Top 5 Study Habits To Succeed At The SAT

studying for SAT
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

For many high school students, the SAT evokes fear or trepidation. As a result, one of the biggest mistakes students make is putting off preparing for it; and worse, cramming for it at the last minute.

Both college admission counseling professionals and your local high school counselors will strongly warn you against studying in the immediate weeks, days, or hours before the test.

They advise this because this strategy isn’t well-thought-out, and can even produce worse results.

Instead, follow the top five study habits in this post to set up solid groundwork months ahead of your SAT day.

College admission counseling specialists like Empowerly agree: once you practice these worthwhile SAT study habits, not only do you boost your chances of success, you will feel more confident and less stressed out about the process.

1. Take an SAT practice test several times.

What is the number-one best way to pick up top-notch study habits that pave the way for SAT success?

Take the official SAT practice tests.

In fact, this is so important, we don’t recommend any of the other study habits on this list until you’ve done so!

This will allow you to introduce yourself to the test’s unique format by reading real practice questions to study. While some companies claim to have insight into the SAT’s structure and question types, most college admission counseling pros agree that the official resources from the College Board remain the best source (and are free).

2. Recognize and learn from your mistakes.

College admission counseling organizations drill this habit right away to maximize each student’s time and overall results.

The most common mistake is taking the practice SATs and not checking your work.

This analysis will quickly determine what went wrong, including irrelevant answers, trouble understanding the question, lack of time, or simply careless errors due to nervousness.

Building on this insight, you can identify the best solutions to avoid them and improve your score. College admission counseling experts advise that you train yourself early on your weaknesses so you can easily tackle them on test day.

3. Set the goal score you want.

Estimate a goal score that you can realistically reach.

Preparation and studying will help familiarize yourself with the SAT, as well as, grasp your strengths and weaknesses.

College admission counseling experts consistently preach that having a workable score goes a long way towards inspiring yourself.

In turn, inspiration to study harder and work towards accomplishing (or beating) your goal score helps you actually get there.

When setting your goal score, never base it solely on your first practice test score; rather, use the average score of several sittings.

Other factors to consider when setting your goal score?

You can include the average SAT score needed for admission to the school you are applying to, and what you expect academically based on your classroom scores. If you require extra advice on setting a goal score, college admission counseling services can help you find the score that will strengthen your chances of admission.

4. Know what to expect for each of the SAT’s five sections.

While there are many specific strategies broken down by section or subject material to study for the SAT, we find that there are a couple of things everyone should know.

Most college admission counseling professionals will have some tried and tested study habits for improving most students’ goal score, including:

  • Review the directions for each section before the test, not during.
  • Read all the questions for each part once through, and answer those you know early.
  • Narrow down the correct answer by eliminating the obviously incorrect ones.
  • Always go with your original instinct, which is usually right!
  • When you don’t know the answer, it’s better to guess (since there’s no penalty).

College admission counseling groups can point you to additional resources, if you are uncertain about specific exam sections like Math or Reading.

5. Don’t panic!

Finally, all college admission counseling experts agree that the most effective habit of all is staying calm while in a testing environment.

Your mindset is why cramming for the test will only put you at a disadvantage.

Feeling stressed leads to poor long-term retention, higher anxiety levels, and ultimately, lower test scores.

On the other hand, if you follow proper study habits in advance, you will stay calm and feel confident; then, you are ready to take the test and do your best!

So, instead of last-minute cramming the night before the exam, feel free for some downtime, and get a good night’s rest. You deserve it.

Whether you’re applying for a college on regular or rolling admissions, Empowerly has the most comprehensive college admission counseling services to help you achieve your college admissions goals.

The counseling community will support you from finding your passion to getting accepted to the college of your dreams. Find the additional college counseling support you need, book a consultation now.

Questions? Let us know!