5 Proven SAT Study Strategies for a Higher Score

The SAT, a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States, can be a significant factor in your college application. Achieving a higher score not only opens doors to more colleges but can also lead to scholarships and financial aid. To help you excel in this critical test, here are ten proven SAT study strategies that can boost your score.

1. Understand the SAT Structure

Understanding the structure of the SAT is crucial for effective test preparation. The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. It consists of several sections, each designed to assess different skills and knowledge areas. Here's a breakdown of the SAT structure:

1. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW):

   - Reading: This section evaluates your reading comprehension skills. You'll read passages from various disciplines and answer questions that assess your ability to understand, interpret, and analyze the text.

   - Writing and Language: In this section, you'll be tested on your command of evidence-based writing and editing skills. You'll encounter passages with underlined portions and answer questions about grammar, usage, and punctuation.

2. Math:

   - Calculator-Permitted Section: This part of the math section allows you to use a calculator. It covers topics such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and data analysis. You'll solve problems and answer questions that require mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills.

   - No-Calculator Section: In this section, you cannot use a calculator. It also assesses your mathematical abilities but focuses on skills that do not require a calculator.

3. Optional Essay (SAT Essay):

   - While the SAT Essay is optional, some colleges may require it for admission. If you choose to take the essay, you'll be presented with a passage and tasked with analyzing how the author builds an argument.


- The SAT is scored on a scale of 400 to 1600, combining test results from the two 200-800 point subject areas: EBRW and Math.

- The SAT Essay is scored separately, with scores ranging from 6 to 24.

Time Limits:

- The SAT is a timed test. The total testing time (excluding breaks) is 3 hours and 15 minutes. If you choose to complete the optional essay, the total testing time is 4 hours and 15 minutes.

- The EBRW section consists of 96 questions and has a time limit of 1 hour and 35 minutes.

- The Math section consists of 58 questions and has a time limit of 1 hour and 20 minutes.

- The optional SAT Essay has a time limit of 50 minutes.

Question Types:

- Multiple Choice: Most questions on the SAT are multiple-choice, where you select the correct answer from provided options.

- Grid-In: In the math section, some questions require you to fill in a numerical answer without multiple-choice options.

Test Format:

- The SAT is typically administered in a paper-and-pencil format, although there is an option for digital testing in some locations.

Understanding the SAT structure is the first step in effective test preparation. It allows you to tailor your study plan to the specific content and skills assessed in each section. Additionally, being aware of the time limits and question types helps you develop effective test-taking strategies to maximize your performance on test day.

2. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is a crucial step in your SAT preparation journey. Realistic goals help you stay motivated, focused, and on track as you work toward achieving your target score on the SAT. Here's a guide on how to set realistic SAT score goals:

1. Know Your Target Colleges:

   - Start by researching the colleges you're interested in attending. Each college has its own SAT score range for admitted students. Understanding these score ranges will give you a benchmark to aim for.

2. Consider Your Academic Profile:

   - Reflect on your academic strengths and weaknesses. If you excel in certain subjects or have a strong math background, you may aim for a higher score in the corresponding SAT sections.

   - Conversely, if you struggle in specific areas, you may set a more modest goal for those sections while focusing on maximizing your performance in others.

3. Assess Your Time and Resources:

   - Evaluate how much time you have available for SAT preparation. Setting ambitious goals may require more dedicated study hours each week.

   - Consider your available resources, such as test prep materials, tutoring, or SAT courses. Adequate resources can help you reach your goals more effectively.

4. Review Your Practice Test Scores:

   - Take official SAT practice tests to gauge your current level of performance. These tests provide a baseline from which you can set goals.

   - Analyze your practice test scores to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to determine where you need to improve to achieve your target score.

5. Break Down Your Goals:

   - Set both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals could include improving your score in a specific section, while long-term goals may involve achieving your desired overall score.

   - Break your long-term goals into smaller, manageable milestones. For example, if your goal is to increase your overall score by 200 points, set incremental targets for improvement in each section.

6. Consider Your Timeline:

   - Determine when you plan to take the SAT. Knowing your test date allows you to create a study schedule and set realistic goals based on the time available for preparation.

7. Be Realistic and Flexible:

   - While it's essential to aim high, be realistic about your capabilities and the amount of effort required to reach your goals.

   - Keep in mind that everyone progresses at a different pace. Be open to adjusting your goals if you find that you need more time to reach them.

8. Stay Motivated and Track Progress:

   - Set up a system to track your progress regularly. This could involve taking practice tests at regular intervals to assess improvement.

   - Celebrate your achievements along the way, even if they are small steps toward your larger goal. Recognizing your progress can boost motivation.

