How to Create an SAT Prep Plan

If you’ve recently signed up for the SAT, you’re probably beginning to think about preparation. While students often allot different amounts of time for this process, it is important to have a plan in place that’s right for you. For some students, this means a year of preparation; for others, a few months. No matter which category you find yourself in, it is important that you develop a plan that will maximize your time and your score.

The first step of preparation is simply to know how you’re going to approach your study sessions. Create an SAT prep plan with these tips:

Establish a timeline

Before you can effectively plan your study time, you need to know exactly how much of it is available. If you’ve got a year until the test, you’ll study differently than if you’re taking the test in two months. Know your test date and time frame.

You’ll also need to know how long you can study per week, day, etc. Plan for study sessions of varying length, but be honest with yourself about the amount of time you can actually contribute to SAT studying when taking into account your other ongoing commitments, such as extracurriculars, homework, a part-time job, etc.

During this timeframe, you’ll also want to set some personal goals for the SAT. If you plan to study as a group with others, establish some group goals as well.

Explore the test

It’s hard to study for a test you aren’t familiar with, so take this opportunity to open up the test and explore. Figure out the logistics (time requirements, tools you’re allowed to have, etc.) and learn how the test is portioned out. Also note new changes to the SAT’s format, such as the elimination of the guessing penalty.

Next, you’ll want to look at the actual questions. Begin by taking a quick sample of questions from different areas — can you answer them? Eventually, you’ll want to take a practice test to identify areas of weakness.

Focus your efforts

After you’ve taken a practice SAT, you should be able to identify areas of possible weakness. You’ll be able to see where you score well too, which tells you where to focus less of your efforts. Take a practice test a few times to make sure your results are accurate and consistent — then, start studying.

By now, you’ll know where you need more work, so begin there. Plan to focus the majority of your time in areas where you scored lower so you can improve your results. However, don’t forget about the areas you do well in! These high scores can help boost your overall results, and you don’t want to be rusty come test time. Consider using a prep book to guide your study experience as well — for instance, you could directly review lessons on the reading section if you want to refine your skills there, or take a look at some math tips to refresh your mind on that area.

Review test questions

After you’ve taken a practice test, it can be helpful to meet with an SAT tutor to review the questions you got wrong and areas you continue to struggle with. A tutor can help clarify why you may be answering these incorrectly and shed light on the spots that are tripping you up.

After going through the questions that provided trouble, take more practice tests until you’re confident you have a better understanding of them. If studying with a group, it can be helpful to show up with a few sample questions that you’ve come up with — this will diversify the questions you’re exploring and broaden your knowledge base.

Compare your scores

It will be important that you track your progress as you continue to prep for the SAT. A great way to do this is not only by taking the practice tests, but by monitoring your scores each time as well. Are you consistent in subject areas of strength and weakness? Are your scores getting better?

Knowing this will allow you to make adjustments to your SAT prep plan as needed. If your scores aren’t improving, you’ll need to allot more time to a certain subject area or change the way you’re approaching it. A change in routine can make a world of difference.

Approach the test with confidence

Confident students tend to do better on tests, and this is especially true for long exams like the SAT. If you approach the test with confidence, your score could show it! To build yourself up, come prepared. By following an SAT prep plan, you’ll approach the exam with the knowledge and skills necessary to get the score you hope for.

You may also want to practice driving to the test site and even take a practice test there if you’re able — these small gestures can make you feel at ease when the actual day comes, resulting in a test score that reflects all of your hard work.


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