Eight Study Tips to Help You Master the SAT

Spending three hours taking a test on a Saturday is like getting salmonella from your favorite restaurant on your birthday–—no fun. So, why do colleges ask us to take the SAT?

The test aims to check your knowledge of reading, writing, language, and math, and your score can help determine if you are the right academic fit for the colleges you apply to. In fact, over two-thirds of the nation’s four-year colleges require candidates to submit their scores from the SAT or ACT for admissions consideration.

Though it all makes sense and you know you need to take the exam before applying to most colleges, you’re probably not excited about it. The SAT has 154 multiple-choice questions and an optional 50 minutes of essay writing. It costs $43.00 ($54.50 with essay). It’s no piece of cake, but here is what you need to do before digging into the SAT this Saturday.

Take practice tests.

Students who wonder how to study for the SAT may feel like this Pokemon at work saying "I have no idea what I'm doing."

Pokémon / Giphy

Practice tests are everywhere! It’s likely that some of your teachers can suggest a few to you. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Khan Academy, created in 2006, now offers free practice tests with previously unreleased SAT questions. After you’ve tried those out, you can download a full practice exam to better acquaint yourself with the structure of the real SAT.
  • The Critical Reader was written by Erica L. Meltzer, who received a perfect score on her SAT. She provides blog articles and two books to give you the most comprehensive details about the new SAT.
  • Get 800 books will help you prepare for the math sections, regardless of whether you are intermediate or advanced in your knowledge.

Know what to expect with the test’s structure.

The SAT is unlike any test you’ve ever taken. It tests a little bit of everything over a very long period of time with few breaks. You’ll begin with three writing sections, then move on to three reading passages, three math sections, and if you choose, one essay section. The mandatory writing and reading section, like the math section, is scored on a 200–800 scale. Know the structure of the test and know it well.


Find samples of reading sections online. The topics covered in this section will include one U.S. or world literature passage, two history/social science passages, and two science passages. Afterward, you’ll need to answer multiple-choice questions that test your comprehension of the text, which leads us to our next tip...

Study SAT vocabulary.

When you reach the reading section, it’s important that you easily understand the challenging vocabulary. Read over these SAT words so that they are familiar when you see some of them on the reading section. Then, test yourself using flashcards, or better yet, have a friend test your knowledge.

A girl reads a book and says "These things are great. It's like TV in your head!"

iCarly / Giphy

Study actively.

Don’t just stick your head in the same textbook over and over again; find new ways to keep your mind engaged! Study from different books, handwrite your notes, read out loud, or review materials just before bed. Find new places to buckle down with your books to avoid monotony and really make the most of your time. If you’re feeling sick and tired of studying, it’s time to switch it up.

Take breaks when needed.

It can be tempting to cram all of your study materials into your head last minute, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out of your review sessions. Actually, it’s best to study in 25-minute intervals with five-minute breaks in between, as suggested by the Pomodoro Technique, because it gives your brain time to digest the material.

Stay on a healthy sleep schedule.

Now is not the time to stay up past bedtime and lose sleep. Your rest is important; a lack of sleep can have many negative effects on your body, but getting enough sleep (between seven and nine hours) each night provides a multitude of benefits. When the body is tired, so is the brain. Lack of sleep can challenge your ability to learn and retain information. It also makes reaction time slower and impairs problem-solving skills. Since you need to feel your best this Saturday, be sure to hit the pillow as hard as you hit the books!

Feed your head.

Eat well. Food should nourish the body, so don’t stray toward the junk food that will exhaust you. Some brain foods that are easy to snack on while at the library are blueberries, nuts, trail mix, sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate. Try them out!

As test day nears, check out our guides for the day before and the morning of the test. Good luck!

About Katelyn Brush

Katelyn likes learning, good health, traveling, and pizza on Fridays. Her mixed education, composed of SUNY the College at Brockport, a semester at a community college, and one abroad at the University of Oxford, helped her earn a bachelor’s degree in English. College also gave her a few lessons in Taekwondo and sleeping in a hostel dorm with total strangers. She’s a yoga teacher, author and illustrator of the children’s book, “Signing Together: A Guide to American Sign Language for Everyone.” As a Student Caffé writer, she hopes to help you through the highs and lows of college with a laugh ... or 20.

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