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7 Ways to Help Prepare for the SAT/PSAT Test

February 27, 2019

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Worried about how you’re going to do on that upcoming SAT test? Or have you taken the test, bombed it, and now feel like you can kiss your dream college good-bye?

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to put those fears at least somewhat to rest with some planning and effort. According to a College Board study, 55% of students retaking the SAT improved upon their original scores, while 35% saw a drop in their scores, and 10% saw no change.

Where do you start? Without a plan or guidelines, studying for the SAT can seem overwhelming due to the sheer volume of material it covers.  Luckily, today’s students have access to ample resources online which can make significant score improvement a reality. In fact, the Washington Post noted the following: “New data shows studying for the SAT for 20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy.”

So as you get ready to retake the SAT–or take it for the first time–start by reading these seven helpful tips.

  • Understand Your Weak Points

By taking a look at past test scores and where your scores were the lowest, you can get a good idea of what you should be studying. In short, understanding your weak points gives you an advantage when it comes to studying. For example, if you have low endurance when it comes to reading, you can make a point of reading more non-fiction in your free time. Or if you can’t consistently do well on math without a calculator, you should take time to practice problems without it.

  • Take Advantage of  Accessible Resources

Studying options such as Khan Academy exist to benefit students. Among the resources available online, their practice tests for the SAT or PSAT can expose you to the types of problems you’re likely see, and thus, help you to prepare. These tests are made to look like the actual test when it comes to their material and subjects. Stepping back to previous points, these tests are a great way to evaluate yourself and what specific subjects or types of questions you tend to miss, and therefore, need to work on.

Even if you haven’t yet taken the SAT, you can get a good idea of what you need to work on by reviewing your PSAT scores. FCHS students were recently encouraged to register online for personalized SAT prep through collegeboard.org. If you haven’t taken advantage of this free service yet, it’s not too late. Need help logging in? Contact FCHS Testing Coordinator Angie Blevins at [email protected]

  • Set Achievable Goals for Yourself

Having goals means you know where you should by the time the test date comes around. You shouldn’t expect a 500+ point increase from one test date to another. However, don’t be afraid to set your goals higher than what you might think you are capable of achieving. One method is to look at the average scores of acceptance for certain schools and set goals around those scores. And never give up on your goal because of one bad test. Be persistent in getting that score and you stand a good chance of doing so.

  • Don’t Cram

Cramming often feels like you’re retaining information, but after a week, the info you’ve just crammed typically vanishes, so cramming the night before you take the SAT probably won’t help much. A more efficient way to get ready for a comprehensive exam like the SAT is to prep for 20 minutes a few times a week for several weeks or months. Through this method, you are more likely to retain most of the information you’ve reviewed.

  • Find Someone to Study With

Not only does studying with others help you accomplish more than studying alone, it also helps you maintain a steady study schedule. Your partner can always hold you accountable and vice versa. Having a partner also makes studying easier, especially if you have different weak points and work to quiz each other. You might want to consider making it a weekly “study date” to meet at a local place like Cuppa Joe’s to do some SAT prep.

  • Read Lots of Non-Fiction and Practice Grammar

The SAT always focuses heavily on reading portions. Five reading passages, one after the other, can be very draining, so it’s important that you can hold up the same working speed for an hour in a section without losing focus. Oftentimes, the reading done just in your English classes isn’t enough, so it’s a good idea to turn off your phone or log out of that game, and read as much as possible in your free time to prepare.

The other half of the reading portion focuses on grammar. To prepare for this section, be sure to touch up on your grammar and make sure you’re prepared. A huge part of grammar is simply understanding sentence composition and function. Websites like grammarplanet.com or sat.magoosh.com are available as resources you can use to brush up on these subjects.

  • Practice Mental Math

One largely problematic section of the SAT is the math section where a calculator is not allowed. Here, practicing functions on paper or memorizing products can be very useful. Understanding algebraic equations will be the biggest help for this section. As long as you have an understanding of relationships in equations and graphs without having to have the graph in front of you, you will do well on this section. Again, spending time on websites like khanacademy.org  and sat.magoosh.com can help make the difference between a poor or average score and a score which will open the doors to that “reach” college of your choice.

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