Make Your Practice Count

Make Your Practice Count
Here are some tips to get the most out of your SAT practice sessions (Photograph by Getty Images)
Photograph by Getty Images

This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Courtney Tran at Veritas Prep.

Practice makes perfect, but only if that practice is effective and efficient. Many students attempt to improve their SAT scores by blindly churning through practice test after practice test. Although such an approach aids familiarity with the test structure and content, it often fails to address some of the most important components of SAT practice: development of good test-taking habits and improvement of conceptual understanding. Here are a few ways to get the most out of your practice time.

Mimic test-taking conditions as closely as possible to maximize comfort and minimize surprise on your test day. Use the same watch and calculator you plan to bring to the test and sit in a hard nonswivel chair in a quiet room without social distractions. (Keep in mind that your actual test-day classroom may not be entirely free of distractions; for instance, while I was taking my final SAT, construction was going on near my classroom. Therefore, it is not necessary to practice in total silence or in an empty room. Such practice may even be damaging if you encounter distractions on your test day.)

Be aware of what is expected of you. This way you can avoid wasting time reading passages in excessive detail or overthinking simple math problems. Note which math concepts and grammar rules do and do not appear on the SAT (the College Board website outlines this well, as do the Veritas Prep SAT 2400 resources, of course) and the level of detail that reading questions demand. Instead of merely completing SAT practice questions, actively watch for patterns and parameters in the types of questions asked.

Prioritize accuracy over speed. If speeding up will reduce your accuracy, it probably isn’t worth it. It doesn’t matter how fast you can run through questions if you aren’t getting those questions right, so slow down and ensure that you understand the concepts and reasoning behind each SAT section before trying to cut minutes off your test time. A good test: If you were given an unlimited amount of time to finish the section, would you be able to get the questions right? If not, forget about speed and deal with the questions themselves. Besides, improved understanding of SAT concepts and questions will increase your speed anyway.

Remember to take breaks, eat healthy, sleep well, and stay relaxed. Stress is not only unhealthy but also counterproductive to both your practice and your ability to focus and learn. Training yourself to combat stress while practicing for the SAT will also help you deal better with test-day anxiety.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free SAT resources, including free SAT video lessons.

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