3 Secrets to Successful SAT Prep By Heather Hamilton

161115_pencil_notebookAs you begin to think about preparing for the SAT, you may feel overwhelmed. There are so many study plans and ways to begin — not to mention the act of familiarizing yourself with the format, scoring, and various other details. Luckily, SAT prep doesn’t have to be too complicated.


Success on the SAT can be reached with the help of three simple secrets — and you’re about to learn them.

  1. Learn to be a good reader

Sure, by the time you’ve nearly completed high school, you think of yourself as a good reader. You can fly through a book you’ve procrastinated or comfortably read aloud in class. But how much are you actually retaining? To be successful in SAT preparation, you’ll want to make sure your reading comprehension is also well developed.

To improve your reading comprehension skills, try keeping notes as you read a text. Do this in whichever way makes sense to you, and review the notes often. Pay attention to things that are happening below the surface of the text. Consider also reading the text aloud (even if you’re just whispering to yourself) to create a better understanding of what you are reading.

Ultimately, all of this practice should be able to help you ensure you’re doing a thorough job of reading all text on the SAT. In the math section, for instance, test creators may try and mislead you by asking a complexly-worded question. Moreover, among the answers will be the correct one for the question you thought you were being asked, so look out. By reading effectively, you’ll minimize this sort of trouble with the test.

Developing your reading comprehension will help ensure your SAT preparation is effective and complete. Read carefully and try to remember what you read to be successful in SAT prep — and on the SAT, of course.

  1. Make a thorough plan

One of the most obvious (but effective) strategies for SAT success is to be a good planner. Figure out how much time you’ve got to prepare for the test and begin outlining a strategy for yourself. Look at areas of strength and weakness, deciding how you will address your prep for each section. If you start to feel off course, refer back to your plan; are you studying the way you promised yourself you would? Write your plan down so you can continue to refer to it. Post it visibly in your study space and look at it often.

Take your planning one step further by identifying specific ways to study for each section before you even begin. Don’t limit yourself—studying in a variety of ways can be useful. From flashcards to study groups, a well thought-out strategy will help you perform your very best on the SAT.

As part of your plan, identify a location (i.e. predetermined study space) where you can study effectively. This may be in a crowded coffee shop or a quiet library. You may study at your kitchen table or in a comfy chair in your room. Every student is different, so figure out what works for you.

  1. Identify and cater to your learning style

A crucial part of any test prep is identifying your learning style. While this won’t change the test itself, it will certainly alter the way you prep for it. Check with your high school counseling department to see if they have a way to help you identify your learning style, or go online and take a few tests to see what kind of learner you are. Note, however, that each student isn’t necessarily boxed into one learning style alone; you may find that a mix of styles benefit you — visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.

Once you have this information, make (or modify) your SAT prep plan. You may need to record and listen to lectures or make flowcharts of information you want to retain. You may need more time to study in a group or you might need to bump up your solo study time. Figuring out how you learn best will help make your preparation both efficient and effective.

The bottom line

Successful preparation for the SAT generally leads to success on the SAT, so don’t take the process lightly. By putting in some time now, you may be saving yourself from having to retake the test later, and you may be securing yourself a spot at the college of your dreams!

Heather Hamilton is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.