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How should I study for the SAT?

nomoodnomood 322 replies29 threads Member
To clarify, I already took the SAT once in March 2019 and scored a 1540 (750 reading and 790 math) with a 17 essay. The main reason I'm retaking it is to boost my essay score to at least 20, and if my actual SAT score improves that's a bonus too.

I'm taking the SAT in August, so that gives me about two months to prepare. However, I'm going on a summer program for all of July, so that takes out a good chunk of studying tinme. I considered taking a prep book with me on the program, but I'm only bringing a carryon and personal item so I don't want to waste space with a giant prep book. (Unless someone can recommend a small book that doesn't take too much space.)

That leaves me the rest of June and August. Any suggestions on how I can 1) raise my essay score and 2) raise my actual SAT score?
20 replies
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Replies to: How should I study for the SAT?

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6643 replies2 threads Senior Member
    Can you afford a tutor? It seems to me that you have gotten to the point that focusing in on a few narrow areas where you need the most help is appropriate.

    Did you know which question (or very small set of questions) you missed on the math SAT? I took the math SAT many decades ago, but I still remember the one question that was badly formed where I had to guess which slightly (infinitesmally) wrong answer was the one that they were looking for.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10384 replies122 threads Senior Member
    I don't think you need to retake at all. Most schools no longer require or consider the essay, and a 1540 is a great score.
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1775 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Totally agree with you @momofsenior1
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  • nomoodnomood 322 replies29 threads Member
    @DadTwoGirls I can afford a tutor, but I've tried that before and they don't seem to work for me. I don't know where I went wrong on the math SAT, because I usually always get 800's. In a previous post I mentioned that I didn't get much sleep and that I got in a fight with my parents so that may be way I messed up a little. I just want to make sure that in August, I get a 20 plus essay, with 800 math and 750 plus on reading. I'm just not sure how to practice.

    @momofsenior1 and @makemesmart I already registered for the August one, so I'm just going to try anyway.

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  • txmom19txmom19 60 replies4 threads Junior Member
    At this point, I think you already have mastered the material. All you need to do now is practice. Take as many practice tests as you can find. Also, like you already know, try to get good sleep starting a few nights before the test.
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  • nomoodnomood 322 replies29 threads Member
    @txmom19 thanks! I already took all the practice tests on the collegeboard website so do you have any recommendations for other tests?
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  • txmom19txmom19 60 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Look into khan academy for test practice.
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  • Concerto23Concerto23 1 replies0 threads New Member
    Yeah study and rest well, but I don't know of any small SAT prep books.
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  • ReadWriteSpeakReadWriteSpeak 2 replies0 threads New Member
    “I can afford a tutor, but I've tried that before and they don't seem to work for me...”

    ...says no one who has ever had a quality instructor.
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member

    1) Speaking as a tutor, a tutor could help. Not all tutors are created equal. That being said, you probably don't need one--though you might improve more quickly with a good one. A good tutor can help point out a few things that might be troubling you. Might be good to get you over the last hump.

    2) I wouldn't worry about your math score. Still take math practice tests to stay fresh, but if you are getting a 790, you probably already know all you need to know for the math section. It's just a matter of not making careless mistakes.

    3) There are people who will tell you that a 750 is good enough. Maybe. We can reasonably infer from data trends that scoring higher does improve chances. I also recently read something that mentioned a study (from 2008 I believe) in which admissions officers were surveyed. According to the study, most admissions officers said that a 770 makes a significant difference to chances over a 750. Again the study was from 2008, but I'm not sure why opinions would have changed.

    4) To give you advice on the essay, it would be helpful to know your score breakdown. The advice I would give would vary a lot based on that.

    5) Same with EBRW. How many did you get wrong on the reading section. How many did you get wrong the writing section you have. Any additional info you have on your performance might be useful for giving advice.

