5 Factors that Affect How Long You Should Study for the SAT

SAT prep looks different for everyone. Whether you plan to study on your own, take a class, or team up with a friend or SAT tutor, creating a study plan can help you study the most effectively. As a perpetually busy student, you’re likely wondering how much time an SAT prep plan will take and where to begin. Here are five factors that affect how long you should study for the SAT.

1. Whether you’ve taken the SAT before

Is this your first time taking the test, or have you taken it before? Consider how you scored previously, and where you need to improve. If this isn’t your first SAT, you’re likely familiar with the length and difficulty of the test; however, keep in mind that the SAT’s format and content will change starting in March 2016. In this sense, most SAT test-takers will be in the same boat—all students will face a “new” exam soon.

With this in mind, students should set aside several weeks to study the material, take SAT practice tests, and review more challenging concepts. Review how the SAT will change in the 2016 so that you are familiar with the new format. Also be sure to take advantage of online resources, like prep books. Conduct a search for model study plans, or videos that break down a concept or skill.

2. How many hours you can dedicate to SAT prep per week

You’ll want to plan your SAT prep strategically around your schedule. How heavy of a course load are you taking, and how much homework do you have per night? Do you have a part-time job or internship, and how much time do you spend in extracurricular activities? If you have a fairly jam-packed semester, consider studying for fewer hours per week over a longer length of time. If you have a lighter semester, the opposite may work; you could study for more hours per week within a shorter timeline. Don’t forget to schedule time in to decompress and relax by yourself or with friends and family. Doing so can help you maintain a healthy school/life balance, so other areas of your life don’t suffer as a result of test prep.

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3. The time period until the next SAT

Setting your test date is a great motivator for starting test prep, and it can also help you gauge how long you have for studying. Keep this one principle in mind: You’ll want to be fresh for the test. This means that test prep should be close enough to the test so that concepts are fresh in your memory, but also well in advance to avoid cramming the week or day before the test. Start your SAT prep well before the test date, and focus each week on a specific concept or subject. By the week before your exam, you’ll be able to do a general review over all of the content on the SAT.

4. Your learning and studying style

Take into account your own learning and studying style as well. Are you easily distracted? Slower to master new skills? Do you want to incorporate real-world strategies, like reading higher-level texts to improve vocabulary and comprehension? Knowing yourself and how you best learn is a crucial part of studying successfully. If you’re an auditory learner, reading over your SAT study guide for hours at a time may be a waste. If you get distracted when studying in a group, taking your SAT prep solo may be the best option. Understanding how you learn in various environments and situations is valuable to making your time spent studying much more effective.

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5. Your test-taking goal(s) for the SAT

At the beginning of your test prep, sit down to articulate your goals for this test. Do you have a target score or range of scores you’d like to meet for a particular section? If possible, check out the average scores of students accepted at your desired colleges. Is there a specific concept or section of the SAT you want to focus on? If you’ve already taken the test, think about how much improvement you’d like to see. Considering these goals before beginning your test prep can serve as a guide for planning the weeks and days to come.

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