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The only SAT preparation guide you need to follow

Amelia Carruthers
Last Updated: 22 October 2021 • 5 min read

A Standard Assessment Test, more commonly known as the SAT, is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities in the US to make admission decisions.

The SAT is a multiple-choice exam created and administered by the College Board and primarily tests your math skills as well as reading and writing in English.

For any international student looking to study in the US, your SAT score is a key part of the application process.

Today, we cover key tips for taking the SATs, including how to prepare and study for the SAT as well as writing and testing tips. 

So if you’re ready to discover the best way to study for the SAT (and get the grades you need!), let’s begin…

How to Prepare for the SAT

  1. SAT Section Breakdown
  2. How to study for the SAT
  3. Learn quick maths
  4. Revise spelling and grammar
  5. Make use of practice papers
  6. Read as widely as possible
  7. Changes to admissions requirements
  8. Summary

1. SAT Section Breakdown

Like any exam, SAT preparation is absolutely essential in achieving a top score. The more you study and prepare for different types of questions, the higher chance you’ll get the grade you’re after.

A good starting point is knowing what you need to study. The new SAT paper has 3 mandatory sections and one optional section. Do check with the college or university you’ve applied to whether they require you to complete the optional section.

These four sections include:

  • Math Test (1 hour 20 minutes) – this is broken down into two sections of “no calculator” (25 minutes, 20 questions) and “calculator permitted” (55 minutes, 38 questions)
  • Reading Test (1 hour 5 minutes, 52 questions)
  • Writing and Language Test (35 minutes, 44 questions)
  • Optional Essay (50 minutes)

The SAT is scored on a 400 to 1600 scale, with sub-score reporting for every section. Points aren’t deducted for wrong answers, so if you’re ever unsure – don’t leave any questions blank!

2. How to study for the SAT

The best way to study for the SAT is gaining a thorough understanding of the requirements for each section and taking plenty of practice exams!

Students often make the mistake of focusing on just one area of the exam, which can negatively impact their overall score.

Each section is designed to test your skills and knowledge rather than memorising factual information.

So to maximise your SAT preparation, focus on the foundational principles with plenty of practice questions and analysis. With this in mind, here are four key tips for taking the SATs: 

3. Learn quick maths

Mental arithmetic will save you loads of time on test day, particularly in the maths section where you aren’t allowed a calculator.

If you can work out 7 x 9 in a snap of a finger, then you’ll have a huge advantage. There are plenty of online resources, SAT testing tips and an array of apps to help you improve your maths game.

Do remember that the math test examines problem solving and data analysis (including rations, percentages and proportional reasoning), algebra and more complex equations. So if you weren’t that confident on these topics at school, it’s worth going back to basics.

4. Revise spelling and grammar

A good understanding of spelling and grammar will take you far in your SAT exam. This SAT writing tip may not be the most exciting part of your revision schedule, but especially if you are tackling the optional essay question – it’s a must.

The reading and writing sections when combined with the essay will account for the majority of this nearly four-hour exam.

Invest in grammar guides and read as widely as possible to improve your spellings. If English isn’t your first language, consider joining a language group or formal short-courses.

As well as helping with SAT preparation, it’s a great way to make friends and learn in a natural setting. To keep things fun, crosswords and codewords as well as watching English television with subtitles are all good ways to work on core SAT writing skills.

5. Make use of Practice papers

Before entering the exam hall, you can (and should!) take full advantage of full-length SAT practice tests. There are a variety of free and paid practice tests available, providing SAT testing tips and an opportunity to understand your current pace and progress.

A great place to start is the SAT Suite of Assessments Practice Tests – created by the makers of the SAT. Eight official SAT practice tests are available for free (both online and downloadable versions for pen and paper practice) with exactly the same question-types you’ll see on test day.

This is one of the most important SAT preparation tips, as the more you can familiarise yourself with the format and question seen in the exam itself, the calmer and more confident you’ll feel for the real thing.

6. Read as widely as possible

One of the best tips for the SAT reading section is simply to read as widely as possible. And by this, we mean everything and anything you can lay your hands on!

Go with the content you enjoy the most, whether that’s newspapers, fictional novels, online scientific journals, course textbooks or magazines – the more you read in English and the more variety you encounter, the better equipped you’ll be for the SAT reading section.

It might sound cliché but reading really is the best way to study for the SAT. It allows you to learn and improve your vocabulary, spelling and grammar, as well as providing you with new and interesting ideas to call upon for the written section.

7. Changes to admissions requirements

The SAT is primarily used for US college applications, though increasingly the exam is accepted by numerous universities in the UK, Canada, Germany, Singapore and Australia.

Do remember that your institution might not require SAT scores however, so this is worth checking!

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, many US colleges have announced they won’t require SAT results for 2021/22 applicants.

According to a FairTest report, 85% of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the US are planning to temporarily move to a “test-optional submission system” for the current year – and there’s potential this may continue long-term.

8. Summary

We hope you now have a great understanding of what the SAT exam entails and how to prepare for the SAT. With these SAT preparation tips in mind, you’ll be off to the best possible start.

Just make sure to check with your chosen college or university if they are currently asking for SAT scores, as well as if you have to complete the optional essay section.

With plenty of practice papers, quick-fire maths and fun spelling, grammar and reading exercises, you’ll have all the skills you need to truly ace your SATs.

Interested in studying abroad? Explore Edvoy to find handy tips and tricks to make your journey as seamless as possible!

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Amelia Carruthers
Written By
Amelia Carruthers

With a background in academic publishing, education and digital marketing, Amelia Carruthers is a freelance writer with a love of history, philosophy and the written word.

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