Here’s the thing:
Improving your SAT score is not a walk in the park. So, if you’re expecting a post full of mind-tricks or easy fixes, you will be disappointed. The fact of the matter is that improving SAT score is just as much about how you approach studying as it is about what you study. Let’s find out what that looks like.
1. Mentally prepare yourself
At some point or another, you’ve probably heard the “marathon” metaphor used to describe the SAT or ACT. It’s clichéd because it’s soooo applicable. As most people probably wouldn’t run a marathon with a week’s worth of training and nothing else, you should apply the same standard to the SAT. The earlier you can put yourself into that “marathoner mindset,” the better off you’ll be for improving your SAT score.
2. Set score goals and start early
Have some sort of diagnostic measure of your SAT score and compare your scores to the averages of the schools that you’re interested in. Then, consider how much time you would need to study to get to your target score, which should fall within or above the averages for your reach schools. The bigger your score increase, the more time you will need—that’s why it is best to start as early as possible.
3. Familiarize yourself with the test
Understand the structure of the test. Know the concepts tested, which you almost certainly can learn from the test prep option you decide to use. Having a good idea of test structure and test content from the get go will help you study strategically (tip #7).
4. Know yourself and be proactive
Be honest about your study habits. This will help you decide what kind of prep method would be best for you and how you should schedule your studying time (e.g. spread out over the school year, concentrated during the summer, etc.). If something isn’t working out according to plan—maybe you’re struggling to hold yourself accountable for self-study or your tutor is holding you back rather than helping you out—figure out the solution immediately rather than expecting different results with the same routine.
5. Schedule an SAT habit and stick to it
The SAT is definitely not something you can just study for whenever you feel like it because you’ll probably never feel like studying for the SAT. That’s why scheduling time for SAT practice and actually following through is necessary to ensure that you’re putting the time needed to get the score that you want.
6. Procrastinate productively
We all have those days where we just need a break. If you’re having one of those days, there are other things you can do that will help you improve SAT score even if it doesn’t feel like test prep. Just make sure that you don’t allow productive procrastination to take the place of actual studying.
7. Study strategically and intentionally
Don’t just do a bunch of practice problems or practice tests without actively reviewing your answers and hope to improve SAT score. Let your practice test results guide you in knowing what concepts you need to focus on and what mistakes you are consistently making. Based on how much time you’re dedicating for test prep and how many practice tests you plan on taking, space out the practice tests evenly to make sure you are actually giving yourself ample time to work on your weaknesses.
Are you wondering why this post doesn’t go over SAT strategies? That’s because the Magoosh blog is full of ’em. Comb through it, see what works best for you, and apply it to your studies.
8. Be balanced in your test prep
Be careful not to focus on your weaker areas so much that you neglect your stronger areas, though. When I was studying for the GRE—be forewarned, this burden can be yours again in a few years, yay—I ended up focusing too much on getting my math skills back up to speed and too little on verbal. As a result, although my math score improved on the real thing, my verbal score suffered. Don’t let that happen to you on test day.
9. Be patient but diligent
Let me illustrate this with another personal anecdote: I’m not a gym person. At all.
But I’m trying to become one because it’s good for you and I want to be more fit. As I just started going to the gym regularly, it would be silly of me to expect results already, right? Similarly, you can’t expect results right away with SAT preparation. Being patient while constantly having your end goal in mind is crucial for SAT success.
10. Take care of yourself
Exercise. Eat healthy. Reduce stress. Get enough sleep. These are all things that have proven correlations with increased test scores and improved academics and yet, they’re things that a lot of students seem to sacrifice in favor of more studying. Also, remember to not beat yourself up if you don’t exactly reach your target score; any noticeable improvement is worth celebrating because YOU made it happen. If you ever find that your mental and physical health is suffering because of trying to improve your SAT scores, take a step back and take care of yourself. Really, your SAT scores will thank you for it in the end.
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About Anika Manzoor
Anika is one of Magoosh’s Blog Editors. She makes sure the content across our blogs is error-free, easy to read, pleasing to the eye, and Google-friendly. Anika has ten years of experience in teaching and facilitating. She has taught English to language learners of all ages in places like Ecuador and Malaysia, has tutored high schoolers in SAT prep, and has led several youth empowerment programs. Anika earned her B.A. in Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies from Grinnell College and her Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. When she’s not scouring the web for the perfect gif for the blog or strategizing for educational equity, Anika can be found joining the masses in Netflix bingeing and perusing Spotify in search of gems for her workout playlist.
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