3 years ago
Admissions Advice

SAT help

Hi, so I am retaking my SAT. Could you tell me some study tips that help you increase your score and how not to get discouraged when you feel like you aren't doing well enough. I really want to get a better score but it is discouraging when i'm not seeing the results that I am looking for

Any advice will help, Thanks :)


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago[edited]

Hi @study.withsamy,

Tips usually depend on what sections you are struggling with. PrepScholar, College Panda, Free Kaplan Course, College Board Materials, and Reddit were the five main resources that I used overall, though.

For Math, actually doing the College Panda Advanced SAT Math Book the whole way through and understanding it should prepare you for an 800 because they cover everything in detail. I only did a few sections that I needed to brush up on and scored a 790. You should either buy the book or e-book (which is generally cheaper like $5 and you can print it yourself). Also, I know a lot of people recommend Khan Academy, but I actually thought using the College Panda book was better because the actual exam is on paper, not the computer, and the questions seemed more accurate to the actual test.

For the English section, reading is usually tough for people. I scored a 780 and I think it mostly came from experience doing a lot of practice tests to learn the pattern of the questions and reading the explanations of questions I got wrong to be able to rule out all the wrong answers on future tests more easily.

Writing is easier to improve because it is more formulaic. For it, I actually used a free Kaplan course that had videos of all the grammar rules, which was great for me because I am an auditory learner. You can also purchase the College Panda SAT Advanced Writing Book, which should cover the same content.

PrepScholar is great for all SAT advice in general, and I'll link it below. I spammed College Board Practice Tests, but I don't recommend doing so until you have finished the prep books. Reddit has a QAS thread where you can get other previously administered tests.

As for how to not get discouraged, I simply became frustrated because I knew I had the potential to score high but was having performance issues. That actually motivated me to practice more. One tip I do have, though, is forget about converting your score to the 1600 Scale; You can do so, but don't get hung up on it. Just try to reduce the amount of questions that you miss per section.

Also, remember to keep it simple. I often overcomplicated things when taking my exams, which caused me to miss simple questions. Also, do a lot of exercise, meditation, etc. to be in peak mental and physical condition. You can also do simple rewards for yourself like playing music while you grade your practices (from the workbook) and exams, which worked really well for me.

Hope this helps!


PrepScholar: https://blog.prepscholar.com/

Reddit QAS: https://www.reddit.com/r/SATACTprep/comments/eti4i7/40_official_sat_practice_test_pdfs/

Reddit QAS 2: https://www.reddit.com/r/Sat/comments/llxpn0/official_reddit_sat_qas_megathread_pdfs_of_all/

College Board Practice Tests: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice/full-length-practice-tests

3 years ago[edited]

Hi there! It’s been a few months since I took my SATs and did pretty well on them, but I’ll try my best to remember my prep for you here!

In terms of SAT advice, I think the biggest thing is to find a way to keep yourself motivated. You have to do practice problems, if not every day, then at least four to five days a week. Why this is crucial is because the SATs are a very particular type of test: you don't need to be good at Language or Reading to score high on those portion, you just need to know what type of answer for that specific type of problem the SATs want, and you don't need to be great at math to score high on the Math portion, you just need to master the specific types of math problems the SATs give. You'll actually be able to feel yourself entire this sort of "SAT mindset" if you practice everyday (or at least I did when I did prep everyday for three whole months) in which that sort of SAT thinking is almost instinctual. Try to motivate yourself by picking a particular spot in your house suitable for studying but that you do nothing else in, and try picking a certain time of day, each day, to do SAT prep. You'll gradually fall into the habit of unconsciously knowing that the particular spot is only for SAT prep and no other distractions, and same for the time. And the best way to motivate yourself when your poor results are discouraging you is too keep doing SAT problem sets and watching your results slowly improve. Nothing’s more satisfying than success!

