wikiHow to Do Well on the SATs

Four Parts:Knowing what you're facingReadying yourself for the SATsRight before the SATsSitting the SATs

The SATs are a dreaded test that almost every hopeful college-bound student in the US takes. Despite the hype surrounding these tests, follow these simple steps and consider the tips below and you will be able to prepare for the test. It isn't as hard as you may think to calm down and make sure you know the required information on testing day.

Part 1
Knowing what you're facing

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    Don't panic. There are two things that will help you get a good score, and the most important of these is keeping your cool. (The other is being prepared). Reading, understanding, and answering the questions is more difficult if you feel panic or anxiety. Keep a cool head. Slow down a bit. You will finish as long as you don't spend too much time on any particular question!
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    Get to know the test. The SAT is a standardized test, meaning every test taker takes the same test under the same conditions allowing their scores to be compared fairly. If you can identify these types of questions you are one step closer to the score you want (or need).
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    Practice, and practice with the real thing. When you're dealing with the SAT, there's nothing like the real thing when it comes to practice test. The first time you take a SAT will be the hardest, as it is the only time you will not know what to expect. Try to take practice tests in an environment that closely resembles where you will take the real test (a library is a good bet) This will get you ready for the other side of the test—concentrating for 3+ hours in an uncomfortable setting while other people cough, sneeze and tap pencils around you.

Part 2
Readying yourself for the SATs

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    Prepare over time. Spending about half an hour every other day over a 4-5 month period is reasonable. Organize your study time between math, vocab, and grammar. Study for each section thoroughly using SAT testing aides. There are many different testing aides available; books and practice tests can be found at the SAT Preparation Center. There was also a New York Times article on a lesser known way to increase your SAT score using SAT calculator programs that can be used while you take the math portion of test, or serve as verbal flashcards on your calculator for handy review.[citation needed]
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    Practice reading short non-fiction articles to prepare for the reading section. The Economist magazine is an excellent source of articles that are just the right length. There are several online sources as well. Try to read a few every day.
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    Learn from your mistakes. After taking a practice test, you should spend about the same amount of time you spent taking the test on going through your answers. Try to remember why you picked a certain answer. See if you notice a pattern. There almost always is one.
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    Focus on your weak areas. The SAT is a multi-subject text, which means that excelling in certain areas but doing poorly in others can give you a mediocre overall score. Make the most of your study time by devoting as much time as you can to the things you're not good at, rather than the things you are good at. If you're not sure how to begin addressing your weak spots, try talking to your teachers in these subjects for advice.
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    Identify problems you might have during the test. Do you have trouble with the difficult algebraic questions? Are you in the dark about some of the more obscure grammatical rules? Study more for these areas than you would others. It is recommended that you study at least twice as long in difficult areas as you would easier ones. Understand the concepts first, then practice those concepts with problems and questions. While memorizing can be helpful, particularly with vocabulary, it isn't the whole thing. Understanding goes a lot further than memorization.
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    Familiarize yourself with the calculator as soon as possible. You can't afford to spend a few minutes getting to know the calculator on the day of your test.
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    Keep your morale high. As important as it is to prepare mentally, learning the material from front to back, it's almost as important to ensure you're emotionally prepared. A positive, focused, high-energy attitude can make the difference between whether you do good or great on the SAT. For the best chance of excelling, do everything you can to keep your spirits high as you study and especially as you take the test itself.
    • Perhaps the single biggest thing you can do to guarantee you're in a good mood on test day is to make sure the rest of your life is in good order. If you're distracted, for instance, by an argument you had earlier in the week with your significant other, you won't be able to focus 100% on the questions in front of you.

