The dreaded SAT… college-bound high school juniors view the test as the be-all and end-all of getting into their top choice schools. However, knowing how to prepare for it will relieve some of the pressure, and ensure that you perform to the best of your abilities.
Practice Makes Perfect
The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a good way to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can study more efficiently for the SAT. Typically, the PSAT is offered early in your junior year of high school. When you receive your test results and have reviewed your areas of weakness, check out a book like “The Official SAT Study Guide,” which will take you step-by step through the SAT-taking process. Don’t spend too much time on the sections you know you’ll do well on.
Depending on your level of discipline, you may choose to pay for an SAT study course, like Kaplan or Princeton Review, or to study on your own. In either case, it is important you have a set study schedule, and that you begin six to eight weeks before the SAT date.
Understand how you’ll be scored
In order to maximize your score, make sure you understand how the SAT is graded.
- For each question you answer correctly, you receive one point.
- For each question answered incorrectly, ¼ point is deducted.
- You get 0 points for those questions left blank.
- The SAT essay is scored by two people, each of whom grades it on a scale of 0-6 (6 being the highest). Therefore, the highest possible essay score is 12.
- The new SAT has both a “raw score” and a “scaled score.” The raw score is simply one point per correct answer, subtract ¼ point per incorrect answer. The scaled score is your raw score in comparison to other students who took the SAT that year.
You’ll hear people speak about percentiles in regards to the SAT. Percentile simply refers to how well you did in comparison to others who took the test. For example, if you fall into the 99th percentile, then you did better than 98% of the people who took the test. If you fall into the 50th percentile, then you performed better than 49% of the students who took the test.
- Answer easy questions first. Mark skipped questions in your exam book so you can quickly return to them later.
- If you can eliminate at least one choice- Guess.
- Skip a question if you don’t have the faintest idea about the answer – you don’t lose points.
- Regularly check to make sure you’re marking the correct section on the answer sheet.
- Don’t spend too much time on any one question – the hardest questions should only take one or two minutes.
In the end, the SAT is not the only thing colleges consider when reviewing an applicant. So don’t stress out too much – prepare as best you can, and you’ll perform the best you can.