The SAT is one of the most important exams you will ever take because it’s one of the biggest factors in determining acceptance and scholarships at most colleges. Some students decide to take SAT prep courses or walk into the test blind, but most students decide to study on their own and come into the test as prepared as possible. While any studying you do will be helpful, there are some proven ways that you can improve your score and keep your stress level to a minimum both while studying and on test day.
Take Full-Length Practice Tests
The full SAT is three hours and 45 minutes long, so you’ll need to practice and build up the endurance to make it through the whole test. Practicing individual sections is great, but you should also schedule a time every other week to sit down and do a full-length practice test. Doing this will familiarize you with the test sections and show you exactly what you need to work on before test day.
Find a Study Buddy
If you learn better with a partner or a group, find someone else in your area who is taking the SAT too. Even if none of your close friends are taking it at the same time, there’s probably someone at your school who is, so reach out on social media to find someone to study with. You’ll be able to quiz each other over vocabulary and mathematical formulas; plus, you’re less likely to get bored.
Clear Your Mind
Some students who are anxious about the exam coop themselves up in their rooms and study nonstop during the weeks before the SAT. This can actually be counterproductive because you need to give your brain time to rest and process the information you’ve studied. Take a break every once in a while, go outside for some fresh air, and your brain will actually remember more of the information.
Memorize Rules and Formulas
Commit the test guidelines and mathematical and grammatical rules to memory so you won’t have to waste precious seconds during the test trying to remember what the quadratic formula is. You’ll be able to answer each question more quickly, and your answers are more likely to be correct because you’ll know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.
In addition to doing the practice tests and using SAT prep books, you should also practice reading material you’re not familiar with. Look up scientific journals and historical writings, read a few paragraphs, and try to determine what the author’s argument is. Once you get to the reading comprehension section of the SAT, you’ll have a much quicker and easier time figuring out what the passages mean.
When in Serious Doubt, Leave it Blank
You don’t want to do this every time you aren’t sure of an answer, but if you can’t eliminate even one answer choice, it might be in your best interest to leave that question blank. The SAT has a “guessing penalty,” so for every question that you answer incorrectly, you will lose ¼ of a point. If you can eliminate one or two answer choices, you should take your chances and guess, but if not, don’t.
Use Every Second
It’s highly unlikely that you will know the answer to every question on the test, and there will be a few questions that will stump you. Even if you think you can figure them out with more time, circle them and come back to them at the end. You don’t want to spend precious minutes on a single question only to gain a point. Answer the easier questions first, and you will end up with a better score overall.
Bring a Calculator
Many schools emphasize the importance of mental math (and it is definitely important!), but you are allowed to bring a calculator to the SAT. So use it. You don’t want to waste your limited time performing calculations in your head when you can easily type the numbers into your calculator.
Studies have shown that chewing gum during a test may improve your score, so if your testing center allows gum, pop in a piece of sugar free gum, like Orbit, before the exam begins. Other studies have suggested that chewing the same flavor of gum that you chewed while studying can increase your score even more.
Get Plenty of Sleep and Food
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t make a full night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast a priority on test day. Go to bed at least eight or nine hours before you need to wake up in the morning and eat more than a Pop-Tart for breakfast, such as toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk. Your brain needs rest and fuel to work properly, so this is an easy way to improve your test-taking abilities.