Preparation for the SATs can seem overwhelming and daunting, but not to worry! Greenwich Education Group will lay out a basic three-month plan you can follow to help improve your test results.
“Just like you cannot train for a marathon in a week, you cannot study for the SATs in a week either,” said Torsie Judkins, Director of Academic Services at Greenwich Education Group. “Some students may not need to dedicate three months to test prep, but other students may need extra time. No two students’ learning styles are the same.”
Spreading out your practice routine is one of the time-proven ways to strengthen your familiarity with the SAT format.
Month One: Develop a Game Plan
1. Register for the test at http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-us-dates.
2. Learn to manage your time by analyzing your day and scheduling in blocks of time for prepping.
3. Practice taking the test. In fact, plan on taking several timed practice tests before the actual one. You need to acclimate not just your mind, but also your body, to the more than four-hour test stint. The bottom line: The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel when taking the actual test.
4. Learn the instruction sections of the test. Not having to reread them on test day will save you precious time.
5. Review your PSAT scores. If this is your first go at the SATs, reviewing your PSAT results will help you analyze your strengths and weaknesses and determine where to focus your prep time.
6. Decide on a form of prep. Options include test prep classes, online courses and tools, private tutoring and/or test prep books. Be realistic about your level of self-discipline and motivation in prepping. Outside help can provide the structure you need to prepare successfully.
7. Download the Question of the Day (QOTD) app, or answer the question online. Make a habit of doing it every day!
8. Spend more time reading. Among other pluses, it will help you improve your vocabulary. Make a commitment to reading something every day.
9. Work on your critical reading skills. Improvement on the Critical Reading section takes time and dedication. Read the newspaper to learn about concise, fact-based writing. Don’t forget the Op-Ed section to learn more about persuasive writing. Read about topics that you may not find initially interesting, as a means of familiarizing yourself with a broad range of subjects.
10. Focus on math. In the math section of the test, make sure to read the questions extremely thoroughly. Many of them have little tricks built in, so learn your formulas well!
11. Concentrate on prime areas. These are grammar, Algebra 1, and geometry. You can “reverse engineer” a question: Plug each possible answer into the equation to see if you can eliminate one or more, and thereby determine the correct choice.
12. Answer the essay question skillfully. With the clock ticking, be sure to pay close attention to responding to the question in an accurate and coherent manner.
Month Two: Focus
1. Continue to practice taking the test. Now that you are one month into your prep, check to see how you are progressing. Don’t just take the test in a quiet room at home. Go someplace where there are distractions (like a library or a coffee shop) to hone your ability to stay focused.
2. Learn about test structure. In most test sections other than the critical reading, the questions progress from easier to more difficult. In the critical reading section, answer the detail-oriented questions first, and then tackle the more general questions at the end.
3. Target weak areas. Based on your practice test performance, really begin to focus on areas that need improvement. You shouldn’t ignore the other sections, but it is time to drill down.
4. Re-evaluate your form of prep. Are you making gains with your current method? If not, it is an ideal time to try another approach like private tutoring.
5. Continue using QOTD daily. It should now be a habit!
6. Keep up with your regular reading. Also consider increasing the difficulty of material.
7. Start writing practice essays. Learning how to write a concise, well-structured essay—including planning, writing and proofreading—in 25 minutes is a challenge, but it can be mastered through practice. Calculate how much time it takes you to do all three steps. It is also important to focus on writing a well-constructed and logical essay and not get overly focused on perfect grammar. A missing comma won’t impact your score as much as sloppy thinking or logic will. The key is coming up with a strong thesis, supplying two or three supporting examples, and then summing up with a strong, logical conclusion.
8. Learn your basic math formulas. That’s not always fun, but the formulas will come in handy. Learning about area computation, triangle rules, and the Pythagorean theorem, for example, will lower stress, save time, and help you get to the right answer quickly.
Month Three: Game Time
1. Practice taking the test again. With one month to go, timed practice tests are imperative. The more times you take the test, the better prepared you will be and feel.
2. Target weak areas. Based on practice test performance, zone in on areas that still need improvement.
3. Read up on test techniques. As an example, math questions sometimes ask, “What is x+1?” You solve for x but then forget to add the 1. Here’s a simple tip that boosts your overall ability to concentrate and answer properly: Know when to skip a question and when to guess. That way you will avoid getting hung up on one answer and using up all your time. Look up some test prep secrets online to learn to avoid other common test-taking pitfalls.
4. Brush up on the basics. Continue to review grammar, Algebra 1 and geometry.
5. Learn to use the calculator. The SATs allow you to use a calculator. Check the test website (here) for the calculator policy and a list of acceptable models. And remember: Test day isn’t the day to unwrap the device and start figuring out how to use it.
6. Practice relaxation techniques. Come exam day, with the prep time you have put in, the exam won’t be as stressful as you feared. Learning to take deep breaths, close your eyes to calm yourself, and then refocus will all come in handy.
7. Don’t fixate on the exam. Prepping is important, but making it all consuming can simply sap your energy and make you overly anxious. Stay active so that your body is prepared for the physical demand of four hours of testing. Also make sure you are rested and well fed. Get your test-day pencils, calculator, watch, food, and other supplies ready a day before so you aren’t running around the morning of the test.
8. Go into test day knowing that you have a practiced strategy. You are rested, relaxed, and ready to go!
For more information about SAT test prep, please contact Torsie Judkins at
[email protected] or 203-661-1609 ext. 100.