By: Contributor On: June 18, 2014 In: Academics, Applying to College, Testing Comments: 0

Students dream of dominating the SAT, but what does that really mean?

I’ll tell you: dominate (v) – have a commanding influence on; exercise control over.

If you want to have a commanding influence on the SAT, and more specifically, on your success, there are certain steps you need to take. To exercise control over yourself and the test, here are three steps to follow.

1. Start Early

The best thing that you can do is start your practice early. The SAT is not your typical math quiz or English test. You need to spend time getting to know the exam.

There is a lot of information you can know before test day, and to give yourself the best possible chance for success, you need to learn the SAT format, the question types, the timing and pacing for sections, common wrong answers, and strategies for different questions. And that doesn’t even include the time needed to review all the concepts tested.

How early you start really depends on few things. First, how much do you know about the test right now? If you know nothing, you’ll probably need a little more time than others. Also, how comfortable are you in math and English class? If you are a straight-A student, you probably won’t need as much time as others.

I usually recommend that students spend 3-6 months preparing for the test. I know — that sounds like an obscene amount of time to spend preparing for one test. But it’s not that bad.

With 3-6 months, you won’t have to study every single day, and your study sessions won’t have to be longer than an hour or two. When you leave only a month to prepare, or even three days, that’s when students end up studying all day, everyday. Starting early allows you some time to relax and avoid a maddening, stressful lead-up to the test.

2. Know Thyself

A fundamental part of learning is knowing what you know and what you don’t know. Every person who wants to improve, who wants to dominate the test, has to be honest with themselves about their knowledge and ability.

Part of knowing yourself is knowing your level of understanding with a math concept or a word. Knowing things is not a binary system — as in, either I know it or I don’t know it. Knowing is a spectrum, a continuum that starts at pure ignorance and ends at complete, perfect knowledge.

Here’s a metric for evaluating your knowledge. This will help you classify the concepts on the SAT so that you know where to focus your energies when you study.

  • Level 0 = You are a baby who knows nothing of square roots and can’t even read the word gregarious.
  • Level 1 = You recognize the concept as something that you’ve seen before, maybe in this life or a past one.
  • Level 2 = You know the concept enough to solve a problem or two, but you need to peek at the solution to get past some of the harder steps.
  • Level 3 = You can solve the problems and know the definitions enough to work through a problem set on the concept or use the word in a sentence.
  • Level 4 = You stumble into a room and can start solving these problems at random without prompting. You know the word well enough to tell your friends the definition.
  • Level 5 = You are a Jedi master. You can tutor your friends and teach them the steps for solving the problem. You know the Greek or Latin root of the word.
  • Level 6 = You are pure energy with no beginning and no end. You live beyond time and space and create planets in the morning before breakfast.

Use this scale to evaluate your knowledge and use it to keep track of your progress. True domination requires a deep knowledge of your own abilities and skills.

3. Positive Attitude and Confidence

No person ever half-heartedly dominated something. If you are serious about dominating the test — taking it down, chewing it up and spitting it out — you need to believe you can do it.

My water polo coach gave us quotes to think about each day before practice, and one in particular stuck: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” I later found out that this quote came from the father of the Philosophy of Achievement movement, Napoleon Hill. Hill came upon his ideas during the age of great expansion and prosperity in America, when the promise of America was strongest and brightest.

Although this time has passed, the quote perfectly conveys the attitude and mindset needed to do well on the SAT. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities. You have to know that you might not be ready now, but by the time test day arrives, you will be ready. Believe it. Know it. Dominate it!


The tools for domination are now yours. You know what you need to do. The path to test day opens before you. So stop worrying about what’s a good SAT score and start dominating your test prep. That’s the only way you will dominate the test. Start early, know your strengths and weaknesses, and stay confident in your abilities, and nothing will stop you from dominating the test.


This post was written by Kevin Rocci, resident SAT expert at Magoosh. For more advice on taking the SAT, check out Magoosh’s SAT blog.

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