Part 3
Right before the SATs

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    Get a good night's sleep and eat a good breakfast. Don't sabotage yourself so you have an excuse when you do badly. You don't want to have regrets. If you set yourself up for success, it's much more likely you will.
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    Try not to be nervous on the test day. It may be difficult, but just think to yourself: "It's just a test, and I prepared all that I could. I will succeed." If you have confidence in yourself, quite simply, you will do better.
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    Bring water to be hydrated if it is allowed during the test. Being hydrated can make the difference between failing and passing.[citation needed]

Part 4
Sitting the SATs

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    Read the question before you write the answers. Reading the question and then deciding what you think the answer should be BEFORE looking will almost always help you pick the right answer. Do not look at the answer choices until you have an idea of what the answer should be. Four of the answers are designed to lead you astray.
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    Don't think too hard into the question. In the verbal sections, you should be positively certain of the answer—don't try to read too far into how the answer might fit. If you have an idea of what you're looking for before you start looking, chances are you will find it. Only one answer will fit like a glove.
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    Eliminate any answers that you can. If one of the answers glares out at you as "completely wrong", then cross it out. By ignoring the answer that you are certain to be wrong, you can increase your chances of selecting a correct answer. This is particularly useful if you intend to guess one question.
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    Remember that each question is worth the same amount of points, and that the questions get progressively harder. If you are not a strong math student, concentrate on doing the first 15-20 questions well instead on wasting time on the really difficult ones, since you would be less likely to do well regardless.
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    When you're doing a math problem, remember to ask yourself "What is the question asking." Many math questions try to trick you with word games. Make sure you understand exactly what the question is asking.


  • Don't let anyone or anything else distract you during the test! Just focus on your own work.
  • Make sure you use the toilet before the test. Worrying may cause you want to pee.
  • Go to bed early before the SATS about,8:00PM, it will really help.
  • If you don't recognize the answer to a question, just skip to the next one. When you get to the end, just try to search for the answer.
  • Be prepared. You will feel much calmer if you are. If you really want to be confident, do 3 hours of studying every day. It's stressful, but you'll have plenty of time to relax after the SAT.
  • Read articles and things to help you do well on the essay writing portion of the SAT.
  • Find an SAT book that deals with minor grammatical rules (parallelism, possessives, correct phrasing of certain types of sentences). Recognizing grammatical mistakes in everyday speech makes it second nature.
  • Download apps that help you study for the SAT. They usually send you a question everyday.
  • If you have difficulty with vocabulary and grammar, try to understand the concepts first. Then practice these concepts using an SAT guide or your textbooks. There are many minor rules and standards that the SAT checks.
  • If you have trouble with reading comprehension, try to keep the logic simple and literal - don't confuse yourself and don't focus on the little pieces of the passage - the logic is often obvious.
  • Bring a snack. Most tests allow for a break during the exam between sections, and you'll work better if you're not focused on how hungry or thirsty you are.
  • If you have difficulty with math, try to understand the basic concepts as soon as possible. You can also try the SAT prep calculator programs previously mentioned to help you solve problems during the test. Get rid of any patterns or assumptions you think you've seen over the years and concentrate only on the basics. Then practice over and over again using all of these concepts.
  • Make sure you understand the method you use and why it works and makes mathematical sense.
  • You have a good sleep.
  • For particular SAT IIs, be sure to pay attention in your specific class. Beyond that, get a review book and make sure to take the practice tests. Try taking them in order (if you plan on taking multiple ones in a session - its less money) from most difficult to least.
  • For math SAT IIs, use a graphing calculator (a TI-89 or -83+ is recommended) if at all possible. Your school may have a class set of these calculators for calculus classes. Talk to a calculus teacher to see if you can borrow one. Calculators can help you solve problems quickly by performing basic functions and graphing. While most problems on the SAT II are not solved using a calculator alone, calculators are certainly helpful.
  • Try your best on a question you don't know. When you finish the other questions on the test, come back to it at the end. That way, you have the rest of the time to solve the question.


  • Remember: Sometimes teachers make the SATs seem hard and scary just so you study more. Don't stress yourself. After all, you've prepared well and you have all of the resources you need to succeed.
  • Never sacrifice sleep to study more. It doesn't work. Your body commits information to memory when you sleep. If you sacrifice sleep to study, then you will remember less. You cannot cram for the SAT.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencils
  • Calculator
  • Study guides
  • Lots of paper
  • Admission ticket and ID for the day of the test

Sources and Citations

Article Info

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