Now that a new school year has arrived, high school juniors and seniors are beginning to stress about the dreaded SATs. Up to this point of their academic careers, no test has been more important to their futures, so it’s no wonder why they approach it with such apprehension. Aside from the more expensive measures of preparation, there are a few simple practices that should be taken to heart. If you’re on the verge of sitting for the SAT, consider the tips listed below and give it your best.
- Buy a practice booklet
Essential to every novice SAT taker is a practice booklet, which can be purchased inexpensively from sites like Amazon, or you can use a free PDF from the College Board. This resource will provide you with test-taking strategies and questions taken from previous tests.
- Take practice exams on your own
Taking self-administered practice exams is the best way to get the timing down on each section. According to the Princeton Review, the 54-question math section lasts 70 minutes, the 67-question critical reading section lasts 70 minutes, and the writing section lasts 60 minutes, containing 49 multiple choice questions and one 25-minute essay.
- Read, read and read some more
Not much a reader? You’re not alone, but it wouldn’t hurt to become one in the weeks before the SAT. Read newspaper articles, magazines and books; anything that you enjoy will suffice. In the process, pay close attention to what you’re reading. Can you remember the details after you finish? Were there any holes in the story? Were there any words you didn’t understand? If so, look up their meanings in the dictionary.
- Do crossword puzzles
Doing crossword puzzles is a fun way to expand your vocabulary. You can take them out of the newspaper or purchase crossword puzzle booklets composed from publications like the LA Times, New York Times or Chicago Tribune. Additionally, some websites offer free SAT crosswords that feature words taken directly from the test.
- Take online SAT vocabulary tests
They’re free, easy to use and excellent killers of time – not unlike crossword puzzles. One website in particular, vocabtest.com, offers a comprehensive study guide for students of varying levels who are looking to brush up their vocabulary skills. The site not only includes definitions, but also vocabulary sequences, synonym and antonym practice, and practice with parts of speech.
- Know the writing prompts you’ll face
Find SAT writing prompts from previous years so that you’ll know what to expect when test day comes. Examples can be found in SAT preparation booklets and from SAT preparation websites like the College Board. As you start to practice, make outlines that establish a clear structure.
- Formulate a clear strategy for writing essays
Quickly determine your opinion of the topic and be ready to provide a compelling case with several supporting points. Provide relevant examples and don’t stray away from the question. Focus on the structure and flow so the essay is easy to understand. Display your varied vocabulary, but don’t overdo it; wordiness can send the message that you’re trying too hard, making an otherwise good essay difficult to read.
- Utilize math study guides
You may not have kept your study guides from your Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II classes, but you might be able to get a hold of them by asking your friends or teachers. It’s essential that you possess an understanding of these subjects because they make up most of the math section.
- Memorize math vocabulary
Can you remember the difference between an acute and obtuse angle? What’s the difference between a mean, median and mode? What’s a polynomial? These are things you should know, but they can slip your mind if you haven’t reviewed them in a while. It’s not uncommon for students to forget basic math vocabulary. Jot down the terms you’ve missed while practicing and memorize them before the big day arrives.
- Practice your math strategy
Set aside a brief amount of time each day to practice your test-taking strategy. On the multiple choice sections, carefully read through word problems until you can build your pace. Use the process of elimination when you’re stumped. On the non-multiple choice sections, answer the easy questions first and tackle the more difficult ones afterward.