How To Prepare For The SATs

By Ellen Kershner on April 30 2020 in How to

One must meticulously plan for SAT examinations months prior to the exam date.
One must meticulously plan for SAT examinations months prior to the exam date.
  • SAT testing is offered seven times a year.
  • The May 2, 2020 date was cancelled.
  • There are four sections: reading, writing & language, math, and an optional essay.
  • Students also take PSAT exams during their sophomore and junior years, and these are also helpful for SAT prep.

Although so many schools are closed because of COVID-19, this is not the time for high school students to neglect prepping for their SAT exams. These exams are administered by the college board to select students for the various undergraduate college courses. In fact, the extra time could work in their favor, by allowing additional time to study – and in the most effective ways possible. SAT testing is offered seven times a year, so students can plan for the date that works best for them. It is therefore important to stay informed about any updates. Test results are generally released one month after the tests are taken.

Get The Ball Rolling

Students should allow themselves enough time to prepare, so pick a test date that gives you at least two to three months to study. This way, the studying can be broken down into weeks, with set goals to accomplish. Cramming is not recommended for SAT test-taking.

The next thing to do is to familiarize yourself with the test structure. There are four sections: reading, writing, language, math, and an optional essay. The math section is split into a no-calculator and calculator part. The testing takes three hours, and with the optional essay this time increases to three hours and 50 minutes. There are three short breaks in between sections.

Practice Tests


Knowing what to expect from the SAT’s is an essential component of preparation. It is beneficial to take practice tests, and the first one can be done before studying even begins. This way, students can see which areas need more work. Using a timer is important, as it helps test-takers get used to the time limits. Once completed, you can check your answers and review the ones that were answered incorrectly.

Students also take PSAT exams during their sophomore and junior years, and these are also helpful for SAT prep. Not all schools offer them though, but they can be found online. The College Board’s website is a good resource for sample test questions. Since the SAT exam is quite different from the ACT exam, ACT test results do not provide a good indicator for SAT performance.

Getting Outside Help

Areas to focus on when studying include increasing your vocabulary, understanding basic math concepts and formulas, U.S. and world history, and science. The best way to get a feel for this is through the practice tests. Private SAT tutors can be very helpful, because they help students brush up on skills and show them how to take the test. Tutors can give undivided attention to their students, and focus in on areas that need work. This can be expensive though, and is not a good fit for everyone. There are private classes as well, but these can also be cost-prohibitive.

Many schools provide study groups and after-school programs. Another option is to sign up for online prep classes, which can be done at your pace and convenience. There are even SAT prep apps, which can be used while you are commuting (not driving though) or otherwise on the move.

Test Day

It is not recommended to cram during the day and night before your SAT test. Instead, take some time to relax the night before. Pick out some comfortable clothes to wear, gather any supplies (do not forget your calculator!), and go to sleep early. Make sure that an alarm is set to give you ample time to get ready. Waking up too late and rushing to get to the test in time will only create anxiety and stress.

Keep in mind that if your score is not what you had hoped, you may take the test over as many times as you want. There are no restrictions for this. Good luck!

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