Test Prep

SAT Prep: Quick Hits

It's that time of year again: SAT time. All over America (and even the world), high school seniors are hoping for another shot at improving their scores. For those who are considering Early Action or Early Decision, the October administration (and even November, for some colleges) is a last chance to improve their numerical profiles before applications go in.

Diligent "rising" seniors used the summer months to do their test prep. Others, who may have been traveling or working, may have decided (or needed) to wait until the fall to get in some last-minute strategy refreshing. Some students who are sensitive to their learning styles, may have deliberately waited until the eleventh hour to prepare. In my case, looking back across the decades to my high school career (back when the earth's tectonic plates were still jostling for position), I recall that I did best when I crammed, just before the test. Long-term studying seemed to evaporate in my brain like the fog on a cool, sunny, summer morning.

Regardless of your preferred studying style, you may be one of those who will be retaking the SAT this fall. In fact, you may be one of those taking the SAT for the first time. Either way, you may be interested in some quick tips to get your mind right for attacking the task of sharpening your skills.

Our friends at Veritas Prep have offered a fast, sensible five-point plan to do just that. It's worth a look. See what you think.

1) Be Prepared to Write a Longer SAT Essay

An MIT study found that longer SAT essays receive higher scores, so unlike what your high school English teacher may have told you, on the SAT quantity is just as important as quality. SAT essay readers have hundreds of essays to read and can only spend a few moments reviewing each one, so because the logic is that smarter students have more to say, essay readers discriminate against short essays. To improve your score on the SAT essay, make sure you practice filling up two full notebook pages in 25 minutes before test day.

2) Research Two Literary Works, Two Historical Examples and Two Current Events in Advance

Although writing full two pages for the SAT essay will take you far, if you want to maximize your essay score potential, you'll need to fill those pages with scholarly examples. If you don't think you can come up with solid academic examples in 25 minutes on test day, don't worry. You can actually plan out what examples you will use in your essay right now. This works because SAT essay topics are extremely broad. They won't ask you about specific material such as the Declaration of Independence or the Watergate scandal; instead, SAT test writers must offer topics that are very general so that every student is able to write about the topic. Use this to your advantage by researching examples that are applicable to multiple themes in advance.

3) Stop Using Algebra

Have you ever been given a multiple-choice exam in a high school algebra class? Chances are, probably not. That's because you could just plug in the potential solutions into the original algebra equation and see which one works. Well, guess what? That's exactly how the SAT is setup. This enables you to practice a powerful strategy we use at Veritas Prep called Plug In Numbers. If there are variables in the question and numbers in the answer choices, plug the potential options into the original equation and see which one works. For students that might struggle with time management during the Mathematics section, this can ensure you complete the questions in time.

4) Don't Make Assumptions on SAT Reading

The biggest mistake students make on the SAT Reading section is that they make assumptions rather than inferences. What's the difference between an assumption and inference? An assumption is a conjecture that is not based on textual evidence, whereas an inference is a conjecture that is based on textual evidence. Every correct answer on the SAT Reading section is based on textual evidence from the passage. So get in the habit of not making any assumptions, both when you read and even in real life.

5) Learn the 15 Writing Rules Tested on the SAT

Did you know that there are only 15 grammar rules you need to know to successfully answer every Improving Sentences and Identifying Sentence Errors question on the SAT correctly? Most students miss this huge opportunity to cut down on their study time. They go into the SAT thinking that any one of a hundred different grammar errors could pop up at them during the Writing Multiple-Choice section and doom their SAT score. Don't let this be you!


Makes sense to me. I think that sometimes it's possible to over-prep. Maybe you're the kind of person who develops anxiety during a long-term prep plan. If so, perhaps a change of prep strategy might be just the thing to freshen your test perspective. It's worth a try. What do you think?


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.