Before we begin, remember choosing between taking the SAT and the ACT for your college applications is an important decision. If you are not sure about taking the SAT over the ACT, then take a look at our detailed comparison of the tests and guide on deciding whether the SAT or the ACT is better for you.
You’re still here! Congratulations on progressing in your college preparatory journey. But what’s the next step?
In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, studying for the SAT can feel largely unimportant. With the likelihood of schools and colleges failing to reopen in the fall, the chances of the test dates being postponed or the exam moving online are high. Regardless, studying for the SAT in lockdown might be one of the best uses of your time if you’re a rising high school junior or senior.
Also Read: SAT COVID-19 Updates: What To Do Next
If you need help with how to prepare for or self-study the SAT, this is a comprehensive guide specially designed for you. To begin with, we’ll walk you through the process of effectively self-studying the SAT. Then, we’ll share some resources that students find helpful time and time again.
Self-Study the SAT in 5 Steps
Obviously, self-studying the SAT has more nuances than five steps. However, we want to give you the five main steps that will help you on your way to effectively self-studying the SAT.
1) Register for the SAT
Have you registered for the SAT yet? If not, go ahead and register for the SAT right now. College Board will prompt you to create an account first if you do not have one already.
Registering for the SAT will give you a deadline. You will have multiple test dates and locations to choose from. Choose a test date that will at least give you three months to prepare for the test as this is the optimal timeframe for self-studying the SAT. Due to lockdown, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare if you choose the August or new September test date. Make sure that your (tentative) choice of test center is nearby to reduce your commute on the day of the test.
2) Acquaint Yourself with the SAT exam pattern
Before you start self-studying the SAT, familiarize yourself with the structure and content of the SAT. Here’s a quick summary:
- The SAT has two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math
- Both sections are equally weighted or in other words, each section is worth 800 points.
- There are two subsections in each section. EBRW has the Reading and Writing sections while Math has the No-Calculator and the Calculator section.
- The lowest score one can receive in a section is 200. This means your total score can range anywhere from 400 to 1600 points.
- The SAT comes with an optional essay section that is scored separately out of 24 points. While this section is optional, most universities recommend taking the SAT with Essay regardless of your intended major.
- The order of the sections, timings, and number of questions follow in the chart below:
- The SAT is all multiple-choice with four options except in the math sections which have “grid-ins” or student-produced responses where you must grid in your calculated answer. There is no penalty for incorrect answers.
3) Craft the Perfect Study Plan
To self-study the SAT, you must employ a method of discipline to ensure the utmost effectiveness. To do this, you need to plan out your studies. How should you go about crafting your self-study plan? The brief version includes taking a diagnostic test early in your study plan to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses regarding the SAT syllabus. You should also make time to learn the specific strategies of the SAT. Decide on a target score that you would like to reach.
Be realistic. Will you really commit the entirety of your weekend to self-studying the SAT when the days of the week no longer seem to have meaning? In lockdown, there are, unfortunately, many more interesting activities that may be calling your name (*cough* Netflix *cough*). It might be more feasible to spend an hour a day, two days a week. Remember, study smart not hard!
However, we want to be completely honest with you. There is no set formula to creating the perfect study plan. The perfect study plan can only be effective if you design it with yourself in mind. We can, on the other hand, give you tips to create an effective quarantine SAT study plan.
Check out Khan Academy’s sample study plans to get an idea of what sort of plan you would like to create.
4) Build SAT Stamina
There are two ways to practice for the SAT. The first way to self-study the SAT is to focus on specific topics and question types in particular sections. This is a great method to hone your problem-solving skills and strategies as well as ensure that you have experience with solving each type of question on the SAT. By employing this method, you can practice areas in which you need improvement. You can also maintain your strengths using this method of self-studying.
Practicing SAT questions in a certain section is generally done in short bursts of time—similar to a 100-meter dash. We often compare the SAT to a marathon. It takes extensive, paced training to run a marathon and you need to slowly build the stamina to complete your race. This exact concept applies to the SAT. While you may be able to solve those math questions easily, you may find those same questions difficult under the time constraint of the SAT as well as after taking the EBRW section of the test. As a result, you must also employ the second way with the first one to effectively self-study the SAT. This means you should take a lot of official practice tests to build stamina for the test. Khan Academy has online versions of College Board’s Official SAT practice tests.
