How to Study for the SAT
June 7, 2018
How to Study for the SAT
Really think about how to study for the SAT. This will not be like preparing for high school tests; it’s like trying to beat your own high score on a video game. It’s not even imperative to master the content; it’s more important to examine the strategy of the game and your own moves.
If you assume that you need to learn super rare grammar rules or master AP Statistics for the SAT when Googling how to study for the SAT, stop, because you don’t. The truth is that by the time you take the SAT, you’ve already covered all the material you need to know in school. (If you weren’t paying attention that’s a whole other problem…)
The good news is that you don’t actually need to learn anything new. But what you need to do now is learn the SAT. Keep reading to understand how to study for the SAT!
Track and Decode
The best way to start studying for the SAT is to track the questions the SAT asks and begin to recognize the types. This sounds like a lot of work, but it will be fairly simple when you get going.
Here is an example:
Here we have a hexagon with a square coming out of its head. Often, you’ll see a type of SAT math question that gives you a strange shape-combination with almost no extra information.
I call this a ‘type’ of question because it really does repeat itself (not in the exact same form, but in its basic structure).
So how do you solve this ‘type’? You decode it. That is, you recognize that the answer almost always involves 30-60-90 degree triangles. You want to get to a point where you see a question like this and you automatically think: “This is a TYPE of that strange shape-combination question with no information” (Track) and “I bet I should try 30-60-90 degree triangles” (Decode). The track and decode technique is key for learning how to study for the SAT.
Practice and Review
There’s a simple way to reach ‘Track and Decode’ excellence! Truthfully, mastering this method is all about practice. Not blind practice, where you just take test after test. What you need is smart practice, where you take a test and review the questions you got wrong.
This might sound obvious, but this is the biggest oversight students make when studying for the SAT. I know reviewing questions sounds like drudgery but if you want to increase your score, this is the simplest way. And when you analyze your results, make sure you understand how to get the correct answer and why the right answer is right. I don’t care if you read the solution explanations, ask your teachers, or write a grievance letter to College Board. If you don’t figure out how to solve the questions you got wrong, your score will be stuck!
Once you get used to tracking the types, this becomes second nature and won’t take you any extra time. In fact, it will help you cut down on time in the long run.
Always keep in mind:
1) You don’t need new or advanced knowledge for the SAT. The answer has to be something you know (even if you have to retrieve it from your deepest memory banks).
2) This is a timed-test and these questions are made for a timed-test. There must be a quick way to arrive at the answer.
A few more pieces of SAT advice:
- Time management: those few extra minutes can go a long way in timed test! The best way to manage your time is to plan for the format of the current SAT. Unlike the old SAT, there is no surprise in what section is coming up. When thinking about how to study for the SAT should be prepared to tackle Reading, Writing/Language, Math (no calculator), and Math (calculator) in that order.
- Answer all the questions: again, unlike the old SAT, it is not in your favor to leave a question blank. Even if it is a totally-absolutely-wild guess, don’t leave anything blank.
- Cut down on calculator use: one section permits calculators, but that doesn’t mean you have to use your calculator for every question. Many students waste valuable minutes in the calculator permitted section by entering data that they could easily process more quickly in their heads. Cutting down on calculator dependence will save you time.
Lastly, try to remember (even in the darkest of your time-crunched test taking moments) that the SAT is just a test. There's no perfect formula to figuring out how to study for the SAT. Your SAT sittings do not at all, ever, in any way, speak to what an awesome and clever person you are!