In Malcolm Gladwell‘s book Outliers, he suggests that anyone can become an expert at anything if they work at it for 10,000 hours. And while success on the SAT doesn’t take that long, there’s a reason the phrase “practice makes perfect” has become a cliche.
If you play sports, video games or music; if you like to cook or act or draw; or if you’re into anything at all, you know that the more you can practice that thing you do, the better you get at it. Taking the SAT, or any kind of test, is no different. The good news is that though the actual college entrance exam is meant as a gauge to test what you already know, there are many ways to get better at it.
Keep reading for five tips to help you tackle the SAT.
read read. The more reading you do, the more you get used to the way authors
organize words, sentences and paragraphs to create a narrative, explain a
concept or report a news story. The good news about this tip is you can pretty
much pick whatever you enjoy and still get better at the SAT. If you’re into
vampire novels, that’s cool. Sports stories are good too. Even graphic novels
or how-to books can help. For variety, find a genre you think you might
not be so into, like biographies, and give that a try. You might find your new
- Embrace the Official Question of the Day. Even when you’re not necessarily in the middle of intense study-time, you can at least commit to signing up for an email reminder for a vocab word or SAT question. You can also download an App for a daily question. Most of them only take a few minutes to answer and come straight to your inbox or phone. This one is so easy that there’s really no reason NOT to do it.
- Take practice tests. When you take a practice test, you familiarize yourself with the types of questions you will see on test day. It’s really the only way to find out what you need to work on and celebrate what you’ve already mastered. Happily, there are a lot of practice tests out there, but keep in mind that the best one comes straight from the College Board, the people who administer the real test. You can find it here.
- Brush up on math basics. The thing about math is that it builds on itself. When you know the basics well, the more complicated stuff is easier. When you answer math practice questions, think about the ways they’re similar to each other, and try to understand the concept behind them. When you find something that doesn’t make sense, find out why. Need help? This is a good place to start.
- Know the SAT facts. First, know what to expect on test day. Understanding what’s going to happen can do a lot to alleviate any nervousness you might have. For example, did you know you can bring a snack to the SAT? No one wants low-blood sugar to result in a less-than-the-best-you-can-do score.
Other things to keep in mind: don’t be afraid to write in your test booklet. Mark when you skip a question so you remember to go back to it. Cross out choices that you know aren’t right — it’s easier to choose between two answers than four! If you don’t know an answer, you may want to make an educated guess, especially if you have eliminated one or more answer choices. Feel free to make drawings to help illustrate your thinking on the math section.
Finally, try to keep things in perspective. SAT scores are only one of several factors that colleges consider in the admission process. Remember, you are in control. Come prepared, and pace yourself.