If possible, take the SAT at the beginning of junior year. This way, you will be able to do the bulk of the studying for it over the summer at a more leisurely pace, and studying for the SAT will not detract from your junior-year grades. Too many high school students wait to take the SAT until the end of their junior year. However, this is generally the busiest time of the year because students are preparing for Regents and Advanced Placement Exams.
2. Learn SAT vocabulary.
Students often freak out after seeing long lists of SAT vocabulary words. However, if you begin learning the words on these lists several months before you actually look at a practice exam, you’ll find that you’ve already done much of the necessary preparation for the Verbal section.
Consider downloading an SAT vocab application to your smartphone so you can practice on the go. Memrise is a great flashcard-building application.
3. Be clever.
If you can eliminate at least one choice, guess. Learn the directions by heart so that you’ll save time on test day. Skip around and do what’s easiest for you. The math and vocabulary questions are presented in order of difficulty, but remember that every question is worth the same amount.
4. Take a timed practice SAT.
Get used to taking a long exam. The SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes, and it’s usually administered in the morning. Build your stamina by taking several practice tests. Make sure that when you take a practice exam, splice in a section from another exam to represent the experimental section. With a half hour spent bubbling in your name and address, you’ll be there for about four hours (if you’re lucky). Speak with a teacher or administrator and try to reserve the classroom, gym, or auditorium where you will actually be taking the exam so that you can take a practice exam there.
5. Study like it’s game day.
Practice at the time of day when your exam will be, and try to study under real testing conditions. Make sure that your study area is quiet and without distractions. Silence your cell phone, put on your away message, and ask your parents to keep any siblings or pets out of the room. Try to study for at least 1-2 hours each time to get your juices flowing and to get in the zone.
6. Avoid the calculator as much as possible.
Use your calculator sparingly on the math section. You might not always need it, and it takes time to enter numbers when working rapidly. When students are rushing, they tend to have to re-enter the equation into the calculator, losing valuable time. Use your brain and guesstimate. It wouldn’t hurt to brush up on the old times tables either.
7. The dreaded essay.
Remember that the essay portion of the writing section isn’t looking for creativity. Make it easy for them to read. Write in script if you are able to do so legibly. Longer essays also tend to do better. More paragraph breaks. This is true for high school English class as well.
8. Exercise and eat healthy.
If you do not already exercise and eat healthy, now is the best time to start. You might feel like your brain is a machine, but it’s actually organic gooky gray stuff. If you take care of it with exercise, which gets the blood flowing, and protein, which gives it energy, it’ll take care of you on test day.
9. Only take it once.
Try to make the first time the only time. Don’t take it first just to practice. Even though colleges only count the highest score of each section when formally calculating your strength as an applicant, colleges will see all of your scores. You probably wouldn’t want a first date to see a picture of you when you first wake up in the morning. Instead, you show yourself at your best. The same goes for test scores. However, there’s absolutely no reason other than getting a perfect score that you shouldn’t take it more than once. The vast majority of students perform far better each additional time they take the test. Colleges primarily consider your highest score from each section, so make sure you have more than one score to choose from.
10. Consider the ACT.
It’s an alternative standardized test created by people who weren’t too fond of the SAT. More students on the west coast take it than do east coast students, but colleges across the country now accept it instead of, or in addition to, the SAT. You might actually perform better on it than you do on the SAT if it lets you play up your strengths. The ACT has an entire section devoted to science. Take a look at it to determine if it’s worth trying out the ACT instead.