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Kavitha Vijeyavelan
17 Aug 2015 32K 6 mins Share

How to prepare for the SAT

What is the SAT test all about? This article offers students tips for their SAT prep and gives them useful information on the various aspects of the exam.

17 Aug 2015 32K 6 mins Share

Did you know that over two million students from 175 countries take the SAT every year?

Just recently, the test was said to have seen over 13,000 applicants from India alone! Gulp! No pressure — we just wanted to point out! For starters, the SAT test, created by The College Board, USA, is a must for students looking to get into US Unis at the UG level and for some top Unis even in the UK such as Oxford and Cambridge. The SAT will cost you $52.50 for registration.

We know you’ve heard around that there are some huge changes to be made to the test, but that is not fixed yet. This is set to happen only in the year 2016 so don’t start worrying about that.

Best Friend or Frenemy?

We assure you that come test day, you will be in some hot water if you haven’t taken your prep seriously! There is a common misconception among students that as long as they are generally good in studies, they can walk in unprepared. It is not just any test but THE first step you take towards higher education abroad. This three-hour-and-45-minute test, accepted by almost all US Unis and colleges, could get you one step closer to you living out your study abroad dream.

So what is it all about, you ask? The SAT tests your skills in reading, writing and math, to see if you have what it takes to succeed at a US Uni. You do…don’t you? Prove yourself and ace the test to be taken seriously. (On a lighter note — here’s a fun fact: The SAT currently doesn’t stand for anything; it is not an acronym — just SAT!)

Here are a few suggestions we put together on how you can get started with your SAT prep.

What’s on It!

First things first, read up on all your test basics! You must know all there is to know about the test structure. Here’s a quick preview:

  • The Reading Section: This 70 minute-section has one 20 minute-section and two 25-minute-sections covering passage-based reading (48 questions) and sentence completion (19 questions).
  • The Math Section: This 70 minute-section has one 20 minute-section and two 25-minute-sections with 44 multiple choice questions and 10 student produced responses.
  • The Writing Section: This 60 minute-section has one 10-minute-section and two 25-minute-sections covering improving sentences (25 questions), identifying sentence errors (18 questions), improving paragraphs (6 questions), and one essay question.

You can score anywhere from 600 to 2400, taking into account the above three 800-point sections. Also know what to take to the test centre: your photo ID, two pencils and an eraser (yes, it’s a paper-based test), a calculator (graphing, scientific, and four function ones only — don’t walk in and expect them to let you use your laptop or your cell phone calculator!)

Early Bird Catches The Worm!

We know! We know! You are probably the busiest teen in your school but nonetheless, you need to prepare yourself a good study schedule early on and get started. Starting your prep as early on as you can is very crucial. Some even suggest that you can start with your preparation two years ahead of time — that would be from your eleventh grade. Prepping for the SAT could be very much like training for a marathon — requires time, practice and dedication.

Or if you’re really not interested in starting with your SAT prep years ahead of time, we suggest to you to “think months, not days”. That should set you on the right track.

Some might think they need just a week or two and some a lifetime; don’t get confused by what others say. Depending on how much time you think you would need, tailor your study plans accordingly around that. The earlier, the better — we cannot stress that enough!


Make sure you get yourself the best study materials in the market and also join a few prep classes if you need extra help. Don’t get all miserly when it comes to prep materials — remember that a good SAT score could fetch you amazing scholarship deals and make your student life a lot easier. Think long-term and invest in some quality materials after good research.

The More The Merrier- Indeed!

As soon as you get yourself a study guide and are about to start with intense prep sessions, flip to its back and take a mock test. The score you get in this test will be your baseline score. This should point out your areas of improvement. You should then focus and work harder in these areas than the other ones. Start warming up for the big day with as many mock tests as you can possibly take.

Mock test-runs will also help you master the overall structure and formula of the essay. It may seem easy, but it will be really hard to go in and produce a good essay in 25 minutes for the first time, with no prior practice. You will need to figure out how to brainstorm, outline, write, and proof-read at the right pace. Needless to say, you will be expected to have a good command of the English language.

Calculator Math!

Your math teachers would have worked tirelessly to wean you off the calculator! SAT is kind though…and thank goodness for that! Using your calculator will help you save time and avoid careless mistakes so don’t hold back. Start working out your math problems (get used to typing out mathematical equations) with your calculator.

In Your Memory!

It’s true that the SAT will provide you with a few geometry formulas but we strongly feel you will be better off memorizing all your important formulas and rules. Why take a risk? A few things to remember: the Pythagorean Thoerem; area formulas; exponent rules; special triangle rules; the average formula.

Words Matter!

When it comes to  building your vocabulary, we are not suggesting that you learn every single word from your dictionary! No, of course not! Take your time to remember the words and for the ones that you have difficulty remembering — you can make flash cards and go through them from time to time or learn about the roots of the words. Reading up articles and newspapers could also do good for your vocabulary-building. Expanding your vocabulary will surely help you with Sentence Completion and Reading Comprehension (knowing what the words mean will help, without a doubt).

Multiple-Choice: A Good Thing!

The test is mostly a multiple-choice test and you can work this to your advantage. When it comes to ‘Identifying Sentence Errors’ and ‘Improving Sentences’ questions, we suggest you to look at the different answer choices to see what grammatical concept is being tested here. For your math probs, you may be able to eliminate some answer choices by putting these back into the equation. These are the things you should be on the lookout for! Don’t let a few hard questions get the better of you and spoil your chances of a good score.

Tick Tock Tick Tock!

If you are unsure of a question, do yourself a favour and skip it. You are not going to gain anything out of sweating over one question that you don’t understand, when time is running out fast. If you know for sure that the answer has got to be one of those two choices but don’t know which one (don’t beat yourself up over it), make an educated guess and get a move on! This is crucial because in the SAT, you get one point for a right answer and you lose a fractional point for a wrong one — ouch (except for in the mathematical grid — in questions which do not have negative marking). There will be no negative marking for questions that you have skipped though. Know when to guess and when to skip. Learn how to overcome such difficulties well in your mock tests.


Last and most important tip: take a deep breath and stay stress-free at all times! Stress has never been a contributing factor to anything as far as we’ve known.


Your SAT score will be mailed to you in a time period of four to six weeks. You can also choose to look up your scores online through the College Board website, two weeks post the exam date.


Not satisfied with you SAT results? Not a problem — you have the option of retaking the SAT test to get that score you need, the second time around. Before taking the plunge again, make sure you focus on your weak areas and do some serious prep.

Wondering how many times you can retake the SAT? If the college you are about to apply to requires you to send only the highest scores, you can retake the SAT as many times as you please. If the college, however, requires you to send through all your test scores, we advise you to take the test no more than three times.


Yes, we know you are looking to get into some of the top-ranking schools in the USA, so we advise you to aim for a score of 2100 or above. It may sound high, but if you put in the effort and follow our basic tips, it is absolutely possible. We could go on and give you a thousand more pointers (okay, maybe not a thousand but you get what we mean) however these are the biggies you should bear in mind.

And if you are also looking for guidance of any kind in your study abroad quest, we are here for you! Get in touch with us and tell us how we can help.

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