What should I do to prepare for the PSAT/SAT?

Hi Everybody!

I’m a sophomore who is about to enter their Junior year. I have no idea what to do to prepare for the PSAT, nor the SAT. I have had only minimal exposure to the PSAT, as I took the 8/9 PSAT version during my 9th-grade year. They canceled my 10th-Grade PSAT due to COVID-19, and now I feel as underprepared as ever. Are there any tips on how to prepare for the SAT? Are there any books or websites you recommend? How soon should I start studying, and how could I study effectively? Should I take the SAT during the fall alongside my PSAT, or should I wait until the spring? Sorry for the bombardment of questions, I’m just worried I won’t hit the 1500+ goal I’m aiming for since I’m so underprepared and have very limited resources I could use towards the SAT. Any answer is appreciated and I wanted to thank you for your time!

If it’s relevant, I am pretty solid in math. I am still good at English, but not as much as I am in math. Also, my 8/9 PSAT score was not the greatest because I did not manage my time correctly and had a lot of empty questions, like a lot. My score was in the 1100-1300 range if I’m recalling correctly (yikes).

Old tests, old tests, and more old tests. College board has plenty of study material. Do one section timed, and then go over every single answer, even the correct ones to fully understand how to get to the right answer.

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Honestly, check your local library. I got a nice princeton review book and it had lots of good resources. Don’t get ones that are too old though, the SAT before March 2016 is different than the one now. I renewed that book for over half a year, mostly because nobody else wanted it. The free prepscholar blog online is also really good. I used a combination of Princeton Review/PrepScholar/Youtube tips when I took the exam. Khan Academy is also great, check that one out first. It’s more personalized, but taking the test on the computer is a little annoying.

I would wait until the spring for the SAT, cause you get your PSAT scores before then and you can adjust your study plan accordingly.

Take a practice test when you can. Check what you got wrong, was it lack of time, silly mistake, or you didn’t know the content. If you haven’t learned some stuff yet do some general subject learning before focusing on the SAT/PSAT. If it’s time or silly mistakes then practice, practice, practice.

For reference, my 8th grade PSAT I got 1170, just learned the content normally through class, did around 2 months of studying (only on the weekends) before my test and I got a 1550 on my SAT this year (760 reading/790 math). If you can figure out how they’re trying to trick you, you’ll do fine.

You should also spend a little money and take and ACT/SAT diagnostic test online. The tests are very different. Some students do much better on one than the other. Concentrate your time on the test you are best suited for.

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I don’t think you need to spend money now, maybe later on for tutors but right now just go online for the official practice tests that has been released. There’s 8 older tests released for the SAT, and 6 for the ACT. Both are around 3 hours (the act may be longer if you do the 40 min writing section) and both are equally hard.

OP has the PSAT/NMSQT coming up in the fall, so I think you should focus on that for now. Getting a high score on that can open a lot of doors.

The ACT/SAT diagnostic test is only $29. The reason I suggest that is that it keeps students from wasting time on prepping for a test they aren’t suited for. They ate very different tests. Time is a valuable commodity when students are pulled in a thousand directions.


Sign up for free SAT practice on Khan Academy. It’s high quality and is set up in coordination with the College Board. It has all the 8 practice tests. I also suggest that you buy the official SAT guide with the tests in hardcopy, because they are a lot of pages to print out, and enter the answers in the Khan academy portal. It will then give you a tailored set of problems to work on.


I love Kahn. I donate money every time I use PayPal. But again, why push the OP towards spending time on the SAT if they might be far more suited for the ACT?

But again, why push the OP towards spending time on the SAT if they might be far more suited for the ACT?

OP was looking to prep for the PSAT. They could see how they do on that and then also try ACT. I think ACT has something equivalent online for practice .

Khan Acadamy offers a diagnostic evaluation, a customized study plan, and incorporation of the official College Board practice tests, as an official CB partner. It’s a great place to start, and possibly finish.

Erica Meltzer, College Panda, 1600-dot-io, and the Black Book are strong supplemental sources. (I thought CC stopped censoring competitor sites).

There are 29 official SAT practice tests and post-2016 QAS tests. Use them appropriately - take one and then invest time understanding why you got questions wrong and study the topic until you understand it. Then take another one. Don’t just blindly take one test after another.

If you’ve completed Algebra 2, prepping for both the PSAT and the October or November SAT at the same time is a good plan. If not, start by April or a May Junior year. Don’t wait until Senior year.

There is no cost to take an official diagnostic test from the test creators.

Do not take a diagnostic from a pep/tutoring organization. They will generate a score that is below reality, to convince you that you need their services. And they will then take credit when your actual score is higher.

The one that I referenced has one purpose, to compare ACT to SAT head to head to see if the student is suited to one or the other. They don’t sell any other services.

They are very different tests. The ACT strongly prioritizes reading speed while the SAT emphasizes reasoning and knowledge.

It’s really a waste of time to do anything prior to this step because a student can find out very quickly and cheaply where their energies are best spent.

Then they’re charging $29 for about 10 minutes of effort. Downloading two tests, scoring them, and using the official concordance should take about that much time.

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You obviously have not seen it in action. It’s a three hour exam that gives a 9 page diagnostic report! It’s hard for me to understand posters that malign things they have zero experience with.

Three hours is nowhere near enough to take two official tests. So if they’re not using official tests from the test creators and the official concordance jointly developed by the two organizations, then it’s just a guess.

Feel free to join us at r/SAT where I’ve spend years on SAT strategy, prep, etc., to discuss.

So which is it…it takes 10 minutes or three hours is not enough? Most college counselors use this test to guide students one way or the other so that they can use their time wisely. It’s been around for quite some time, with a well proven methodology. You do readers a disservice when you malign things you have no insight or understanding of.

Start at Khan with the practice. Take a full length test every other week. It is fine to do it in segments if you find you aren’t under a time crunch. It is fast to do the online segment but my son had higher scores when he took it on paper. I would take the paper test and type in the answers for the scoring. The official paper test book is good too.

There is value to formal paid prep but if you’ve studied intensively for tests before, you might not find it as useful.

The diagnostic test could be very useful for many, but personally I don’t see the value. What’s wrong with free resources explaining the difference between the SAT/ACT or just picking a few random questions from each section and comparing them? I also think that I would trust my own feelings about the test, rather than a diagnostic report. While it is helpful, I don’t think it’s worth 29 dollars.

edit: I found a sample report from them online. It doesn’t seem like anything special. Link for those interested: https://satactdiagnostic.com/wp-content/uploads/Sample%20Report.pdf

You need a big enough, accurate sample, under time pressure to really get a sense. Many people will read ACT questions and find them easier than SAT questions, then take the ACT, and not finish. I don’t get the big pushback. It’s $29 for heaven’s sake! A student could save themselves countless hours by not prepping for two tests. It’s far cheaper than taking either test just once.

The SAT/ACT Diagnostic consists of eight sections that alternate between the SAT and ACT (excluding the essay). Each section is between 14 and 39 minutes long, and contains the number of questions and sections needed to simulate the pace required on each exam.

This is definitely something anyone could do at home. Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t pay for something I could easily do by myself. All it takes is a few books and a few hours. It might not be as efficient as they claim their test is, but for what OP needs I think it’s enough.

Either way, OP has the PSAT coming up, prepping for that should be their first priority.

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is prepping for SAT going to help with prepping for the PSAT?

and is that what you all would recommend for PSAT – taking the SAT tests over and over in timed situations, studying the answers both right and wrong?

@richinpitt - is r/sat - is that red dit?