Setting realistic SAT score goals provides you with a clear roadmap for your preparation. It helps you stay focused and motivated throughout your study journey. Remember that the SAT is just one component of your college application, and while achieving your goal score is important, it's not the sole determinant of your college admissions success. Your dedication, hard work, and commitment to your goals will ultimately contribute to your success on test day.

3. Create a Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule for SAT preparation is essential to ensure consistent and effective study sessions. A well-structured schedule helps you cover all the necessary content areas and provides a roadmap for reaching your target score. Here's how to create a study schedule for the SAT:

1. Determine Your Test Date:

   - First, decide on the date when you plan to take the SAT. Knowing your test date is crucial for scheduling your preparation effectively.

2. Assess Your Available Time:

   - Calculate the number of weeks or months you have until your test date. Consider your other commitments, such as school, extracurricular activities, and work.

3. Set Realistic Study Goals:

   - Determine your target SAT score and assess your strengths and weaknesses in each test section. Identify areas that require more focus and improvement.

4. Create a Weekly Study Plan:

   - Divide your available study time into a weekly schedule. Aim for a balanced approach that covers all sections of the SAT.

   - Allocate more study time to your weaker areas while maintaining regular practice in your stronger subjects.

5. Study Session Length:

   - Decide on the length of your study sessions. Short, focused sessions of 30 to 60 minutes tend to be more effective than long, exhausting sessions.

6. Include Rest Days:

   - Schedule rest days to prevent burnout. These days are essential for rejuvenating your mind and maintaining motivation.

7. Weekly Practice Tests:

   - Include full-length SAT practice tests in your schedule. Take at least one official practice test each week to simulate test conditions and track your progress.

8. Review and Analysis:

   - Dedicate time after each practice test to review your mistakes and identify areas for improvement. Use this analysis to adjust your study plan.

9. Flexibility:

   - Be flexible with your schedule. Life can be unpredictable, so allow for adjustments if unforeseen events or commitments arise.

10. Morning vs. Evening Study:

   - Consider your most productive times of the day. Some people are more alert and focused in the morning, while others may prefer evening study sessions.

11. Breaks and Rewards:

   - Schedule short breaks between study sessions to recharge. Use this time to stretch, hydrate, or enjoy a healthy snack.

   - Reward yourself for achieving milestones or sticking to your study plan. Positive reinforcement can boost motivation.

12. Track Your Progress:

   - Keep a study journal or use a digital planner to track your study hours, practice test scores, and areas of improvement.

13. Seek Support:

   - If you find certain topics challenging, consider seeking help from a tutor, teacher, or online resources.

14. Adjust as Needed:

   - Regularly evaluate your progress and make adjustments to your study plan as necessary. If you're consistently improving in one area, you may shift your focus to another.

15. Test-Day Preparation:

   - In the weeks leading up to the test, allocate time for specific test-day preparation, such as reviewing test-day logistics and packing necessary items.

Remember that consistency is key when creating a study schedule. Stick to your plan, stay motivated, and adapt as needed to maximize your SAT preparation efforts. With diligent study and effective time management, you can work toward achieving your target SAT score.

4. Utilize Official SAT Materials

Utilizing official SAT materials is one of the most effective ways to prepare for the test. The College Board, the organization that creates the SAT, offers a range of official resources designed to help you practice, familiarize yourself with the test format, and improve your test-taking skills. Here's how to make the most of these official SAT materials:

1. Official SAT Practice Tests:

- The College Board provides official SAT practice tests that closely resemble the actual test. These tests are essential for simulating real testing conditions and assessing your progress.

- Start by taking a full-length official practice test as a diagnostic tool. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in each section.

- Schedule regular practice tests throughout your study plan to track your improvement and get used to the time constraints of the test.

2. The Official SAT Study Guide:

- Purchase or borrow "The Official SAT Study Guide," which is published by the College Board. This comprehensive book includes eight real SAT practice tests, answer explanations, and additional practice questions.

- Use this guide to work through practice questions, identify content areas that need improvement, and review the strategies provided in the book.

3. Official SAT Question of the Day:

- Visit the College Board's website daily to access the "SAT Question of the Day." This resource provides a new SAT practice question every day, allowing you to reinforce your skills over time.

4. Khan Academy SAT Prep:

- The College Board partners with Khan Academy to offer free, personalized SAT preparation. This platform provides a customized study plan based on your strengths and weaknesses.

- Complete the diagnostic quizzes to receive tailored practice questions and lessons to improve your specific areas of need.

5. SAT Practice App:

- Download the official SAT practice app, available for both Android and iOS devices. The app offers sample questions, full practice tests, and score reports.

- Use the app to practice on the go and to access additional resources like flashcards and video lessons.

