By: Guest On: March 18, 2014 In: Academics, Applying to College, Testing Comments: 0

You’re all set. You borrowed a dog-eared copy of some SAT book from your friend. You have the entire weekend to study before the test. You’ll do every question you can get your hands on. And you’ll cram the night before the test. What could go wrong?

Actually, just about everything. The prep books you use, the way you use them, and how often you use them, all go a very long way to affecting your final score. Below are some important tips that will help you study the right way for this very important test.

Word lists – friend or enemy?

What better strategy than taking a 2000-word list and starting at letter ‘a’? By the time you are done, you’ll have memorized all the SAT words you need to know. This might sound crazy to you, but many self-studiers follow the above approach.

The reality is there are far more effective — and less mind-numbing — ways to learn vocabulary. One way is to group words together by similar meaning. Another is to use flashcards, which will help words stick in your head far longer than words lists will. Finally, looking up words you read, and especially words you encounter while doing SAT questions, helps get words to stick in your head.

SAT books randomly plucked from a library shelf

All SAT books must be the same, right? Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The best SAT books will help you get ready for the test; the worst will discourage you, and leave you woefully unprepared on test day.

First off, the bible of SAT prep: The College Board book. Known as the “Blue Book” because of its blue cover, the College Board book contains ten full-length SATs written by the creators of the test.

Of course there are other helpful prep books out there, but none of their questions are on the same level as the ones in the “Blue Book.” Make sure you take time to learn about the best SAT books (and the worst!).

Don’t become a question junkie

Getting better at the SAT doesn’t mean doing question after question, test after test. The key is learning from your mistakes and getting a sense of how the test writers use traps in the wrong answer choices. That way, you can avoid making the same mistakes — or at least be better able to anticipate those traps.

Six-hour study binges

It is much better to spread your studying out over the week, rather than do it in one sitting. As you’ve probably learned from cramming for finals, your brain tends to crash very soon from information overload.

You should also make sure not to start studying a week before — or you may join the ranks of those with average SAT scores. If you want to actually make some serious gains in this all-important test, give yourself at least a month.

Last minute cramming

If anything, take it easy the night before. By prepping for an entire month, you’ve learned a lot. Taxing your brain the night before the test is just going to make you more stressed out, rather than impart some crucial nugget of test wisdom.


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

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