How to Study for the SAT in 5 Easy Steps

How to Study for SAT

Guest post by Melanie White, content specialist at UWorld SAT

College-bound students need to study for the SAT in order to maximize their scores, but many don’t know where to begin.  The following 5 easy steps will help today’s students succeed on the SAT.

1. Choose a study option

Students who want to score high on their SAT’s need a game plan.  But with so many options, prep classes or private tutor, buying a book or using online resources, deciding what’s best for you can be difficult.  Since many college-bound students are so busy, their greatest challenge might be just finding the time to prepare for the SAT.

Many of the SAT classes offered are either after school or on weekends, times that are very inconvenient or sometimes impossible for students to attend.  Also, it can be a real challenge to find the right private tutor, since most either specialize in verbal or math but don’t tutor both.  Trying to schedule multiple tutoring sessions around the student’s other activities can be frustrating and sometimes even impossible.

Even when students manage to attend classes or tutoring, they still have to study on their own between sessions in order for the training to be the most effective.  Study books and packets are often recommended but the books are usually big and the packets can be easily lost.

Given how techno-savvy most of today’s students are, many prefer to study online when it’s convenient for them.   The advantage is that they don’t have to schedule anything extra like classes or tutoring sessions, and they don’t have to worry about intimidating books or extra papers to keep up with.

The difficulty, then, becomes deciding on the best online option.  First and foremost, students should be able to study on their phones, tablets, or personal computers.  Doing so allows students the most flexibility so that they can study whenever and wherever they want.  Next, students should look for a study system that provides the best explanations because understanding why the answer is either correct or incorrect can help with similar questions on the actual SAT.  Last, students should be able to track their results, so they can see both their progress and what areas still need work.

2. Know what to expect

Students who go into the SAT knowing the types of questions that will be on the test and the best strategies to use to approach these questions typically score higher than those who don’t have any idea what to expect.  The SAT consists of a reading section, writing and language section, math section and optional essay.

Reading Test = 52 questions in 65 minutes, including 5 total passages of between 500-750 words in the following order:

  • Fiction (10 questions)
  • Social science (10-11 questions)
  • Science (10-11 questions)
  • Social science (10-11 questions)
  • Science (10-11 questions)

Of these reading passages, two will contain graphs and one will be a paired passage (2 texts about a similar subject).  For each of the graph passages, 2-3 questions will be asked about the graph and for the paired passage, there will be 2-3 questions that ask questions students to compare or contrast the passages.

Writing and Language Test = 44 questions in 35 minutes, including 4 total passages of between 400-450 words.  Each passage has 11 questions (6 based on the effective use of language and 5 based on the conventions of grammar, including things like punctuation, subject/verb agreement, and parallel structure).  The passages can be based on any one of the following genres:

  • Career
  • History & Social Science
  • Humanities
  • Science

Usually at least one of these passages contains a graph even though there are not always questions about the graph.

Math Test – No Calculator = 20 questions in 25 minutes and Math Test – Calculator = 38 questions in 55 minutes.  The main categories of the questions include the following:

  • Heart of Algebra (linear equations and graphing lines)
  • Passport of Advanced Math (quadratics and non-linear functions)
  • Additional Topics (Geometry and complex numbers)
  • Problem Solving & Data Analysis (scatter plots, probability, proportions, percentages, mean, median, mode, and standard deviation)

Essay (optional) = 1 essay in 50 minutes.  Students will read a 650-750 word persuasive essay and then analyze the author’s argument.  The essay will be graded on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 4 (highest) for each of the following 3 components:

  • How well the student understood the reading
  • How well the student analyzed the author’s argument
  • How well written the essay is (using appropriate transitions, grammar, punctuation)

3. Complete practice questions

Just knowing how many of what types of questions will be asked is not the same as working through SAT questions.  The best online programs are the ones that mirror actual released SATs both in the number and types of questions asked.  Students want to find a program that contains questions resembling the exact types of questions students will be asked to answer on exam day.

However, just because students answer questions similar to the SAT doesn’t guarantee improvement in their scores.  What they need to know is reasoning.  Why are the correct answers right and the incorrect answers wrong?  Helpful explanations are essential to building understanding and SAT scores.  Many programs offer explanations that are not sufficient to help students understand how to correctly answer a similar question in the future.  Students need to learn what they don’t know, and the best way to do so is to practice answering questions and then to get immediate feedback about whether the answer is correct, and if not, exactly why it is wrong.

Along with this type of tutoring mode, another important component that an online program should offer is a timed test feature.  By taking a simulated SAT under timed conditions, students can determine whether they are taking too much time or maybe even rushing through questions.  Students need to find a test rhythm that works so that they are comfortable answering SAT questions in the time allotted.

4. Analyze the results

Once students have answered questions, it is helpful for them to have tools available so that they can analyze how well they did as compared to other students.  After all, that’s what college admission officers do: they compare student test scores to determine which ones to admit and which ones to eliminate.

An effective online program will offer students tools that allow them to see percentages compared to other students of questions they got correct, how much time they took answering individual questions, and the types of questions they are struggling with and need additional practice in order to master.

Many students misjudge their progress, but with a feature that allows them to compare themselves to other students who are also using the program to study for the SAT, they have an accurate picture of how well they are doing.

5. Review difficult concepts

Once students have had the opportunity to complete enough practice to allow them to accurately analyze their progress, a helpful online program will allow them to not only identify their problem areas but to also practice with these concepts in order to improve these skills.  One great way to do so is by using flashcards.  Flashcards can help students improve in a variety of areas:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Math concepts and formulas
  • Grammar rules
  • Reading strategies
  • Literary terms

Another way to review difficult concepts is by choosing targeted questions.  Maybe a student is weak on the quadratic formula or science reading passages.  Then that student needs to have a way to choose to practice only those types of questions.

UWorld SAT meets all the above criteria and more.  The leader in educational questions for doctors and nurses, UWorld has developed the highest quality online program to prepare students for the SAT.  Developed by experienced educators, UWorld’s SAT program meets all the criteria listed in the 5 easy steps above and offers even more features, so that students can electronically learn when they want and where they want.  Nothing beats UWorld for convenience and quality.  Try a free demo today.

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