6. SAT Online Course:

- Consider enrolling in the official SAT online course, which includes interactive lessons, quizzes, and full-length practice tests. While there may be a fee for this course, it offers a structured and comprehensive approach to SAT preparation.

7. College Board SAT Question of the Day Emails:

- Subscribe to receive SAT Question of the Day emails from the College Board. These daily practice questions will help reinforce your skills and keep you engaged with the material.

8. Official SAT Practice Workbooks:

- The College Board offers official SAT practice workbooks that focus on specific content areas such as math, reading, and writing. These workbooks provide targeted practice questions and explanations.

9. Essay Scoring Guides:

- If you choose to take the SAT Essay, review the official SAT essay scoring guides provided by the College Board. Understanding the criteria used for scoring can help you improve your essay-writing skills.

Utilizing official SAT materials is advantageous because they closely align with the actual test content and format. By regularly practicing with these resources, you'll become more comfortable with the SAT, improve your performance, and increase your confidence on test day. Additionally, official SAT materials offer accurate score predictions, helping you gauge your readiness for the test and make informed decisions about retaking it if necessary.

5. Practice Regularly

Regular practice is a cornerstone of effective SAT preparation. It not only helps you become familiar with the test format and content but also allows you to build essential test-taking skills and strategies. Here's how to incorporate regular practice into your SAT study routine:

1. Consistent Schedule:

   - Establish a consistent study schedule that includes regular practice sessions. Consistency is key to building and retaining skills over time.

   - Dedicate a specific amount of time each day or week to SAT practice, and stick to your schedule.

2. Set Goals:

   - Define clear goals for your practice sessions. What specific areas or question types do you want to improve on during each session?

   - Having concrete goals ensures that you stay focused and use your practice time efficiently.

3. Use Official Practice Tests:

   - Incorporate official SAT practice tests into your routine. The College Board provides several real SAT tests that mimic the actual exam.

   - Take full-length practice tests regularly to simulate test-day conditions and assess your progress.

4. Review Your Mistakes:

   - After completing a practice test or practice questions, thoroughly review your mistakes. Understand why you got each question wrong and identify patterns in your errors.

   - Keep a notebook or digital document where you document your mistakes and the lessons learned from them.

5. Analyze Your Performance:

   - Track your performance over time. Keep a record of your scores and the time it takes to complete sections.

   - Use this data to identify trends in your performance and adjust your study plan accordingly.

6. Focus on Weak Areas:

   - Concentrate your practice efforts on your weaker areas. If you struggle with a particular question type or content area, allocate more time to practice and improvement.

   - Revisit topics or question types where you've made mistakes in previous practice sessions.

7. Simulate Test Conditions:

   - Practice under timed conditions to get used to the pace of the SAT. Mimic the time limits for each section during your practice sessions.

   - Work on strategies to manage your time effectively, such as pacing yourself and not spending too much time on any one question.

8. Vary Practice Materials:

   - While official SAT practice tests are crucial, don't limit yourself to just one resource. Explore additional practice materials, such as books, online resources, and SAT prep courses.

   - Varying your practice materials exposes you to different question formats and styles, which can be beneficial.

9. Seek Feedback:

   - If possible, get feedback on your practice tests from teachers, tutors, or online resources. External feedback can help you identify areas for improvement that you may have missed on your own.

10. Stay Motivated:

    - Regular practice can become monotonous, so keep yourself motivated by setting milestones and rewarding yourself when you achieve them.

    - Remind yourself of your goals and the importance of the SAT in your college application process.

Regular SAT practice builds confidence and helps you refine your strategies. It's a gradual process that, with consistent effort, leads to improved performance and increased chances of achieving your target score on test day.


In conclusion, the SAT is a pivotal component of the college admissions process, and achieving a higher score can open doors to a wider range of colleges and scholarship opportunities. To maximize your chances of success, it's crucial to employ effective study strategies. The five proven SAT study strategies outlined here—understanding the SAT structure, setting realistic goals, creating a study schedule, utilizing official SAT materials, and practicing regularly—provide a strong foundation for your preparation.

Understanding the SAT structure ensures that you're familiar with the test's format and content, allowing you to approach it strategically. Setting realistic goals provides you with a clear target to work toward, while a well-structured study schedule keeps you organized and on track. Utilizing official SAT materials is invaluable, as they closely align with the actual test and provide authentic practice opportunities. Finally, practicing regularly is the linchpin of success, allowing you to hone your skills, identify areas for improvement, and build confidence.

Remember that SAT preparation is a journey that requires dedication and perseverance. There are no shortcuts to success, but by implementing these strategies and staying committed to your goals, you can increase your chances of achieving a higher SAT score and securing your place at the college of your dreams. Your efforts will not only enhance your academic profile but also boost your confidence in tackling standardized tests and other challenges you'll encounter in your academic journey.