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How to Prepare for the SAT: 7 Smart Tips

Need help getting ready for the SAT? Check out these proven tips on how to prepare for the SAT the smart way.

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By Julia Bashore

how to prepare for the sat

When it comes to getting into the college of your dreams, there are many factors at play. Your GPA, extracurriculars, and experiences all contribute to what makes you a good fit for a certain school. While all of these elements are important, however, there’s another very significant marker of aptitude and achievement used by the majority of universities across the country: your SAT score.

The SAT (originally named the Scholastic Aptitude Test, though it’s since been rebranded) has been around for almost a century, and continues to be one of the most definitive exams for college admittance. Divided into three parts (reading, mathematics, and writing) and clocking in at three hours long, it’s a formidable exam. The SAT is typically offered seven times per year, but each session costs around $60.  Plus, depending on when your applications are due, you may not have time for endless attempts.

As a teacher, I know how all of this can put a lot of stress on students, at a time when you’re likely already overwhelmed with other academic and social pressures such as homework, sports practices, after school jobs, and other commitments.

If the SAT is looming large in your future, though, there’s no need to despair.  There are plenty of easy ways you can start getting ready to ace this test and get the score you’re seeking. Read on to learn my top tips for rocking the SAT – and not letting the stress of studying for it rule your life.

1. Invest in a Virtual Study Buddy

Acely | SAT and ACT Test Prep Acely | SAT and ACT Test Prep

Acely's AI-driven platform offers a smarter way to prepare for the SAT and ACT, providing endless questions and tailored guidance at your fingertips. This digital study companion is designed to lead you towards success, one tailored practice question after another.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Imagine having endless SAT prep questions, along with detailed answers and explanations, in your pocket whenever you need them.

That’s what you’ll get if you sign up for Acely, an SAT-prep chatbot created by education company Juni Learning.

For the cost of roughly one hour-long in-person tutoring session (between $39 and $26 a month, depending on what option you choose), you can subscribe to the Acely program and gain access to an infinite number of rigorous SAT-style questions.

What I like even better, Acely will target the specific types of questions that will help grow your skills and improve your score.

The online SAT prep program begins with a concise diagnostic test, pinpointing your strengths and weaknesses right from the start. I really believe this targeted approach ensures that your study time is spent efficiently, focusing on the question types that challenge you the most.

By honing in on these areas, Acely helps you study more intentionally, avoiding the common trap of aimlessly reviewing material you’ve already mastered. As a teacher, I believe this method not only reduces stress by making your preparation more manageable but also maximizes the effectiveness of your study sessions, ensuring you’re focusing exactly where you need it most.

The more you interact with the Acely bot, the more fine-tuned it becomes to your needs.  With Acely, you can answer questions, ask for detailed explanations, and get expert hints to help you learn new strategies for overcoming setbacks.

Like ChatGPT, Acely is an AI-powered large language model.  Unlike ChatGPT, though, this one is tailored specifically to SAT prep… and every question and answer has been reviewed by an actual human, to ensure accuracy.

Acely doesn’t require you to be in class or do a certain number of practice problems per day.  It’s entirely student-led, which provides a great deal of flexibility.

You can access the Acely site and chatbot 24/7 from desktop or mobile, but there’s no assigned homework or checkpoints along the way.  Instead, it’s totally up to you to adapt this study tool into your routine in whatever way works best for you.

I love Acely as a low-stress way to incorporate meaningful practice into your day however you can.

Whether it’s a few minutes on the bus in the morning or half an hour before bed each night, you can use Acely to receive targeted guidance on how to get your score where you want it to be.

You can read our Acely review to learn more or click here to try it now.

2. Consider a Class 

Though more costly and time-consuming, in-person classes can also be a valuable way to improve your outcome on the SAT.

Well-known preparatory groups like The Princeton Academy offer both in-person and online options, so you can find the type of class that works best for your study style.

You can also ask around at your high school or community college to find a local tutor who may be able to give you even more one-on-one guidance.

Classes and tutors are a great way to ensure that you’re actually putting in the time to make your score stronger.  Plus, you can ask questions and get answers right away, and receive valuable input from your instructor about where you need to improve.

Whether you sign up for a weekly class or an one-time all-day workshop, make the most of your class by coming in on time and ready to learn.

SAT prep classes aren’t cheap, but they can be a highly effective way to gain confidence and insight on how to do your best on the real thing.

3. Find Your People

Another great way to boost your accountability and build practice time into your day is to create a study group with your peers.

You’re likely not the only person at your school who is preparing for the SAT, so why not combine forces and begin working together?

Designate a time and a quiet place for meeting, whether it’s an an unused classroom after school, the local library, or even a calm coffeeshop nearby.

Working with others can be an easy way to gain confidence, share struggles and success, and keep the big picture in mind.

If you’re homeschooled or can’t find any fellow students at your school who are interested in a study group, don’t give up!  There are plenty of virtual options that you can explore that can be just as valuable when it comes to studying.

Just make sure you don’t have too much fun at your study group sessions and forget to focus on the actual work!

4. Look in the Library

An economical way to improve your SAT score is to check out SAT practice books from your local library.

Even if your library doesn’t have any in stock, you can explore eBook options or make a request.  

These practice books contain tons of valuable information on the SAT test, and usually include plenty of practice problems, answers, and essay prompts.

Even if the practice books you find are slightly dated, they’re still a great resource for building your testing resiliency.  The more you expose yourself to the vocabulary and question stems used on the SAT, the less likely you are to be caught off guard by anything the real test throws your way.

5. Rely on a Routine

Setting up a routine is an essential component of any successful studying.  Determine when you’re most able to concentrate and focus on the SAT, and then commit to using that time consistently.

Whether it’s a few hours every weekend or a couple minutes each morning, it’s important to have a set plan in place for success.

The reason for sticking to a routine is to help you mentally prepare for studying… and to ensure that you’ve actually blocked off enough time for adequate preparation.

Make no mistake, the point of the routine is not to make studying stagnant and boring.

In fact, you should mix it up by using online practice, like Acely, as well as in-person study groups and practice books, to keep things fresh and prevent yourself from zoning out!

6. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Remember, getting ready for a big test like the SAT is like training for a marathon.  You can’t go from running one mile to suddenly sprinting 26!

With that in mind, try to start studying early, so that you have several months to build your testing stamina and become familiar with the test.

Figure out the best test date for you well in advance, and then mark your calendar so that you have plenty of time to get ready.

Starting early will  help you avoid the stress that comes with unforeseen setbacks or scheduling complications.

Procrastination can make it harder to concentrate and easier to get bogged down in negative thinking, so do yourself a favor and avoid it!  No one wants to feel like they have to rush through test prep and put everything else in life on the back burner.

After all, high school is an unpredictable time, and you don’t want to have to turn down an amazing chance to star in a play or visit a friend simply because you have to cram for your SAT in two weeks!

7. Stay Calm, Cool, and Collected

Above all, don’t let stress and anxiety end up working against you.

Incorporate SAT practice into your daily routine in a way that works for you, without making you feel like it’s ruling your life.  (Again, this is where planning ahead and sticking to a good routine will work wonders!)

Whether it’s completing a few Acely practice questions or grabbing a coffee and going over practice essays with a friend, it’s important to find ways to study that are productive and positive experiences.

The SAT is important, after all, but so is your mental health and well-being.  By following these seven tips, you’re sure to receive the score you want… without sacrificing your sanity!

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