A diagnostic test is a test that one takes without any preparation to see where they stand on the material to be tested. If you’re thinking of taking the SAT sometime in the future, you should definitely take an SAT diagnostic test if you haven’t already. Even if you are an excellent test taker, an SAT diagnostic test can either give you some piece of mind about your test taking abilities or reveal potential weaknesses that you might not have realized. For most students, some sort of SAT diagnostic test is absolutely necessary for setting the foundation for your SAT preparation, particularly in knowing which areas are your strengths and weaknesses.
Waiiiiit, but what if I…
…took/practiced for the old SAT?
Because the SAT redesign is significantly different from the old SAT, it’s a good idea to take a diagnostic test for the new SAT. But don’t think all that prepping for the old test was done in vain! You probably have a leg up than students completely new to the SAT in terms of test prep strategies and certain grammar, reading comprehension, and math skills.
…took the October 2015 PSAT?
If you’ve already taken the new PSAT, you could take another diagnostic test if you think it’s necessary. Perhaps you feel like you were having an off day when you took the official PSAT in October. Maybe you’ve just learned advanced SAT concepts in your math class and you want to get a sense of how well you naturally know them in the test setting. There are certainly valid reasons for taking a diagnostic test even if you’ve already taken the PSAT.
But because the new PSAT is fairly similar to the old PSAT, it’s also totally valid to use your PSAT as your diagnostic test, especially because you have the option of actually reviewing your answers.
Just head on over to studentscores.collegeboard.org and you have complete access to all the October PSAT questions, how you did on each question, and explanations for the right answer for each question. It’s super legit.
How do I take an SAT diagnostic test?
Despite releasing the new SAT format just a few months ago, The College Board thankfully has also released a decent number of official SAT practice tests. If you choose to use one of these tests as your diagnostic, you can either print them out or take them on the Khan Academy website, which has a partnership with The College Board (you don’t need to create a new account if you already have an existing one). Take one of these tests without any prep, but as if you’re taking the real thing. Also, consider completing the essay portion if you’re even remotely thinking about taking the essay during the real thing.
If you are planning to use Khan Academy for your general test preparation needs, you can also use the Khan Academy’s diagnostic tool (available when you log in). This tool is much shorter than a full exam, but can still give you a reliable sense of how you would do on the real thing. The other benefit of using these diagnostic tools or your PSAT results is that you wouldn’t have to “waste” a full exam in order to get that preliminary sense of your strengths and weaknesses.
The best measure of how well you would do on the SAT is through these official options through College Board, but there are other options as well if you’re interested in knowing what they are.
Ok, I took a diagnostic test. Now what?
Now you’re ready to analyze your diagnostic test results and begin your test prep! Along with the new redesign, The College Board has made grading and reviewing your practice tests easier than ever. If you decide to print out the test, you can use The College Board’s Daily Practice app to grade the test. The cool thing about Khan Academy is that it analyzes your answers either from the diagnostic tool or from your PSAT—which you can import into your Khan Academy account—and then gives you practice problems tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. Still, it’s probably a good idea to go through each incorrectly-answered question yourself to get a full understanding of where you went wrong and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future.