Secrets to a 1500+ Score on the SAT Test

Rubin Caco

Standardized testing, such as the SATs and ACTs, is an essential part of the admissions process. For those seeking to get accepted into a top US school, having high test scores and a good academic GPA is vital to standing out in the college admissions process. While having a 1500+ score alone will not dictate whether or not a student will get accepted into their top choice university, exceeding that school's threshold for test scores will be a prerequisite for consideration for many college admissions officers. 

Many high-performing students will spend countless hours studying, practicing, and learning all they can to get the highest test scores possible on their SATs or ACTs. However, working harder may not necessarily be as effective as working smarter. Sometimes, students overlook essential strategies for scoring well on their standardized tests and instead compensate by spending all their time and effort studying—trying to brute-force high test scores when easier avenues are available.  

In the interest of helping as many students as possible perform well on their tests and increase their chances of acceptance into their dream schools, InGenius Prep is here to share the secrets to a 1500+ score on the SAT Test, coming straight from our test prep experts and former admissions officers from the top US universities.  

Mastering Skills

With the intense focus on scoring and grades, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture: the SATs and standardized tests are designed to indicate a student's skills—not necessarily the breadth of their knowledge or retention of facts. In order to obtain the highest possible score on the SAT, students should focus on mastering the skills being tested rather than memorizing as much information as possible.

Jake Adams, our resident test prep expert at InGenius Prep, has offered his knowledge and experience of how students can get a 1500+ score on the SATs. 

"It's not really so much about hard work but working in the right way and working through focused prep rather than just grinding your way through it... In order to get a score of 1500 or more, students really need to focus on mastering the specific skill areas tested by the college board."

"Those who score the top 1% know that they are being tested on certain skills, so then they learn how to improve upon those skills. So, that skill-first approach is really what is going to help one achieve that 1500 plus score."

These skills can be easily referred to on the College Board educator question bank, where they have broken down all their questions by domain and skill area. "Focus on skills first, practice those skills, and really emphasize accuracy. This is the first place to start with a mastery-based approach. It's the idea that we want to master each skill being tested and to do that within 90% proficiency or greater."

Increase Your Speed the Right Way

When you train for skill and focus on accuracy, speed then comes as a natural result. As you become more knowledgeable and confident with a certain subject or skill set, you'll be able to complete tasks faster and answer questions with increasing ease.

Since the SAT is a timed test, the speed at which a student answers questions will be a factor in their performance—however small. Training for speed can yield good results, but students must train correctly by focusing not on speed but instead on skill sets and accuracy first. However, when the time comes to train for speed, there are several ways to go about it. 

"Trying to solve a problem or work on a skill quickly is one way to go about increasing your speed. You may try something like, 'I'm going to do this within four minutes,' and that's one way to do it, but you'll probably want to use more than one way." Students can utilize a similar method in a test prep setting. For math skills, students don't need to complete the entire test; instead, they can just focus on completing a module of that test within a specific time frame. 

"What I notice among our best students is that they essentially get so good at these questions they can take the first module twice. You'll find that these questions are relatively easy. So, you go through the first module and complete it so that you have enough time to go back, check all your answers, and check whether they're all correct with maybe four or five minutes of time left to spare—just to sit and relax and take an extended break before the next module."

Increasing speed isn't just about answering each question as quickly as possible. Students should plan out their sessions so that they have enough time to go back, review questions, and give themselves small rest breaks between modules to keep their performance at the highest level.

Optimizing the Math Component

The math component of the SATs will be the module that offers some of the most difficult and time-consuming questions. However, it is also the module that test-takers can save the most time on by utilizing the correct methods and tools. 

Desmos is one of these essential tools: a free, advanced graphing calculator available as a web and mobile application. "On the math section of the test in particular," Jake states, "students really need to understand how to use the Desmos calculator. The Desmos calculator is a built-in calculator application, and it's available on Bluebook practice tests and the actual exam... You can find it online as well."

Familiarity with calculator functions will be one of the factors that maximize a student's ability to complete math components quickly and effectively. "30 to 40% of the [math] test can be solved without ever touching pen to paper." Specific information can be quickly graphed and found through the calculator's functions, and some of the most challenging questions on the test can be solved in under a minute if you know how to use the calculator correctly.

The calculator can also be used for graphing lines, graphing systems of equations, parabolas, and graphing functions to visualize them, which can be especially helpful in finding a point of intersection between formulas or functions. Knowing how to use this tool effectively can trivialize some of the most complicated questions in the math section and allow more time for checking answers or completing other modules.

Reading and Writing Sections

The typical pattern for the reading and writing sections of the test is that the beginning and end of this section are relatively easy; the most complicated questions are in the middle module. So, for students wanting to maximize their results and use their time efficiently, they should look at the beginning and the end of the test first, completing those within a timely matter, then focusing the majority of their time afterward on the middle section, which contains the type of questions that require more critical thinking. 

"You can maximize your time on the reading and writing section by focusing on the easier questions first, then working on the questions that require more critical thinking towards the end… Context questions and vocab questions come first in the module, so it's relatively easy to complete those first. Then, towards the end of the section, you have what are basically grammar questions."

It's optimal to complete the beginning and ending modules first and secure those points since they are the simplest questions for that section. Doing so will give students more time to complete the more complicated questions—such as writing style and rhetorical synthesis—that are present towards the middle of the module.

Perfecting your Test Prep Strategy

Achieving a 1500+ score on the SAT is about adopting an effective strategic approach as much as it is about hard work. Students don't need to spend long hours studying every section of the test; rather, they should focus on mastering the specific skills being tested and being able to answer questions with confidence and accuracy. 

"First, take a diagnostic. See what skill areas you're strong in and which you need help in. Focus on a mastery-based approach to your studying, where you don't move on to the next skill until you've mastered the previous at 90% proficiency or higher. After that, you can go ahead and do some practice tests, determine your new score, and continue to improve upon your weakest subject. Rinse and repeat… But I strongly caution students against using Bluebook practice tests until they have done about three to four weeks of intensive practice first so they can compare and contrast their scores.

To elevate your performance and learn more about test prep strategies that will get your student a 1500+ score on their SAT, see InGenius Prep's Test Prep Program to get the best in standardized test preparation and college application counseling. Learn from our educational experts and former admissions officers from the top US universities and increase your student's chances of acceptance into their dream school. 

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