The first step to SAT success, especially when you feel like your score is horrifically low, is getting SAT workbooks instead of practice tests (or get both, but you can find so many practice tests online nowadays). I know that books from Baron’s and Princeton Review are classics for SAT prep, and but instead, get workbooks with explanations and lessons and not just practice problems. SAT practice tests are available everywhere online; don’t spend money on them. A specific book I recommend for actually learning SAT type Language rules is called SAT Writing Advanced Guide and Workbook from The College Panda and the SAT Manual from Princeton Review. Both are super short for SAT books, but they have detailed lessons on every little thing you’ll need to know for the test.

As for specific test taking tips for the SATS:

For the Reading section:

1. Whenever you get paired questions, one that’s something like “What did the author mean to convey in paragraph 2?” or “What did so-and-so want to convey by doing this-or-that?” and another that asks “Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?”, if you are stuck and have absolutely no idea, consider doing this: first, look at the choices for evidence, go back to the text and find those evidences, and at the side of each possible piece of evidence, make a small summary of what the evidence states. Then try to pair up each piece of evidence with an answer from the first question. You’ll find that most, if not all of the time, at least two answers from the second evidence question will have no answer to pair up with in the first question, and you can automatically cross all four of those answers without pairs out. Hope this made sense!

Another tip for those types of questions: if you are only stuck on the second question in the pair that asks for the best evidence to the first question, try using the answers to the second evidence question to answer the first one. So, for example, if the first question of the pair is “What did the author mean to convey in paragraph 2?” and you are stuck on the second question asking “Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?”, use the answers from the second question to answer the first question.

2. Do not waste time reading the passage first. Instead, do definition questions and those evidence type of questions I mentioned in #1 first. Just by doing those questions, you’ll have read almost all of the passage already.

3. Do not ever choose an answer that cannot be directly proven by the text. For example, if a question asks, “The author mentions primarily to” or if it asks “The primary purpose of the 2nd paragraph is to”, there will sometimes be two answers that seem possible, but one will seem more comprehensive than the other. It is more comprehensive, however, only because the SAT makers purposely added more context to it than the author did in order for it to seem like the better choice, when it was never even mentioned in the passage at all!

4. For the paired passages, use those tips above ^^^ for each passage separately so that you aren’t trying to read both the first and the second at the same time, and save the questions that ask about both passages for last.

For the Language section:

1. Always read at least five words before and after where the question occurs, even if it’s just asking whether or not the punctuation is correct. You need context for everything!

2. There may be a question about idioms on there (these are always ridiculously random and ridiculously hard because what sounds right may not be right). I can’t think up an example off the top of my head, but just look up a list of idiomatic phrases online and look them over a day before taking the test; you’ll be fine.

4. If there’s a question asking for the best way to word something, most of the time (not all, be careful here!) the shortest and most concise answer is the correct one. Only use this if you are stuck between two answers!

3. Practice, and get a workbook. To ace the language section, you have to study and practice and learn how SAT writers think; there really are not shortcuts like for the reading section.

For the Math section:

1. Make sure you know how to identify when plugging in the answers is the fastest (or only way you know how) to complete a problem. Sometimes when a question asks: “The expression above can be rewritten as which of the following,” just plugging in 1 or 2 into the question and the answers will yield a faster result. When doing this start with one of the middle numbers that isn’t the biggest nor the smallest, as it will most likely be able to tell you whether the answer you need is bigger or smaller than the one you just tested. If the question is instead asking “…which of the following is the least value of x?” or something along those lines, start plugging in from the smallest value given.

2. When doing word problems, read the last sentence, aka. the actual question, first. Then, go back and skim through what each number given is; write them on the side with what they are if you need to. You may have done this in Chemistry class, where you write down each “given” value or formula and then identify the “missing” and use the given to clue yourself into what you can do to find the missing. Same logic here. If this wasn’t part of your Chemistry class, ignore me XD.

And there’s probably a lot more tips and tricks that I used that I forgot, but I’ll update this list if I remember anything else. Hope this super long-winded post helps!

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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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