Tips and Tricks for the SAT


Cindy Xie

Staff Writer


With the testing season in full steam ahead, many students are starting their preparations for important exams like the SAT. If you have not started studying for the SAT, and even if you have already taken it, here are some tips that will help improve your test-taking skills!


General Tips

  • If worst comes to worst, just guess! Use the process of elimination and guessing skills to select an answer choice. It is better to guess than to leave an answer blank. You always have a 25% chance of guessing the correct answer!
  • Use your resources. There are hundreds of resources you can use to improve your score. Some fan-favorite study resources are “The Official SAT Study Guide,” Khan Academy (which is free), and “The College Panda.” More free practice tests are available online with a quick Google search.
  • Manage your time wisely. The time constraint of the SAT can be one of the most difficult things for test takers to overcome. Pace yourself; if you find yourself stuck on one question for too long, come back to it later. If you finish a section early, do not just sit there! Double and even triple check your answers before time runs out.
  • Have confidence! In the end, what matters most is that you have tried your best. Study and prepare well and have faith in yourself. If you don’t get a score you like the first time, you can always try again.

Reading and Writing

  • Pay attention to connotation and context. This tip is critical for answering tough questions in the reading section. Look for words that indicate positive or negative connotations. Doing so will help eliminate wrong answer choices.
  • Use “Find the Evidence” questions to your advantage. The reading portion of the SAT often has questions that go together. For example, a question might ask, “Information in Passage 2 best supports which conclusion about the scientific experiment described in Passage 1?” The next question will ask, “Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?” These evidence based questions can be used to find the answer to the first question in the pair. If there is a direct correlation to the evidence listed in the second question, the correct answer to the first question is quite clear.
  • Always read passage introductions carefully. There is a little italicized blurb providing a bit of context about the passage and its author at the beginning of every passage on the SAT. This introduction contains valuable information, and you could miss out on easy points if you skip it.
  • Actively use time-saving strategies while reading the passage. It is important that you know what to focus on while reading the passage. Using strategies such as underlining or circling key phrases will help save time later on. It is also good to concentrate on the first and last paragraphs and the topic sentences for each paragraph as those contain main ideas.
  • Memorize grammar rules. On the writing section of the SAT, there are many questions that strictly test your knowledge of grammar rules. Seeing what “looks right” does not always guarantee that it is grammatically correct. Having a solid understanding of these rules will guarantee you don’t miss out on easy grammatical questions.
  • Don’t read the whole passage of the Writing portion. Reading the whole passage is often not necessary to answer the questions and will waste precious time. Looking at the questions ahead of time will allow you to go directly to the specific area in the passage where the answer is located. However, it is still important to read the sentence before and after the phrase in question to get context.

Math

  • Try to memorize formulas beforehand. Some formulas are provided during the SAT, but it is better to memorize other important formulas beforehand. Knowing certain shortcut formulas will help with time management during the test.
  • Know how to use your calculator. It is critical that you know all the functions of your calculator on the calculator section of the math portion. Oftentimes, a question can be answered with your graphing calculator instead of doing the manual work on paper. This can help save time and ensure a correct answer.
  • Underline key parts of the question. For every question, underline what you need to find in the question so you don’t get confused during the calculation process. The SAT purposely throws in extra, unnecessary information in a question to trick you. By underlining the important parts of the question, this will eliminate all other useless information given.
  • Plug in random numbers to solve equations. If you are struggling to find the value of a variable you need to find, you can always plug in random values to see where that gets you.
  • Show your work! Even though the SAT does not check your work or require it to be shown, it is important that you have an organized area showing your work for a problem. This can make it easier to retrace your steps if a mistake is made and will be helpful when rechecking your work.

I hope these tips and tricks have been useful in your preparation for the exam. Good luck!

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