SAT Prep At Home | 8 Helpful Tips & Strategies
With everything going on right now in the world, focusing on the SAT can be understandably difficult. That’s why we’re here to provide these strategies to make SAT prep at home easier for you.
In addition to these main at-home tips, we also have a few pointers about time management for online test prep, as well as specific prep tips for sophomores.
Take 1-2 Full Practice Tests
Before starting any SAT test prep, find out where you already stand skills-wise.
SAT test prep at home takes up a lot of time and concentration. Don’t waste any of it without knowing exactly what you’re getting into.
Go online and find a free SAT practice test to take. The College Board provides free practice tests that you can access and take. Follow the directions including:
- Timing yourself for each section
- Using only an approved calculator
- Starting and stopping each test section appropriately
After an initial run-through, you’ll automatically get a sense of the test’s format and immediate difficulties to fix. From there, you can figure out your initial scores. Some sections will probably feel easier than others, depending on your natural skills and knowledge.
The point is to get familiar with what you’re studying for first, before diving into SAT test prep unfocused. Also, you’ll see where you need to improve your answer times because your pace is important too.
Narrow Down Your Weaknesses
Figure out which sections naturally give you the most trouble.
Once you take at least one SAT practice test, go through the results, and immediately mark down your problem sections. You should be able to easily find them using provided scoring guidelines.
Everyone has a couple of them, so don’t feel embarrassed. With that information, you now know where to start allocating more time with reviews and practice.
Does data interpretation in the reading section give you trouble? Are there particular math section problems that you notice more mistakes on?
The good news is the SAT lets you calculate subscores in different sections too. Instead of thinking, “I’m terrible at the Math section”, you can get granular and figure out which specific kinds of questions and content are problems.
Have A Score Goal In Mind
Once you’ve determined a baseline score, give yourself a target to go out and achieve.
One of the best motivators with SAT prep at home is giving yourself a target score to achieve. While everyone wants to score a perfect 1600, that’s probably not realistic or necessary.
Chances are good you already have a list of dream schools you’re applying to for college. Use this process then to easily determine a target score goal:
- Go online and check college admissions pages for their SAT score cutoffs
- Subtract the difference between your dream school SAT scores and practice test scores
You now know two vital pieces of information:
- Overall SAT score to target
- How many points you need to improve to reach it
Now it’s simply a matter of dedicating hours towards that score goal. To help track your progress, plan on taking a practice test every 1-2 weeks, and checking your subscores for improvement.
You’ll quickly see where you’re progressing, where you still have trouble, and how much your aggregate score is growing or not. Score goals should be realistic and achievable; you’re much more likely to reach them than shooting for a perfect score in a short amount of prep time.
Figure Out A Study Schedule
Once you have a basic study game plan, it’s time to build a schedule.
Your SAT test prep schedule should take two factors into account:
- Your goal score
- How long you have before the test administration
If you know that you have months available before the test date you signed up for, that should make scheduling much easier. It’s good to have a consistent time every week dedicated to SAT test prep.
For example, if you have 8-10 weeks available before your test date, and you need 40-50 hours to hit your score improvements then plan for 4-6 hours of weekly test prep. From there, break that down into how many days per week and hours per day.
An hour of dedicated, focused SAT prep at home every day pays off in the end versus draining cram sessions. The point is to stick to a consistent schedule to review what you’ve worked on and tackle new problem areas.
Get Familiar With The SAT’s Format and Instructions
SAT test prep is as much about mastering the format, as it is knowing information.
Go through and learn about each section. Things you need to work on include:
- Figuring out how quickly you need to answer questions per section
- Question types
- Instructions for each section’s completion
A huge part of doing well on the SAT is understanding the format and how to adapt to its constraints. Thankfully, there are many strategies that Prep Expert teaches regarding the test format that will help you tremendously on test day.
Switch Up Study Sessions With General Skill Building
Set aside some time for more general skills that’ll translate to test day readiness.
For example, to help you build up your comprehension and interpretation skills for the Reading section, find and summarize scientific articles and studies.
Read long-form essays and editorials for insights into how writers defend their arguments and construct them. Look over scientific journals to check out data charts and graphs.
You can use them to work on interpreting and pulling conclusions from, then see if your insights were correct. These are all techniques that give your mind a break while still building up tools you’ll use on test day.
Make Sure To Get Plenty of Sleep
Your brain needs all the rest it can get.
A good night’s sleep always makes a difference. Aim for an eight-hour minimum the night before taking the SAT.
During your actual study period, also work on getting a solid eight hours per night. If you’re restless by the weekend and feel burnout coming on, then change up the schedule itself.
Feel free to stay up Friday night longer and sleep in Saturday, but set aside a makeup period of studying either later Saturday or Sunday. The more sleep your body and brain receives, the easier it will be for you to take in new information and retain it.
Host Online Study Sessions
Get online with friends and make SAT prep at home fun.
Getting a study group of friends together works wonders when preparing for the SAT. It’s easy enough if you can’t all be in the same place at the same time with streaming apps like Zoom or FaceTime.
Set aside a study session at least once a week where you can all get together and compare notes. Study group benefits include:
- Helping clarify problem areas for each other
- Holding each other accountable
- Providing emotional support through doubts and frustration
- Friendly interaction
SAT prep at home can feel isolated after a while. That’s why having friends you can work with definitely makes the process smoother.
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