Skip to Main Content
SAT and ACT Prep

SAT Preparation

SAT Preparation

What is the SAT, and who should take it?

The SAT is a standardized test that’s used to assess a student’s skill level in math, reading, composition, and readiness. Most colleges still use the SAT as a vital part of the admission process; however, some big-name universities, like Brown, Harvard, and Yale, no longer list it as a requirement. Still, even when SAT scores aren’t required, they can still be submitted and considered. Statistics about admission prove that it’s still important because SAT scores can help your application stand out.

Understanding the SAT Structure 

There are four sections of the SAT. According to the College Board, the sections of the SAT are strategically designed to test a student's knowledge from high school and determine what skills are needed for college. Test prep should cover the full gamut of skills that will be tested in math, reading, and writing. The essay section of the SAT has been removed, but there are a small number of schools that opted to keep it for their testing day. For that reason, many full-length practice tests still include an essay portion. 

The SAT is scored on a scale of 400 to 1600 points. Although there are three sections of the SAT, reading, writing, and math, reading and writing are combined for final scoring. Student’s final scores are a combination of those two groups. Each section has a score range of 200 to 800 points, meaning the minimum score a person could receive is 400, while the maximum score is 1600. 

How to Prepare for the SAT 

SAT prep doesn’t have to be daunting. Once you understand the SAT sections and scoring, you can make a plan for studying with the right resources so you’ll be fully prepared on test day. 

Decide when to take the SAT — The SAT is typically administered seven times every year on Saturdays (with some alternate dates on Sundays). Some high schools have a test-taking day during school in October, March, or April. Find out if your school has a test date so you can decide if you’ll take it on campus or if you need to schedule a weekend date. 

Create a study schedule — It’s a good idea to create a personalized study plan that fits your needs. Test-taking strategies will vary by person, so be sure to give yourself time to find the best resources and practice honing your skills. Instead of cramming, choose a test day within a reasonable amount of time and determine your areas of weakness to target. 

Use online study tools — There’s an abundance of test prep resources available, many of which are free. For example, College Board offers free full-length practice tests to help students prepare. Princeton Review also compiles free tests and tips to help students get good results. 

Consider SAT prep books — Depending on the way you learn best, you may consider purchasing test prep books. Sometimes SAT prep books can be found at thrift or discount bookstores, but you shouldn’t consult prep books published before 2016 since the format has changed. SAT prep books are available as overall study material, as well as subject-specific books.

SAT Study Materials

Print or digital? Individual studying or SAT prep course? How many practice tests?

Preparing for Each Section 

Preparing for the different sections of the SAT involves tailored strategies for each section. Here are tips for preparing for the main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW), and Math. 

Reading and Writing Section 

In this section, questions will focus on reading comprehension and reasoning, as well as evaluating and analyzing information and the ability to integrate written information. Students will also be tested on editing abilities to demonstrate effectiveness and a high-level understanding of sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary, and more. 

Students can expect to see reading passages of different genres, followed by multiple-choice questions. Although questions vary, they will cover topics like comparing and contrasting, big picture vs. details, understanding vocabulary in context, interpreting data from charts and graphs, and more. It’s a good idea to begin preparing to read and respond to passages in a variety of ways with targeted subject matter, whether you’re taking on the PSAT or preparing for the SAT. During your study, make sure you emphasize areas of your specific needs, like if you’re opting into the SAT essay

Math Section 

Beginning in the spring of 2024, the United States will begin utilizing the digital SAT. With this shift comes an important change to the math section of the test: students can utilize a calculator throughout the math section, deciding for themselves when it’s best to use it or not. It’s a good idea for test takers to practice reasoning so they’re prepared to decide which method is most efficient for each problem.

There are four categories of math covered on the SAT. Students can expect to see Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, Problem-Solving and Data Analysis, and Advanced Math. As you study, identify your area of weakness and prioritize those in practice. 

Test Day Tips for the SAT  

By the time test day arrives, you’ve likely done plenty of studying and planning. Here are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success on test day.

Yes, the SAT is an important part of college admission — but that doesn’t mean it needs to consume you. Gain a thorough understanding of what to expect and choose the right resources for you. With good planning and preparation, you can achieve the high score you’re hoping for. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the best way to prepare for the SAT? 

While there are many ways to prepare for the SAT, test-taking strategies will vary by person. The best way to prepare, in general, is to gain a thorough understanding of what the test entails and then identify your areas of weakness. Choose a program or resource to help you improve and take plenty of full-length practice tests.

How long does it take to prepare for the SAT? 

Students should plan for a minimum of ten hours of study time to prepare for the SAT, although some students will put in much more time.

What materials or books are best for SAT preparation? 

Typically, a combination of materials works well for students. ALVS (Apex Learning Virtual School) offers online SAT prep courses that focus on an individual section of the SAT. There are three available courses that students can use to prepare over a six-month period. Apex Learning SAT® Test Prep Tutorials have been proven to significantly improve student performance across reading, writing and language, and mathematics.

Can I retake the SAT if I’m not happy with my score? 

Yes. There is no limit to the number of times you can take the SAT. However, each person must decide for themselves when to stop testing. 

Similar Blog Posts