Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
How to Improve Your SAT Score in 6 Steps
Not everyone is satisfied with their SAT score on their first go. But rest assured – you still have multiple opportunities to improve your SAT score. In fact, according to the College Board, about 55% of students who retake the SAT end up with a higher score. If you approach it strategically, you should be able to improve your SAT score by learning from your strengths and weaknesses. Let’s get into how to improve your SAT scores.
Also see: What is a good SAT score?
1. Focus on what you don’t know
We get it — getting an answer wrong can be frustrating. Some students might find it difficult to continue to dig into the subject matter that challenges them the most. It may be tempting to do practice problems in your strongest fields, and this might make you walk away with the most confidence in yourself. But when test day comes around, you’ll be better off if you spent time digging into the difficult problems.
Remember as you study that getting something wrong is one of the best ways to learn. Numerous scientific studies have shown that making mistakes is the best way to learn. So, instead of feeling frustrated when you mess up a problem, you should congratulate yourself. You just learned something and potentially improved your score!
This is not to say that you shouldn’t devote time to reviewing your strong subjects. It’s a good idea to remain confident in these fields and ensure that you can complete them within the SAT time constraints. But also remember that these are the subjects that will be the least beneficial to your score. You should devote the majority of your time to subjects that you have been scoring poorly in.
Also read: Average SAT score by state
2. Design a program and stick to it
The SAT is a huge test which can be very overwhelming. It covers a vast expanse of subject matter that takes a long time to review. Therefore, the best way to tackle the task is to break it down and create a program for yourself. If you sit down and try to study for the entire SAT in one sitting, you’ll never make any progress. You won’t have the time or attention span to go in-depth on anything and won’t end up retaining anything. You should make a weekly or daily plan to break down the subject matter for yourself. By giving yourself constraints and guidelines, you’ll be better equipped to actually learn about each subject.
It’s a good idea to start off with a practice test, or by analyzing your previous test results. Pinpoint the subjects that need the most work and give yourself a certain amount of time to study each of them. It’s a good idea to invest in a workbook to help give you some problems to dig into.
Although it’s important to stick to your program, you should also remain flexible. If you find that you no longer need to spend two weeks on one subject, you can move onto the next. On the flipside, if you need more time on a subject, you should allow yourself to take it. The program helps you to stay organized and study continually, but it can always be changed to help optimize your score.
3. Hire a tutor or ask friends and family for help
A great way to keep yourself motivated and to get feedback is to get help studying. This can take many forms; you can get a test prep tutor who specializes in SAT tests. A more affordable option is to take group classes, such as Kaplan test prep classes. These opportunities are very valuable because your teachers will know the SAT like the back of their hand. They’ll know the ins and outs and not only teach you the subject matter, but how to take the test.
Some students might not have the financial resources to hire someone for help. In cases like this, it’s a great idea to reach out to friends and family for help. Even if they are not as well-trained in the SAT, they can be very helpful. Humans learn better by talking their questions out with other people. It can help you to retain skills more easily. In 2017, the College Board stated that coaching has a confirmed positive effect on SAT performance.
4. Take practice tests
Practice tests have a myriad of benefits to help you improve your SAT score. They help familiarize you with the material, and you can use the results to understand what you do and what you don’t know. But beyond this, they accustom you to the rhythm of the test. You’ll improve your time and learn to answer the types of questions they ask.
So, practice tests can not only help focus your studying and practice the material, but it also helps you learn about the unique form in which the test is written. It’s hard to overstate how important practice tests are to your performance. Remember, you can take practice tests piece-by-piece if the full three-hour test seems overwhelming. Try to take regular practice tests even if they are by fragments.
5. Utilize online resources
Don’t forget that there is a wide spread of online resources at your disposal to improve your SAT performance. We recommend Khan Academy’s SAT prep program. Not only is this program free, but it was developed in partnership with the College Board, which speaks to its accuracy to what is on the test. Khan Academy is one of the first names in online education, and they are well-known for breaking down subject matter in a digestible and helpful manner.
6. Remember to keep up with your coursework
If you’re working on how to improve your SAT scores, you know it is an important task, and it can take a lot of work. But remember to balance it well with your coursework and extracurriculars! Colleges are increasingly turning more towards alternate metrics to make admissions decisions. You won’t be helping your college chances if you drop your GPA or discontinue extracurriculars just to bump your SAT up a few points. And beyond that, you’ll be missing out on the fun experience of high school. Make sure not to get too lost in the process of studying for the SAT.
Also see: Advice for low test takers
Here’s another summary of our steps for how to improve SAT scores:
- Study the topics you aren’t confident in
- Design a study program and stick to it
- Get study help, whether it is from a tutor, a friend, or family member
- Take practice tests
- Utilize online resources
- Remember to keep up with other responsibilities
Good luck, and don’t forget to check out our other resources for college admissions! We can help you decide between the ACT and SAT, and how to write a successful college application. Once schools send back your admissions, we can help you decide on a school and interpret your financial aid letter. Happy studying!