It is the first Tuesday back after the holidays and you promised yourself that you were going to buckle down and raise that SAT score. So, you bought all the right books, downloaded a pile of practice tests, sharpened your pencils, got a graphing calculator. And now your brain is saying, “we can start on the weekend.”
Don’t believe that little voice
There are 10 weeks until the March test, 17 weeks to the May test, and 34 weeks to the August test. (Yes, if you live in the U.S. there are a few more options) And of course, there are October and December tests.
Now 34 weeks seems like a long time, but getting a top score on the SAT can take months of dedicated practice and leaving it to the last minute will leave you with regrets. The October and December tests seem tempting, but remember that by then you will be deep into grade 12 work in addition to college applications. Grade 12 is not the time to start aiming for a higher score. It is a time for focusing on your school work so that you have best grades possible.
Make a Plan to achieve a higher SAT score
Start by creating a realistic study plan. This doesn’t mean plan to study for 5 hours a day for 8 weeks. That isn’t realistic. Figure out your other responsibilities and school work and try to carve out some time to take a practice test every week or 2, some time to review the test, and some time to work through books. So, 3-4 blocks of 2 hours (3+ for the test itself).
Write down exactly which test and which chapters you are going to tackle each week, block out time on your calendar, and be rested and fed when you are working. That is, don’t leave SAT prep to the end of the night. Put an alarm on your phone to remind yourself when you are supposed to be working. It is sometimes a good idea to have a separate space to work on the SAT prep (at the library or at the kitchen table) to avoid being distracted by the other work you need to do.
Don’t beat yourself up if you fail sometimes
We all have good intentions, but following through can be hard. If you miss a study session, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of missing the next one, and the next one, until WHAM! it is 2 weeks before the test and you haven’t done you prep. Reward yourself if you fulfill your plan and perhaps punish yourself (Instagram is being deleted) if you don’t.
But I know a guy who…
Yes, we all know that guy or girl. The one who didn’t prepare and scored a 1560 on his/her first attempt. Yes, these people exist, but you need to understand some things. First these students are usually strong test takers. They have prepped for other tests in the past (like the SSAT). They have excellent reading skills, vocabulary, writing skills and math skills. They are not you. If you are taking practice tests and scoring below 1450, you are not likely to get above 1550 on your first shot. So keep working.
A higher SAT score opens doors
The SAT score will get you considered, but not automatically chosen. Back in the ancient times (the 1970s), a high enough SAT score and decent grades were all that was needed for a top tier school. Those day are over. Now you need a high SAT score to be considered seriously. Yes, there will be exceptions. But for the majority of students who are aiming for a top tier school, you need to start with an excellent SAT score. And then add great grades, extracurricular activities, and evocative application essays.
Steps to Take
- Gather your materials. Decide which books, websites, downloads you will use
- Organize your materials starting with the easiest things for you to master first
- Plan out your practice tests. Put them on your calendar
- Plan out your study sessions
- Get an accountability buddy. This can be a friend, a parent, a teacher or anyone you will feel bad about telling that you didn’t finish your work.
- Execute your plan
- Be prepared to alter your plan if your goals change
- Celebrate your improvements
- Analyze your failures
- Keep going!
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