Over the past 10 months, I have been studying for a test that I was told would help determine my future. As heavy as that sounds, we see what a good SAT score can do for a student in terms of getting into the school of their choice. It was a given that I was going to study my hardest to get the highest score possible. However, this sometimes wasn’t easy. Having so many other things on your plate and then studying for a test that is six months away is not ideal. Occasionally motivation dwindles and you may feel like you can’t do it anymore. I have a few tips that might help you study more efficiently and keep you on track to get your target score. Disclaimer: I am no expert, however, the resources and tips that I am about to mention greatly helped me in my journey with the SAT.
To get a good start in your journey you must understand each component of the test. There are four sections: Evidence-Based Reading, Writing, Math (No Calculator), and Math (Calculator). The first section comprises 52 questions in 65 minutes. There are 5 passages that you must get through, and it is widely recommended that you spend a maximum of 13 minutes on each passage. Thirteen minutes is a lot shorter than you would expect, but with practice, it only gets easier. Next, the writing section is 44 questions in 35 minutes. To do well in this section you must master basic grammar rules, which is once again done through consistent practice. Next, the math no calculator section is 20 questions in 25 minutes, while the Math calculator section is 38 questions in 55 minutes. In these sections, the questions start easier and progressively get harder. To get better at these sections, there are no special skills needed. The common theme is that practice will get you where you need to go.
Next, you must know where to look for resources. Many websites that you will see will try and sell you on programs that you think will increase your score exponentially. Then they tell you the price, and you feel as if you were led on. Like many others, I recommend Khan Academy. There are 8 full-length practice scores, which helps you gauge your progress as you study. To begin I recommend that you take a test. This will help the system analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Through that Khan Academy will give you topics on the website dashboard to help with all of the weaknesses that you may have. Also on Khan Academy, there are resources such as a page full of tips and strategies, a review page that keeps a full history of all the work that you have done. There are also several free online tutoring services - such as Kara Tutoring - many of which are led by high school students that have gotten perfect scores!
Another thing that can help are resources that you can buy. I have bought a few books such as the Princeton Review sat book and two College Panda books. Those books can help so much when you are stuck on a topic. They help you to learn this topic by teaching you the reasoning of their methods. These books are usually between $20-$30, and that isn’t bad for a thorough resource. Some books such as Princeton Review provide more tests that you can print, which means more practice. While these books may be of help, there are always sources online that provide free practice work, tests, and even sessions. On the Princeton Review website there are many opportunities for free sample courses that can help your score for no cost. On the other hand, some classes can help. These classes consist of teaching each part of the test. Any course that you take will teach you the parts of the test that will give you the highest point yield, and then they move on to topics that make up less of the test. Each course has its methods and strategies for the SAT, however, sometimes those strategies may seem unnatural to a student. All this being said, they are extremely pricey and so may not be worth it for you.
Now for the process of studying. I found it better to ease myself into work day by day rather than start working as the test was a few weeks away. I knew I had time, and so I was relaxed when it came time to study. When it comes time to study, you want to make sure that the time you are spending is quality time. Limit distractions and just focus. It is hard to get better at something when you are thinking about or being distracted by other things. There were times when I was studying when I wouldn’t be able to focus because of something that had happened in my day, but you must push that away (at least for the time you are studying). Studying for hours at a time isn’t for everyone, and I understand that. I think that everyone has their way of learning, and so if you find that studying in short increments helps you that's fine. That being said you must study as efficiently as possible in the time that you have allotted.
Another important factor in your studying is your mindset. The only barriers that are in front of you are the ones that you put up. The only way that you can work and consistently get better is to keep pushing yourself. Improvement is gradual but it is also dependent on the work that you are willing to put in right now. If you are staying honest with yourself and giving 110% then you will see improvement. I know that sometimes frustration can set in and you may want to give up and just leave it up to fate. However, being discouraged is one of the barriers you put up for yourself. Discouragement or frustration may be brought on by something that is out of your control, but it is always the product of your thoughts. The only thoughts that are of any benefit to you are positive. Even though the journey is long you must always have strength and perseverance to keep on pushing forward.