Practice under Realistic Conditions

One way that I find students trick themselves into believing that their skills are better than they actually are is by practicing under unrealistic conditions.

The SAT is a marathon, not series of sprints. So, if you are doing the Reading section in 70ish minutes, and then taking an hour to have a snack and watching Youtube, and then doing the Writing section, and then doing some Math homework, and then leaving the Math sections for tomorrow, you are giving yourself more time than you will have when you do the real test.

Timing for the SAT

  • Reading Section 65 minutes
  • Break 10 minutes
  • Writing & Language 35 minutes
  • No Calculator Math 25 minutes
  • Break 5 minutes
  • Math 55 minutes
  • Break 5 minutes
  • Essay 50 minutes

Plan to have 3 hours and 15 minutes of uninterrupted time if you are practicing without the essay and 4 hours and 10 minutes if you are completing the essay.

If you find you can’t be strict with yourself, enlist the help of a friend or family member to keep you honest. Try to do at least a couple of practice tests at 9 am on a Saturday/Sunday, just as you will when you do the real test. This will help you see just how well and/or poorly your brain works at that time of day.

Don’t forget to use a Bubble Sheet

Some students practice by marking the test booklet, and that is great. But remember on the test day you will also have to mark your answers on a Bubble sheet which takes up some of your time.

You can download the Bubble Sheet here. 

If you are serious about doing optimally on the test, I would suggest you do a full practice test every Saturday for a few weeks before your real test. Get up at the time you will have to on test day, eat breakfast as you would on the test day, spend an hour doing boring things from 8 to 9 am and then start at 9 am. This will simulate your getting up and going to the testing center, waiting around to get checked in and seated.


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