Practical Tips For SAT Score Improvement

1. Familiarize yourself with the test format. The SAT has ten graded sections covering reading, math, and writing. The 25 minute essay is always section one. Download a full-length practice test from College Board or get a copy from your counseling office. The more comfortable you are with the format, the better. 2. Practice your pacing. Most students worry about not having enough time to finish the questions and tend to work too fast as they overcompensate. Practice your pacing so you don’t work too fast or too slow. (Think Goldilocks – not too fast, not too slow, but just right.) 3. Read for detail. Most reading tests students take in high school focus on basic comprehension; students who can read and understand the big picture do well. However, the SAT reading tests students’ abilities to read for details. Even one little word in an answer choice can be the difference between the correct response and the wrong runner-up. Read carefully; focus on details. 4. Write things down. It is an open book test. You paid for the privilege; you should feel free to write all over your copy of the test. Circle key words in questions or reading passages. Cross out wrong answer choices as you eliminate them. Make diagrams and calculations in math. Writing will help you focus and think through the tough questions. 5. Unless you plan to score 650+ in any section, leave questions blank. Wrong answers cost you ¼ a point on your raw score, so most students should plan to leave the hard questions blank. Focus your time, effort, and brain power on the questions you are likely to get right and strategically leave the hardest problems blank. For more practical tips for improving your SAT scores, check out my free video lessons – part of my online SAT Success Coach program at    



  • As a private college counselor and test prep coach, my rule for guessing on the SAT is that if students can eliminate one answer, they need to guess. There can be as much as a 100 point difference in scores for students who leave answers blank and those that eliminate an answer or two and guess. The statistics are in favor of guessing because of the small penalty if the answer is wrong. As far as the pacing goes, I encourage students to wear a watch and set the time to 8:00 when they begin a test. This way they only need to look at their watch to see if they are moving along at the proper pace.

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