SAT Video: How to Best Use Two Hours of Study Time

Studying for the SAT in Two Hour Increments

It’s not easy to slip two hours of SAT prep into a busy schedule. So when you do, you want to use it as effectively as possible. For many that means intensely devouring a chapter in an SAT book. For others, it means learning a bunch of grammatical rules—only to sense your brain falling asleep as the 90-minute mark nears. The truth is there are many different approaches to prep, though not all work so well. Here are some great ways to make sure your prep is both effective and not sleep inducing.

1. Mixed prep

If you have two hours, it might make sense to focus on just one section. Studies have shown, however, that your brain is less likely to lose focus if you mix up the type of prep you are doing. And I don’t mean by going from probability to trigonometry. You should mix up the sections, spending half your time in math review and half your time in verbal. This breakdown mimics the actual test, where you’ll be doing reading for an hour before switching to math.

2. Do practice questions and concept review

Too many students review a fundamental, say exponents, without actually doing practice questions related to exponents. As soon as they finish, they move on to another fundamental. Progressing in this way can give you a false sense of mastery.

As you review the concepts things seem to make sense and you are in a nice, safe happy place. But you have to expose yourself to practice questions, as unnerving as that can be. Of course, making that the norm will take the bite out of doing actual problems. And by doing actual problems, you’ll see how much of a concept you really understand.

Be sure not to only do practice problems; do some fundamental review. Also, during your two hours, you spend roughly half of your prep doing fundamental review and the other having answering and reviewing questions.

3. Turn to a random section

I know this might seem counterintuitive and against everything you’ve ever done in school. But this is SAT prep, and you are dealing with a different beast. So when after 90 minutes you’ve done some math review and practice questions, and you’ve sprinkled some reading passages in there, you might sense your brain getting a little sleepy. Sure, it could do some more math questions on whatever topic you happened to be working on. But you can always come back to those questions as review for you next practice session.

By opening to a random page or random problem set, you keep your brain alert—and you learn to cope with the unexpected, much as you’ll have to do test day. In the process, you’ll also learn something different and when you encounter later in your prep, your brain will already be primed to dealing with it.


  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

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


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