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48 Things You Should Know For The SAT

Studying for the SAT can be quite the undertaking. You will likely go over most of the concepts covered on the test in your classes, but there are certain things that don’t get as much attention during the school year. Additionally, prioritizing what to do during study time or on the test can be difficult to decide. Here are 40 tips for the SAT that we commonly give students to ensure that they can do their best on the test.

General Tips

  1. The new SAT no longer penalizes you for wrong answers, so it is to your benefit to guess and have some answer for all questions.
  2. If there are any spots left on the test, pick one letter and bubble it in for the rest of the remaining questions.
  3. If you study the night before, do a light review of the information you have already covered. Do not go over new information at this point. Don’t cram.
  4. Get plenty of sleep the night before the test, and make sure to eat a healthy breakfast the day of.
  5. Lay out everything you will need for the test the night before. You should be able to almost roll out of bed and go straight to the test. Lay out: clothes, pencils, pencil sharpener, calculator, extra batteries for your calculator, watch (that doesn’t make a sound), your photo ID, your admission ticket, snacks.
  6. Don’t bring: cell phone (if you do, make sure it’s turned off during the entire time of the test, even during breaks) and other technology, notes, books, a pencil that is not #2.
  7. In all sections, questions start off easier and get progressively harder. Spend less time with on the earlier questions to give more time for the harder ones.
  8. You don’t have to answer questions in order. Feel free to skip around and start with passages/questions that are easier/more interesting to you. Save the tough questions until after you have completed all the easier ones.
  9. Pay close attention to what the question is actually asking you to do.
  10. If time is an issue, practice while pacing yourself. Do practice problems while timing yourself with a wristwatch (like you will do on the exam).
  11. Study consistently each day for the test. 30 minutes per day can go a long way. Remember to not only do practice problems but read explanations of why you missed any questions and try to understand the concept more.

Writing and Language

  1. The New SAT has a much greater emphasis on words in context. It is no longer good enough to know vocabulary words. Instead, you must be able to understand the meaning of words based on how it is used in the passage. Read the sentences before and after (at least!) the target sentence with the key word. Ask yourself: what emotion does this word convey? Is it positive or negative? What is happening when this word is used? What word would I substitute in its place that would make sense?
  2. No change is a valid choice. The test is not trying to trick you. Pay close attention to the sentence, though, and the other tips in this section.
  3. Read out loud to yourself. Read the words how your would say it to someone else. This will help you get a better feel for where the punctuation goes and how the sentences work grammatically. If it seems odd, it may be incorrect.
  4. Pay close attention to what the question is asking you to do.
  5. Use commas where a breath is needed or to separate extra information from the rest of the sentence. To identify what is extra information, draw a light line through everything but the subject, it’s verb, and any object of the verb.
  6. Avoid wordiness. The correct answer should contain relevant information and shouldn’t repeat information within the same sentence.
  7. Pay attention to the tense of the verbs in the rest of the paragraph. The correct answer will likely be in the same tense.
  8. Pay attention to the form of the verbs in the rest of the sentence. The correct answer likely has the verb in the same form (e.g. Talking…walking/ NOT talking….to walk/walked/he walked, etc.)
  9. Review these grammar rules:
    1. Subject-verb agreement
    2. Pronoun agreement
    3. Using adjectives and adverbs
    4. Comparative and superlative adjectives
    5. Punctuation: commas, semicolons, colons, and dashes
    6. Conjunctions (always have a comma before it if between two complete sentences):
        1. FANBOYS
          1. For
          2. And
          3. Nor
          4. But
          5. Or
          6. Yet
          7. So
  10. Pay attention to the answer choices. What is changing and what is staying the same?

Reading

  1. The New SAT has a much greater emphasis on words in context. It is no longer good enough to know vocabulary words. Instead, you must be able to understand the meaning of words based on how it is used in the passage. Read the sentences before and after (at least!) the target sentence with the key word. Ask yourself: what emotion does this word convey? Is it positive or negative? What is happening when this word is used? What word would I substitute in its place that would make sense?
  2. Pay attention to the big picture of the passage and what it’s all about.
  3. The questions often appear in the order of when they appear in the passage (not including general questions about the passage as a whole).
  4. The New SAT places much more emphasis on command of evidence. In other words, they want to you to be able to find examples in the text that will support a certain viewpoint.
  5. Take notes, underline, circle information as you read the passage.
  6. If you’re not a fast reader, consider going straight to the questions first and referring back to the passage for the answers. Read the answer choices to give you an idea of what you should be looking for.
  7. Don’t overthink any words you may not know. You don’t need to know what most of them mean. Just pay attention to what the passage is saying about that word and how it’s used.
  8. Remember that authors choose their words for a reason when writing. Think: what is the author trying to make you think/feel?
  9. Pay attention to the ideas that are mentioned frequently. This is likely the main idea.
  10. When trying to understand the main idea of a paragraph, read the first and last sentences. When trying to understand the main idea of the passage, read the first and last sentences (and maybe the entire first/last paragraphs).

Math (No Calculator)

  1. Most formulas you will need are provided at the beginning of each Math section.
  2. The New SAT’s Math section has a much greater emphasis on Algebra and word problems.
  3. Make sure you understand how equations and functions work very well.
  4. Pay close attention to units of measurement. If any unit of measurement is mentioned, make sure everything else in the problem is in that unit of measurement; you may need to convert.

Math (Calculator)

  1. You will see more word problems in this section. When solving word problems, read one sentence at a time and write any numbers or relationship clues off to the side after each sentence. This will help you keep everything organized and see a clearer picture of the relationships between each element of the problem.
  2. If you don’t know how to approach the problem, try substituting the answers into the problem (start with the middle answer choices).
  3. If you don’t understand the math (especially in problems where the answer choices still have variables), try plugging in numbers that make sense for the problem. Choose numbers that you can calculate easily (Usually 1,2,3 and 10 work well).
  4. Know when not to use your calculator. Don’t use your calculator for simple operations like one or two-digit addition. Doing so only takes more time to put it into the calculator, and it will make each of the more difficult problems take longer.

Writing

  1. Review sample essays and the SAT Writing Test Scoring Rubric to better understand what you should include in your writing.
  2. The writing section grades you on three areas: your understanding of the meaning of the text, your analysis of the text, and your own writing.
  3. The New SAT’s Writing section is very different than other essay tests you have taken before. Instead of forming your own argument, the test wants you to analyze someone else’s argument.
  4. DO NOT state whether or not you agree with the author’s claims. That is not the point of this section.
  5. The focus of this section is to analyze how an author builds their argument in the passage.
  6. Things to think about as you are reading:
    1. What are the author’s main points?
    2. How does the author support these points with evidence?
    3. What is the purpose of this passage? Is the author trying to convince you? Teach you? Make you feel something?
    4. Is there anything that distracts the reader from the argument of the essay?
  7. Remember the 4 Cs of writing. Good writing is:
    1. Clear
    2. Concise
    3. Consistent
    4. Has Complete Sentences
  8. Spend 5-7 minutes in the beginning to plan and create a basic outline of your passage.
  9. Write a strong introduction and conclusion.

Looking for more help? Check out our SAT worksheets.