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SAT Tips from Veritas Prep

How to Get Serious About SAT Study

How to Get Serious About SAT Study

Photograph by Manuela Larissegger/Getty Images

This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by David Greenslade at Veritas Prep.

Studying for the SAT can be quite a battle, but like any battle, it is truly won or lost in the planning and execution of the plan. There are many great resources that provide techniques on how to approach the SAT, but it is equally important to consider how to use these resources to maximize their efficacy. Here are a few tips to get the results you want from your SAT studying.

1. Make a Schedule
2. Stick to It
4. Focus on Weaknesses, but Don’t Ignore Strengths

Make a Schedule
This is probably the most important tool in doing any work that requires time management. Setting time aside for studying is extremely important for doing the work necessary to nail the SAT. It is easy to think that the SAT studying will get done when there is some spare time, but this deprioritizes SAT studying and makes it easy to neglect. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. A half hour three times a week (that’s just three episodes of The Daily Show) is enough to work on vocab, do some practice problems, and review section-specific techniques. Think about it this way: A practice SAT is usually nine sections, with each section taking no longer than 25 minutes to complete. At a rate of three sections a week, with a couple of minutes for each section to learn 20 vocabulary words per week, a student could go through four complete practice tests and learn 240 vocabulary words in less than three months. That is pretty astounding—and all in less than the time it takes to watch two episodes of Game of Thrones.

Stick to It
The easiest way to get thrown off the studying schedule is to give up on it. Once one session is missed or altered, it’s easy to beat oneself up and decide to forget the whole thing, but this is madness. Forgive yourself if you miss a day and pick up where you left off. It is far more important to stick with the schedule than to keep it perfectly.

Turn Off the Internet
The trick to setting aside discreet time frames for work of any sort is making sure the work you are supposedly dedicating your time to is the actual work being accomplished. The Internet is the biggest and most time-consuming distraction possible when attempting to get work done. TURN IT OFF. Turn the phone to silent, and don’t check e-mail for a half an hour. Very little is so important it cannot wait 30 minutes. The time dedicated to studying for the SAT should be just for the SAT.

Focus on Weaknesses, but Don’t Forget Strengths
The best strategy for SAT studying is to take a practice test and figure out which aspects of the test play to a student’s strengths and which seem more challenging. After this initial step, it is easy to study in such a way that addresses only the things that are difficult, but this can be a mistake. Say a student is scoring 640 on math and only 500 on reading comprehension. It is, of course, important to work on the reading section, but if the student has a natural proclivity toward math, it is also important not to ignore the math section. It could be that this student tops out around 650 on the reading comprehension, even with a lot of work, but is capable of scoring in the high 700s on the math section. This is not to say that students should spend equal time on things they excel at and things they struggle with, but it is important not to ignore any section unless the student is scoring consistently near 800. A good strategy is to dedicate two sessions to a topic that is more challenging for every one session on a topic that the student feels he or she is good at. This gives more attention to challenging sections but doesn’t neglect any topics.

This is a guideline for how to study seriously for the SAT. The most important step is to do it. Start today. The more time a student has to prepare, the more time his or her brain has to absorb the concepts and internalize them. Start today. If you are not good at setting a schedule for yourself, get a tutor and make the tutor keep you to the schedule. The test can be conquered, but every great battle must be planned and fought to be won.

For more practice, take a full-length SAT practice test to sharpen your skills.

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Created for Bloomberg Businessweek readers, this diagnostic quiz is designed to measure your ability level with 25 realistic SAT questions. Click here to take the quiz and get instant feedback about your performance.

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