October is right around the corner, which for high school students means one thing: the SATs are fast approaching. On October 11, thousands of students will be sitting down to take the SAT or one of the many SAT Subject Tests. If you’re reading this, you’re one of them—and you’re in search of a few helpful hints to prepare as best you can. So that’s exactly what we have here: our favorite tips from the College Board, reprinted with permission. (After you read them, be sure to download our SAT checklist.)
Know what to expect. Being familiar with the test's format is the single best way to prepare for that test. Go to the testing organization’s website or check out books to get familiar with the various test sections and the instructions for each part. You’ll feel more confident if you know the test format beforehand, and you can save valuable time during the exam.
Take practice exams — for free or at low cost. The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money on test-prep courses. In fact, studies show that high-cost test preparation gets most students little in terms of results. You can find free practice exams on the SAT and ACT websites and in study guides from the test makers in the library, bookstores or your counselor's office. These practice exams can help you discover your strengths and weaknesses and learn to manage your time wisely during the test.
See what areas need work. When you get the score from your practice test, pay attention to the types of questions that gave you trouble and then focus on those areas as you prepare. You can find advice and practice doing different types of questions on the test makers’ websites. But remember, the best way to prepare for the test is to study hard and do well in your classes. So don’t let practicing for admission tests interfere with your course work.
Check your timing. Be sure to time yourself while you are completing practice exams so you can experience real test-day conditions. Admission tests are strictly timed, and their timing is different from regular high school tests. If you find you finished early and got easy questions wrong, slow down and read questions more thoroughly. If you didn’t finish in time, check out the test-taking tips and study aids on the SAT or ACT website or ask your school counselor or a teacher for help.
One thing we’ll add to help relax your mind: remember, you can take it again. According to the College Board, at least half of all students take the SAT twice—in the spring of their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year—and most of them do better the second time around. So breathe, study and relax!