What is the Best Way to Prepare for the SAT?
Although you can prepare for the SAT many ways, College Board, the creator of the SAT, believes these are five of the best ways: starting early, studying for free with Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy®, taking at least one full-length practice test, paying attention in your high school classes, and knowing what to expect on test day. What makes these tried-and-true methods even better? They’re free!
Follow the tips below so that you will have the skills to understand SAT concepts and the confidence to achieve your goals.
We know that ideally you’d like all the time in the world to prepare for a test, but that’s not a luxury high school students have. Your junior and senior year are packed with important events, so it’s important to plan where your SAT fits in. Choose an SAT date far enough in advance that you have time to prepare—we recommend 2–3 months. Starting early gets you to gauge how much you need to study each week and helps you prevent cramming. Students who start studying earlier do better on the SAT and have more confidence going into the test.
Study with Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy
It’s no surprise that one of the best ways to prepare for the SAT is to study, and we recommend you use the official resources created by the makers of the SAT. College Board partnered with Khan Academy for a new and improved approach to SAT test preparation that’s tailored to you and absolutely free. It’s called Official SAT Practice, and it’s the most comprehensive and official SAT study resource available. Khan Academy creates a study plan and guide just for you based on your PSAT/NMSQT® or past SAT scores along with your upcoming test date. We recommend you spend 6–20 hours preparing for your first SAT. Make sure you reserve enough time to take at least one full-length practice test (about 4 hours if you practice the essay as well), and give yourself time to review the concepts you’re struggling with.
To access your personalized study plan, make sure your College Board and Khan Academy accounts are linked. For information on how to do this, click here.
Take a full-length practice test
Taking a full-length SAT practice test is one of the best ways to prepare for your SAT, and College Board makes several full-length practice tests available for free on Official SAT Practice. Taking a practice test that follows the same timing parameters you’ll experience on test day gives you a strong indication of how you’ll score on the real SAT. Our research shows that your score on an official, full-length practice test taken after studying and within a couple weeks of your test date is highly predictive of the score you’ll receive on the actual SAT. Practice test results will also provide you with insight on what you need to work on as you approach the real test.
We recommend treating each full-length practice test you take as if you’re really taking the SAT. Start at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, follow section timing guidelines, only take breaks as they are given on the SAT, and put away your cell phone. In addition to showing you what areas you are struggling with, taking a practice test builds your SAT test-taking confidence because it shows how it feels to take an SAT. Taking a practice test familiarizes you with the structure of the test, pacing of test questions, and how you’ll feel at 8 a.m. on a Saturday—important things to know before you take the real SAT. Click here to access practice tests on Official SAT Practice.
Pay attention in class
In 2016, the SAT was modified to be more directly tied to what you’re learning in class. What this means is that it’s even more important to be paying attention in class and to your teachers. By the spring of your junior year, you’ll have three and a half years of rigorous coursework under your belt to help you succeed on the SAT. If there are any areas you think you need a refresher on, we recommend looking through our “Inside the Test” webpage to make sure you’re preparing for the right things.
Know what to expect on test day
Knowing what to expect on test day is key. We know it can be intimidating to take such an important test, which is why we highly recommend getting to know what test day will be like. In addition to taking a full-length practice test so you understand the test format and timing, it’s important to prepare yourself to be on time and well-rested for the test. Plan how you’ll get to your testing center, and make sure you know where your testing center is. (It’s often not at your high school.). This eliminates anxiety on test day because all you need to do is wake up, eat a good breakfast, and get to your location. Scout out the location of your testing center to find enough (free) parking where you’ll be taking the test. Some tests are given at universities, which can have differing parking rules. Look up the rules before your test day.
Though studying is important, we strongly suggest you don’t cram the day or night before your SAT. Instead, take the night before your test to —decompress. Lay out your clothes, assemble what you need to bring, set an alarm for the next morning, and then just relax and go to sleep early. Taking the night before the test to prepare yourself physically and emotionally gives you more self-assurance and energy walking into the testing center the next morning.
Starting early, following your personal study plan on Official SAT Practice, taking a full-length practice SAT, paying attention in class, and knowing what to expect on test day are five of the best ways to prepare for the SAT. Get ready for your SAT the way you’d get ready for a marathon: prepare purposefully and deliberately over an extended period of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Being prepared won’t happen that quickly either, but it can be done if it’s done methodically. Follow these five steps, and you’ll find yourself on the best possible trajectory for success!