One of the hardest things that students have to go through in high school is the SAT. This one standardized test can make or break your college dreams and unfortunately, the standards for many schools today have risen so much that it’s nearly impossible to achieve the scores they’re looking for.
The options for preparing for the SAT are minimal. Some choose to spend thousands of dollars on private tutors and extravagant lessons while some decide that the best way to prepare is to just purchase many study books and go through each and every one of them.
Throughout my studying as well as my friends’, I have seen certain strategies and behaviors that have helped achieve a higher score far more than the classic studying techniques. Here are my tips for improving your SAT score:
1. The first tip, and perhaps the most important one, is to study one section at a time. The SAT is divided into three sections: Math, critical reading and writing. I originally started studying for my SAT by just taking whole practice tests over and over again until I realized that my score never went up by more than 100 points. Many tutors will tell you that it’s good practice to repeatedly take the SAT because it will help you get used to the long time period but in fact this method will only trick you into thinking that you’ve studied.
First, take one diagnostic test; see what your strengths and weaknesses are. After you have discovered what section you need most improvement on, begin to practice it. By working on only one section at a time, you are allowing your mind to absorb the techniques instead of just quickly brushing them off and jumping to the next section.
My critical reading score was the lowest out of the three so I decided to focus on that one first. I would take about three to four section tests a day and I began to see that my critical reading score went up tremendously. The same went for my writing and math scores. By dividing them, I got the chance to focus my attention on what I really needed to improve rather than just glide through the test only partly understanding.
2. Learn vocabulary. I cannot stress this enough: vocabulary will be useful way more than you think when you are taking the SAT. Don’t limit yourself to the set of words that your tutor or your textbook gave you. I have collected words from English classes, movies, TV shows, books and just by going outside. Dedicate at least ten minutes a day to just studying vocabulary words because they will be like free points during the test. But not only will your multiple choice score increase, so will your essay. Collect a solid list of about 20 big words that you can use in many different ways and so when you are writing your essay on any topic, you will be able to just incorporate those words with ease.
3. The final tip is to read every critical reading passage as if it’s the most important thing that you will ever read. I know that many of the passages will be almost torturous to sit through, most of us are not amused by the elaborate stories and descriptions of little girls seeing grasshoppers for the first time and the SAT writers know that. The point of the long and often boring passages is to check the test taker’s endurance. Fight the urge to fall asleep and focus as hard as you can on the passage. A helpful trick to get used to the long passages is to read old news articles online (my personal favorites are science and technology articles).
There is hope for all of us to achieve that high score on the SAT and with the right practice, we can all do it. Don’t limit yourself to one method of studying and be ready to spend hours preparing because the unfortunate truth is that no matter what method you will end up choosing, it will take a long time to truly see its effects.
This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school junior in the San Francisco Bay Area.