How Many Practice SATs Should I Take?

Although it’s indispensable for SAT prep, The Official SAT Study Guide from the College Board isn’t complete on its own… it really needs to be supplemented with more in depth lessons and explanations of questions. You can get that from us at Magoosh (or elsewhere), along with a healthy dose of more personalized practice, which every SAT prep book lacks. Books just can’t adapt to what you need as well as practice on a computer, sadly.

But if you do supplement it, The Official SAT Study Guide (we usually call it the “blue book”) is one of the best books for one incontrovertible reason: it has ten practice tests in it. And they’re real. No prep company makes questions that are absolutely 100% the same as what the College Board puts out. We try, and we come remarkably close, but nothing beats the real deal.

Ten tests, though? Who wants to sit down to take the SAT ten times? I mean, really. That’s absurd, right?

Take 3 to 5 mock exams daily (not really)

You’ll want to sit down and time yourself according to the SAT test format at least three times before the day of your test. You can really get over the average SAT score hump just by getting used to the taking it. What’s more pick, out your “SAT calculator” and stick with it. I recommend using a solid five of those practice tests from the blue book as full length tests. Don’t do them all in one week; instead, spread them out over a couple of months. And save two of them for the last weeks before the test, when you won’t have enough time to build new skills.


Use five tests for section practice

Doing SAT practice for 30 minutes or an hour several times a week can make a big difference in your score. If you do one 25-minute section or a 20-minute and a 10-minute section from the book four times per week, you’ll go through about 5 of those official tests in two months. That’ll really get you used to seeing all of the SAT question types. Pair that with the five to use for full-length practice, and you’re golden. Again, you’d want to supplement that practice with some more focused lessons. You’ll grow a lot more if you sit down with explanations—not just questions—and concentrate on those subjects that you’re weakest in, rather than taking the mash-up that is a real SAT section.

Also, as you use those individual sections, keep track of the clock. When time’s up, stop. It’s good for getting used to the pressure, and it keeps you from spending hours laboring over problems which you won’t even get explanations for.


Do as many of the official SATs as possible

Really, doing them all is the best way to go. But remember to study, as well… don’t only take practice tests. It will definitely get you used to the SAT format, but it won’t get you the scores you want. Check out the One Month SAT Study Schedule for more focused practice. And if you’re really overly concerned about getting enough practice, try your hand at an ACT practice test. In comparing the ACT vs SAT, there are certainly disparities, but also plenty of similarities. You may find, using our nifty ACT-SAT score conversion chart that you’re more suited for the ACT.



  • Lucas Fink

    Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!


4 Responses to How Many Practice SATs Should I Take?

  1. Gautam July 1, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    hi lucas

    i really want to get 36 on my act and have the following books to prepare for it
    the official red book, mcgrawhill”s 8 practice tests and up your score strategy book.
    i had given my sat in may and got a 1990 , highest was 2100 in my practice tests

    please tell me the number of practice test i need to take and how is it possible to improve my reading .
    i have more than 2 months left (2 months and 10 days to be exact ).
    please also tell me if these books are correct and helpful and if not other books i should be looking to buy .


    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas July 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

      Hi Gautam,

      While I have taught the ACT before, I’m not quite as well versed in the quality of all the ACT material on the market, I’m afraid—I don’t know about McGraw Hill’s 8 practice tests or the Up Your Score strategy book. I do know that the red book is the best place to start for practice material, though. 🙂

      How many practice tests you should take depends on what exactly you need to work on. If pacing and stamina cause problems for you, personally, than you may want to focus on practice tests. That might mean taking 4 or 5 full length tests in the next two months. Usually, 2 or 3 is enough, though. If you know that reading causes you trouble specifically, then you’ll want to spend a lot of your study time doing focused practice with that, not going through full practice tests. For advice on how to improve your SAT / ACT reading skills, check out these blog posts:

  2. Salman January 4, 2016 at 4:05 am #

    Hey lucas

    I’ve got like 19 days to prepare for the SAT exam and it all 
    feels gut-wrenching to cover up this book in such a short span
    of time considering I have to practice individual sections and 
    then move on to the practicing sats that I’ll be doing. what do 
    propose I should do?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 4, 2016 at 11:56 am #

      Hi Salman!

      You’re right–going through the entire “Blue Book” in a mere 19 days sounds positively gut-wrenching.
      The good news is you don’t need to go through the entire book, nor wrench any guts in the process :). 
      I’d even argue that attempting to do so would be counterproductive since you wouldn’t leave enough
      time to learn from the mistakes you have been making on the practice tests you do complete.

      Here is what I suggest: 

      Week 1-2: Take a practice test over the course of 3 days, going over each section as soon as you are
      finished with it. As soon as you finish a section, figure out which ones you miss without marking the correct 
      answer next to the incorrect one. Instead, go through and try to figure out why you missed the question. 
      Careless errors aside, doing so will force you to think like the test writers. When you can’t figure it out, you can
      often google the question and it’ll likely come up on a discussion forum. Finally, do extra prep on areas in which 
      you are lacking. This can be from other SAT practice tests that ETS offers online for free (though you won’t
      burn through all the tests in the blue book so you can use some in the back). 

      Week 3: By this time, you should have taken about 4 practice tests. In the final five days, take two practice tests,
      as much as possible, in one sitting. Repeat the review steps from week 1 and 2. Even if you can’t follow this 
      schedule to a tee, completing four total tests in this manner will help you boost your score (so no need to feel you
      have to do a minimum number of tests or you’ll be doomed :)). 

      Finally, I’ve recorded explanations to the first practice test in the blue book:

      Good luck, and hope that was helpful!

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