooked by students. Books in math and science are usually the main focus of your study time. However, the SATs are very reading intensive. In the space of an hour, you’ll be presented with five long passages and you’ll be asked to get into them in detail. Some of those passages will be nonfiction. Going through this section of the test can drain your brainpower. Train your mental endurance by reading nonfiction books outside of class. Try to do this as early on before the SAT test as possible as it will take time for your brain to get used to both the workload and subject matter.

6. Sharpen Your Mental Math Skills

For some students, the SAT Math section is the most technically difficult and anxiety-inducing section. Prepare for the SAT math by training your mind to do mental computations. The quicker you are, the better. Also, spend time mastering linear equations, they will pop up frequently on the test.  

7. Buddy Up

A study partner or group can help you in several ways. For starters, they hold you accountable for keeping up with your study plan and study schedule. Another benefit is that you’ll find hours of studying with a partner less stressful. A buddy system lets you test each other on SAT Reading, Math, or any other section of the test that you still feel inadequate in.

8. Maintain a Healthy Routine

A comprehensive and intensive SAT prep course should be accompanied by a well-balanced lifestyle. Undergoing the constant stress and pressure of test prep without adequate rest or nutrition can lead to several health conditions including fatigue and anxiety. Prepare your mind and body before every prep session. Eat a healthy breakfast and exercise for at least half an hour. Meditation, mindfulness techniques, and breathing exercises are all good ways to achieve calm and focus.

The key to performing well on your SAT exam is not just studying but knowing how to study effectively. The best method, however, varies with everyone. It’s up to you to find or design your own process. Follow the previously mentioned tips  and come time on test day, you’ll have the mental stamina and fortification to perform at your best. If bogged down by anxiety or pressure of doing well on the day of your exam, return to your breathing exercises to achieve a calmer self. In addition, it might help to remember that you can usually retake your SAT exam and try for a higher score if you’re unsatisfied with the results.

Scroll to Top