    6) There are more qas tests on reddit. 7 more I believe (or maybe it is 7 more with scoring?).
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  • nomoodnomood 322 replies29 threads Member

    I would try a tutor again, but I'm taking it in August and I'll be out of the country all of July, so I'm leaning more towards self studying

    My essay breakdown was 6/5/6, so pretty even. I don't know how many I got wrong on the reading section because I didn't get a score report, but with all the practice tests I've taken I usually get 2-5 questions wrong and get 750.

    Thanks for the advice on other practice tests - I'll check them out.

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  • evergreen5evergreen5 2060 replies38 threads Senior Member
    From what I have read, for the very, very few colleges that require the essay, a 17 would be fine. I would not retake.
    770 makes a significant difference to chances over a 750. Again the study was from 2008, but I'm not sure why opinions would have changed.
    The scales may be a little different now. For June 2018, 770 vs 750 would have been -1 vs -2. To attach great significance to a one-question difference seems silly. (I suspect any significance attached to that type of score difference may be ranking related rather than indicative of something about the applicant.) The easier tests of the past school year would seem not to distinguish reliably among top students.

    College Board finally published a validity study for the first time since the Redesign. It compares score bands of 200 points, e.g., 1200-1390 vs 1400-1600, not 20 points, although past validity studies may have been similar. (link, for anyone interested: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/national-sat-validity-study.pdf)
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member

    Yeah, I mean you can almost certainly get by fine on your own.

    With regards to the essay, a better score might help, but I don't think your current score will hurt you very much either. Still, improving can be helpful and can help for performing well on other standardized tests (like APs) that have essay components.

    Your essay score implies to me that you don't entirely understand what the task of the essay is. As you probably know, the 3 writing scores are reading, analysis, and writing. The reading score is based on how well you understood the text. If you only show a superficial of the text, or if anything you say contradicts the text, you will get some points taken off here. The writing score is based on how good and sophisticated your writing mechanics are. Do you use a variety of sentence structures? Do you use a mature vocabulary? etc.

    Finally, and most importantly--in general and for you--the analysis score (what you got a 5 on) is based on how well you made your argument. (I say most importantly because I don't think the graders can perfectly isolate these 3 scores; I think your reading and writing scores will be greatly affected by your analysis score.) The task of the essay is to explain how various pieces of the author's argument work. I like to compare the text to a machine with many different parts. Your job is to take 3 or so parts from the machine and explain how they help the machine as a whole function. You are not evaluating the quality of the parts, you are simply analyzing how they work with respect to the machine taken as a whole. Don't be afraid to explain thoroughly and don't be afraid to hit the reader over the head with what you are saying. Spend several sentences explaining. Don't rush through your explanation. Students often also like to focus on literary tools like allusion, metaphor, and appeals to x, y, or z too much. These are harder to explain. A good example of an explanation might look like this: "This statistic, which shows that recycling encourages other environmentally conscious behaviors, helps counter the objection mentioned by Prof. D in the article that 'recycling is not very beneficial to the environment because most recycled goods end up in landfills'. Even if it is true that most recycled goods end up in landfills, this statistic shows that there are other real benefits that recycling has with regards to the environment, namely encouraging other behaviors which are good for the environment and heightening environmental awareness. This statistic, therefore, strengthens the authors argument that recycling programs should continue to be supported by Metropolis's city government."

    Also, 2-5 wrong just on reading, or 2-5 wrong between reading and writing? Let me know and I'll happily respond. My answers will be a bit different depending on what you say.


    I posted something on this recently. The vast majority of recent tests have not been curved like this. For example, for May of 2018, 2 wrong on math was still a 790. Most recent tests are still curved pretty standardly, though there are a few exceptions.

    Also, I am not suggesting that it is rational to distinguish students for such minor differences in score. I am merely suggesting that it is done. I don't think admissions officers are always the most rational. Nothing against them, I think this holds of most people who have to make decisions like this. They will rely on things they probably shouldn't rely on.
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  • scmom12scmom12 3235 replies21 threads Senior Member
    Agree with post #2. You can check some of your likely college list, but my kids didn't apply anywhere that used the essay.
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  • nomoodnomood 322 replies29 threads Member
    @TheSATTeacher thanks for the explanation about the essay - I'll look into reading some essays that scored higher than mine on the collegeboard website.

