Once you’ve registered for the SAT and set your exam date, it’s time to get serious about studying.
While an SAT score is not the only factor schools use to determine who gets an acceptance letter and who doesn’t, a competitive SAT score will maximize your chances of getting into the schools of your choice.
To achieve that competitive score, you’ll want to set a test prep strategy and schedule that works. Using SAT study tricks while avoiding SAT study mistakes is key.
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Make sure to avoid these 5 most common SAT study mistakes:
Not studying for all test sections
The SAT consists of a 65-minute reading test, a 35-minute writing and language test, and an 80-minute math section. You might think that one or more of these sections will be easier for you than the others, based on your academic strengths.
But don’t let this feeling prevent you from studying for all of the SAT test sections.
Even if you’re a good math student, you still need to understand the structure and pacing of the SAT math section to do your best on exam day. Even if you’re a strong reader, you should still study SAT vocabulary words to ensure your best score.
Avoid the SAT study mistake of not preparing for all test sections by setting designated time for each in your study plan.
Not focusing on your mental preparedness
Top test-takers know: your mental preparedness is just as important as how much you know. Even if you’re a whizz at math or reading, nerves, anxiety, a lack of sleep, and other mental factors can hinder your performance on the SAT.
Make sure your test prep includes actions that build your mental strength and readiness as much as they increase your subject matter knowledge. Visualization, meditation, and a good night’s sleep before the big day are some of the ways successful test-takers improve their performance.
Being in a good head space to take the SAT is one of the best SAT study tricks out there. Use it to your advantage.
Not taking a practice exam
If the first time you see the structure and pacing of the SAT is the day you take the SAT, you could waste precious exam time understanding basic aspects of the test.
Instad, familiarize yourself with the flow of the SAT by taking a practice exam. Even better, take multiple practice exams. Knowing what to expect on test day, including understanding how the timing of each section impacts how you move through the exam, will set you up to give your best performance.
To start, head over to satpractice.org. Created in part by the makers of SAT, you’ll find thousands of practice questions, SAT study tricks, video lessons, quizzes, and, most importantly, full practice tests, on this site.
Not getting help if you need it
Like many students, you’re likely starting your test prep on your own. These days, it’s easy to get test prep materials either online or at your local library, and work through them on your own schedule.
But don’t let your independent streak prevent you from getting study help if you need it. One option is to meet up with other test-takers for group study sessions. This can help you identify strategies you might not have thought of on your own. It’s also an opportunity to do team activities like flashcard games and quiz bowls.
Other options include working with an SAT tutor or enrolling in a test prep class. Bottom line, you don’t have to go this alone. Seek out help if you need it. Your future score will thank you.
Not preparing at all
Believe it or not, some SAT takers will sit for the exam cold. Meaning, they didn’t do anything – not researching the exam, not studying vocabulary, not taking practice tests – to prepare for the SAT. Huge SAT study mistake.
You might think you don’t have time to prepare for the test. Or, you’ve historically done well on tests and assume you’ll ace the SAT as well. But not studying for the SAT sends you into the exam room at a distinct disadvantage compared to students who know what to expect and equipped themselves with SAT study tricks.
Once you schedule the exam, it’s a best practice to then immediately set up your study plan. Don’t let the SAT study mistake of not studying at all get in the way of achieving your desired score.
Get to know the SAT
Now that you know what SAT study mistakes to avoid, it’s time to develop your personal test study plan. Start by getting to know the SAT, including tips and tricks from our college admissions experts. They share their entrance exam expertise on the Empowerly blog, helping test-takers familiarize themselves with all aspects of the process.
ACT vs. SAT: What’s the difference? Get to know these two college entrance exams so you can decide which one is the right fit for you.
Review our 10 crucial test-prep tips for more ideas on how to structure your own exam study schedule.
Can I get a perfect SAT score? We break down the chances and give you advice on how to maximize your test performance.
Already took the SAT and not happy with your results? Here are our experts’ suggestions on what to do if you get a low SAT score.