5) Relax Before Test Day!
Finally, make sure to stop studying the day before the test. Engage in good test-taking practices. Do not try to cram the day before. For your self-studying to be effective, you need not think about the SAT at all. Relax! Read a new book or listen to some of your favorite tracks. Continue to practice social distancing to keep yourself healthy and safe. Pack up all your pencils, calculator, and admission ticket. Have a good night’s sleep—at least 8 to 10 hours.
On the day of test, wake up early enough to have a large, balanced breakfast. Grab your supplies, take a deep breath, and go to your exam center. Calm down, you have done your studying! Go reap the fruits of your labor!
Resources for Self-Studying the SAT
To help you with studying, we have created a collection of resources that students have found helpful in recent years. Here are our recommended resources for self-studying the SAT.
Practice Questions and Tests
We have already stressed how important practice questions and tests are to your self-studying the SAT. The following are essential:
- College Board’s official practice tests (print) should, of course, be the first resource you should obtain.
- Khan Academy’s free SAT Practice program, with sample quizzes, mastery challenges, and practice tests, is the official, online SAT program College Board recommends.
The Best SAT Prep Books
To be honest, there is no best SAT prep book for a student to study from. The SAT prep books on this list have their individual strengths and weaknesses. In other words, certain books will work better for certain students over others.
As we explain in this guide, the best use of this list is to create an effective combination of two or more of the books. Read through our thorough analyses of the best SAT prep books and create the most effective combination for you. It’ll be a breeze!
There are a lot of strategy guides out there but few guides truly capture the formula of the SAT. Check out these guides below:
- Reading through the tips and planning section of Khan Academy’s SAT Practice program will give you a good understanding of how to approach the SAT.
- College Board offers some basic strategies as well.
Optimize Your Score
If you have been studying for the SAT for a while now but cannot seem to increase your score further, don’t worry! It is actually very common for students to hit a point block after achieving a certain score. If you are scoring 600+ or 700+ in a particular section, you are probably missing the same type of question each time. You can solve this by learning the nuances of that question type.
To learn those nuances, you’ll need an expert guide that will teach you how to ace the SAT. Here are the tips and strategies to follow to ace your SAT preparation.
For some section-specific strategies to optimize your score, try these:
Score Higher in the Reading Section
- Here are six ways to increase your raw score in the Evidence-Based Reading section. Seriously, getting one extra question right in this section equals a 20-point increase in your composite score.
Score Higher in the Writing Section
- This particular section has fewer questions but the questions are objectively easier and worth more. You cannot afford to lose any points in this section if you’re hoping for a high score.
Score Higher in the Math Section
- In this guide, we go through eight methodologies to get that perfect score on the SAT math calculator and no-calculator section. If you’re stuck at a point threshold in the math section, have no fear! This helpful guide is here.
Other Free Resources
- Erik the Red’s SAT Math Prep Guides
- Complete SAT Grammar and Punctuation Guide
- This amazing Google Drive folder with free pdf versions of popular resources
SAT Self-Study Program
If you’re like many students who have been forced to self-study the SAT due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might need some extra motivation and guidance to get your studying done. That’s okay. Admitting where you need help is an important step in achieving your goals.
A specially-designed self-study program is available for students who may need expert guidance to reach or exceed their score goals. Here are some of the main details:
- Curated by top SAT scorers
- 200+ score increase guaranteed
- Student-customized lesson plans
- 80 hours of learning with 12 high-quality mocks
If this is something that could benefit you, we suggest you check out the 12-week, online self-study program here.
Ready to start self-studying the SAT? Let us know what works for you when it comes to self-studying the SAT!
We hope you stay positive during these trying times. At Talentnook, we are working towards ensuring that the learning does not stop. You can also take a break from this stressful period by learning something new and creative like playing an instrument, painting, creative writing, and more! Check out some free trial lessons with Talentnook.