    I usually score 2-5 wrong on the reading and writing section combined, though I generally do worse on the reading section. I've been practicing but I just can't seem to get those last few questions right.
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 threads Junior Member

    Well, there could be several different causes here. Maybe I'll hit on something here.

    1) There is the possibility that your reading comprehension is a bit lacking--likely the case if you get more wrong on the really difficult passages (generally from the great conversations or fiction categories). If so, slow down a bit. If you ever can't figure out what part of the passage is saying, use your analytic thinking skills to figure it out. If anything is unclear in the passage fix that.

    2) Similarly there might be certain grammar rules on the writing section you aren't perfectly comfortable with. Are there any trends in the problems you get wrong? Most students struggle more with the composition questions (e.g. where should this sentence go in the paragraph). Do you understand how to do these well? There are various things to look for.

    3) Remember for reading and writing there is always an explicit, definitive reason why each correct answer is correct and why each incorrect answer is incorrect. As you practice and deliberate through answer choices try to identify these reasons on the more difficult questions. Don't go by feel. Think: what are the reasons why this answer choice is right or wrong? Then, weigh these reasons against each other. When practicing don't time yourself. Try to make sure your deliberation process is as good as possible, then worry about timing. The CB has released answer explanations for the first 8 tests. It might be helpful to redo some of these tests (you've probably mostly forgotten some of them by now) and look through these so you understand their reasoning and rationale for choosing certain answer choices. Be warned that their explanations aren't always the best, though.

    4) Make a list (seriously!--actually make a physical list) by section of all the questions you have gotten wrong, or struggled with. Write down what the question was testing, or why you got the problem wrong. Look for trends.

    5) I recommend AP Lit, AP Lang, and GRE questions as reading practice for upper level students. The questions are admittedly a different style, but you will learn many valuable things about reading closely and deliberating between answer choices from doing these. You should do these untimed with the goal of getting each question right.

    If you have any further questions please let me know.
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  • nomoodnomood 322 replies29 threads Member
    Thanks for all your help!
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  • nomoodnomood 322 replies29 threads Member
    Hey guys, thanks for all your help, especially @TheSATTeacher , because i just got a 1590! Still a 17 on the essay though, but at this point I'm too done with life to care.
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  • scertuikscertuik 29 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Hey everyone, I just wanted to post my advice for taking the SAT.
    For me, I could get consistent 1450's-1520's scores on my practice tests without studying, but I was struggling with bumping up the last 100-ish points.

    This advice is for people in that situation; sorry if that isn't you but there's plenty of tips out there for all manner of test takers, this is just for one specific type of person.

    Prefacing this with: I got a 1580 and 21/24 on my first try (October 2019 SAT).

    TIP #1: If you are already scoring above a 1450, there is NO NEED to enroll in a prep service or hire a tutor. You can do this yourself, I promise. It just takes some work.

    #2: Give yourself about a month before the test to intensely study. I studied for the whole month of September before my test on October 5th. It was tough because I was dealing with schoolwork too, but my strategy was to try and get my work done by 9 and then study for an hour or two.

    #3: Practice practice practice!!!!!! Just take every practice test EVER. What really helped me was the QAS tests on reddit, bc they were actually administered. In the week leading up to the test I was scoring about 1590 and 1580 on the QAS tests, so I knew (rather, I hoped blindly) I was ready.

    #4: Yeah that was pretty much how I studied. I would just take a practice test, and really go through my mistakes and understand them. After a while, you start to understand how the test works and what they're looking for in an answer (esp. with the reading questions).

    #5: Essay, I didn't study for. that was dumb luck lmao. I would recommend doing a practice few though.

    #6: Let it consume your life. Just for a month. I know that sounds awful, but just fill your life with SAT prep, advice, etc. You should be dreaming of the SAT no cap.

    Hopefully that helped!!! love you guys bye <3

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  • collboy23collboy23 17 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Private tutors are the best especially for 1 on 1 help!
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