The Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, is perhaps the most well-known college preparation test among today’s high school students. Preparing for and taking the test can result in sharply increased stress, but doesn’t have to if you know as much as possible well in advance. Here we have gathered a few tips to help you do your best on the SAT and feel confident about the results.



A Quick SAT Overview

The SAT has undergone significant changes in the past decade. Rather than a verbal and mathematics section, it is now divided into reading, math, and writing sections. The reading section involves comprehension of assigned passages as well as sentence completion, which is used to test vocabulary. Both activities are multiple-choice, but comprehension questions take more time, so it’s advisable to start with sentence completion.

The SAT’s writing section is the newest feature of the test. Students are required to write an essay for this section, but because a twenty-five-minute time limit exists, it’s recommended that the student not spend a great deal of time “polishing” the essay. Students are also asked to test their knowledge of spelling and grammar by recognizing errors in sentences and choosing an option that best corrects the error (s) shown. They are asked to “improve” both sentences and paragraphs that contain common grammatical and spelling errors.

Math features both a multiple-choice and a non-multiple-choice section. Calculators are allowed on certain parts of this test. In the non-choice section, students are required to solve standalone problems and “grid in” answers on their answer sheet (numbers, variables, and other needed mathematical signs are given).





Tips for a Successful SAT Test

Take the Test More than Once

Most students take the SAT twice during high school, and most also take advantage of prep classes and the PSAT in their underclassmen years. The more practice you have, the better, but don’t worry if your scores are better the first time you take the SAT. You can choose to send your better set of scores. It’s recommended that you take the SAT once as a junior and once as a senior, in the spring and fall respectively, but teachers and counselors can work with your schedule to create a testing plan that works best for you.


Give Strengths and Weaknesses Equal Time

If you’re a math whiz but struggle with verbal questions, don’t devote all your time to practicing the reading and writing sections. The same is true if your weakness is math. Of course, you do want to work on weak areas, but the goal of the SAT is to show college boards what you know and are comfortable with. Colleges are used to seeing students who are strong in certain areas, so don’t be afraid to focus on your strengths. Also, be aware that if you don’t practice areas where you feel comfortable, you may find yourself at a disadvantage on those sections when test day arrives.


Ask About Subject Tests

The SAT now features subject tests in areas like literature, math (two levels), chemistry, biology, and languages. Some colleges don’t require these, but many use them to help guide new students into proper course placements. If you are especially confident in one of these subjects or know you’ll be pursuing a career that uses one, ask a teacher or counselor about taking a subject test.

The SAT is often an intimidating test. However, with the proper knowledge and tips, you can do your best and feel confident about the results. Tips like these and others can help you get started. More on SAT tests preparation guides here.