The SAT is not easy. Out of the 2 million students who take the SAT each year, only around 3% get a 1500 or higher; less than a fraction of 1% of test-takers get a 1600 (source).
However, it’s not impossible to get a good score. And even if you didn’t score ideally in a past SAT, that doesn’t mean you can’t do better.
The SAT is full of tricks, and in truth, it’s simply a test of how well you can take the SAT. It’s not a measure of your intelligence, and it won’t make or break your college application.
But if you believe a higher SAT score will benefit you, definitely try studying and retaking the test. If you follow these tips, I can guarantee that you’ll feel more confident in your skills and be more likely to get a higher score.
If you’ve never self-studied for the SAT before, check out this post before you dive into this one:
And why would you trust me? I self-studied completely for the SAT and received a 1580. After taking it two times (my score dropped the second time, which was unfortunate), my superscore was 1590. Therefore, I can attest that self-studying is effective; you just need to do it right.
So if you’re ready to learn how to raise your SAT score, let’s get started with this post.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more here.
Make A Schedule
Planning ahead is essential, and making a schedule will help you do this. Cramming does not work for the SAT, and if you’re reading this post the day before your SAT, I suggest for you to sleep early and just stay calm during the test; there is not much you can do right now to effectively prepare for the test tomorrow.
If you have more than a month to prepare (preferably more than 2 months), good for you! You have ample time to practice, take mock exams, and learn from your mistakes.
You should first go on Khan Academy’s SAT page and create a practice schedule. Enter your test date and how much you want to practice. I suggest 20 practice questions per day (and more if you have less than 2 weeks) and 1 full practice test per week.
Once you have this schedule set up, Khan Academy will provide you with daily goals to motivate you to practice. You can even set up email reminders to keep you accountable.
Find Your Weaknesses
Just like everything else you study, it’s more productive to strengthen your weaknesses on the SAT than repeatedly practice the things you’re already good at.
If you followed my How To Self Study For The SAT guide, you should have already completed a diagnostic test. If you haven’t, take one as soon as possible! This will help you gauge how prepared you are and how much you need to practice on which areas.
There are 3 main SAT sections: reading, writing, and math. For many students, reading is the most difficult section as it tends to be very nuanced and tricky to understand what the College Board is looking for. But it varies between students, so decide which section is the hardest for you.
Once you’ve found your weakest section, examine the individual questions and try to find a pattern in what type of questions you miss.
For example, a reading section often contains these types of questions:
- Identifying the main purpose or main point of the passage.
- Determining the meaning, function, or effects of a specific word or phrase.
- Describing the author’s tone, style, perspective, and how it shifts.
- Identifying an idea in the passage and providing evidence.
- Interpreting data from a graph, table, diagram, etc.
Find out which types of questions you miss the most and practice them. Khan Academy can be very helpful for this, because it automatically analyzes what you got wrong on each practice exam and recommends practice questions based on that.
YOU’LL LOVE THIS POST: 9 Essential Study Skills To Study Smarter, Not Harder
Invest In Resources
Self-studying costs almost nothing compared to dedicated SAT prep classes. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost anything at all. You could rely completely on Khan Academy and past exams, but it will be a little more difficult then to fully understand all the tricks the College Board puts in the test.
I used 1 prep book while self-studying, and it was a secondhand book another student had already used– it cost me less than $5, but helped me understand many of the nuances of the SAT.
Here are 3 prep books I recommend (these are optional but helpful! And I only recommend these 3 as they’re the most relevant to the College Board information and test):
- Official College Board SAT Study Guide: from the makers of the test, this study guide reviews all the skills you are expected to know and apply during the test. It also includes full-length practice tests, but you can find these online as well.
- SAT Prep Black Book: a very popular, non-official, prep book. This book covers a lot of clever strategies that may help students struggling with the strict skill-based expectations of the College Board.
- Princeton Review SAT Premium Prep: this is another thick book with 8 practice tests (4 are online), which are often the most helpful part of prep books. However, readers have often revealed that this book does not offer strategies like those in the Black Book, so if you’re happy with just 1 or 2 prep books, don’t feel obligated to buy this one.
Feel free to ask around (if you’re a high school junior, ask the seniors if they have old prep books) and search for secondhand books on Nextdoor, Ebay, etc.
Simulate Testing Environment
The SAT testing room is not like your living room at all. If you do all your practice tests at your dining table, where you’re chatting with your family every once in a while, you won’t be ready for the tense SAT testing room.
Though it’s hard to perfectly simulate the testing room, here are a few things you should try to implement every time you practice:
- Practice alone
- Sit at a desk (not on the ground, on your bed…)
- Keep it quiet (isolate yourself from siblings, parents…)
- Remove distractions (put your phone on airplane mode)
- Set timers and take breaks as instructed in the test
- Print out the test and bubble in answers on an answer sheet
- Take it at around the same time as when you’ll be taking the real test (usually in the morning)
It’s okay for there to be small noises occasionally while you practice, because on the real test, you’ll be in a room with other students who will likely fidget to an extent. With more practice, you’ll be able to tune out everything and just focus on the questions.
Practice A LOT
Practice every single day. Build this into your routine and make it a habit.
Like I mentioned before in Make A Schedule, the best method (if you have enough time) is to practice around 30 minutes a day– 20 questions– for at least a month, taking one full practice test each week.
However, don’t just take the test, see your score, and be done. Reviewing the test and seeing what you got wrong is essential. Do not skip this step (this might be the ultimate secret to improving your score on the SAT)!
For each question you get wrong (along with questions you flagged or were confused on), check what the correct answer is. Read the explanations for why that answer is right and the one you put was wrong.
If you want to go the extra mile (I recommend doing this if you really want to get a higher score), grab a notebook and designate it to your error analysis. Write down each wrong answer and what you learned from it, and any other information you might find helpful.
As time goes on and you do more practice, you should find that you make less and less mistakes. You should also be referencing your notebook less!
The Day Before…
Congratulations, you’re almost there! If you’ve followed all the steps in this post and in the self-studying guide, you should be fully prepared for the SAT.
The day before your test is not a time to cram. You already know everything, including the information and the tricks. Doing more practice the day before the test will simply stress you out and take away time to sleep.
Therefore, all you need to do the night before the test is to get enough sleep and make sure your bag is all packed for the SAT. Remember to bring number 2 pencils, an approved calculator, your admission ticket, an ID, and water!
Get into the proper mindset of I can do it. The SAT does not define me, and it is not as big of a deal as I may believe. Then, go to sleep.
I hope this post was helpful for you, and I wish you good luck on the SAT! Remember that this test is not a big deal (most colleges don’t even require it anymore!), and it does not define you at all.
Leave a comment below with when you’re taking the SAT, and I’ll cheer you on! And if you’re looking for more posts like this, here are a few of my recent related posts: