Cracking the SAT | Tips and Application Process

Cracking the SAT | Tips and Application Process


When it comes to entrance exams for colleges, the SAT is probably the most important test you’ll ever have to give, and for good reason. The test is a widely accepted standard that is used by A LOT of colleges and universities around the world for assessing an applicant at the time of admission. Even if universities has its own standardized tests, they generally follow the same outline as that of the SAT. This also means you must ace only one test to be able to apply to practically any university on the planet. So, how does one go about applying and preparing for the SAT exam?

A little info about the SAT

There are two kinds of papers you’ll have to give for the SAT, namely SAT-1 which tests your English Language and Mathematics skills, and SAT Subject tests (collectively referred to as SAT-2) of which you’ll give a paper related to every subject you choose on their website during the application process. The SAT is strictly a Multiple Choice Question paper (barring the optional essay section) the SAT-1 and SAT-2 are taken in two different sittings, meaning you can’t just give both papers on the same day.

SAT-1 tests test your English and Mathematics skills in four separate sections of the paper:
  • The first part is a Reading Test where your comprehension skills are tested.
  • Language test is the second part which is designed to assess your proficiency in English grammar and vocabulary.
  • The Mathematics sections are divided into two parts, one you have to attempt without a calculator and one with a calculator. These sections along with the optional essay (which we highly recommend you opt for) bring the paper to around 3 hours and 50 minutes long, so you’d better be prepared for quite the testing experience.
The SAT subject tests are all one hour long and like the SAT-1 completely multiple choice. There is no limit to the number of SAT-2 tests you can give, but know that you can only give up to three SAT subject tests in one sitting, if they’re being offered on that day that is. SAT-2 tests generally focus on testing your areas of knowledge on the subject you selected for evaluation, and are generally of the same level of difficulty as you’re AS-Levels/Intermediate exams.have to worry about is choosing what test you want to give on what dates, something which you’ll have to work on according to your own personal schedule.
Pro-tip: SAT-2 for Maths is much harder than the Maths section in SAT-1, so be sure to opt for it if you want to apply for technical fields in university.

Applying for the SAT

Applying for the SAT has never been as easy as it is today. The entire process is strictly online, meaning you don’t have to go through the hassle of standing in line at some office to pay the exam fee or anything. Simply head on over to Collegeboard’s official website and sign up for the next SAT exam, selecting the test center that is closest to you and paying the fee with a credit/debit card. The only real thing you
Tip: Make sure to apply with the exact same name and spelling as that given on your passport as it will be compared on the day of the test!

Preparing for the SAT

Once you’ve applied for the SAT, it’s time to hunker down in a corner of your choosing and bury yourself in your studies. The SAT is crucial to getting into almost any reputable college, so it’s important you give it your all when preparing for it. That being said, it would be unwise to jump into your studies without a proper study plan so coming up with one before you actually start studying is a must.
Unfortunately, when it comes to study plans, one size dos not fit all, so we really can’t hand you a schedule that will work for you perfectly. Your personal study plan needs to be customized according to your specific needs and convenience, and the only person who can plan around your schedule is you yourself. We can, however, give you a few pointers to help you out while planning and studying for your SATs:

1) Time management

The number one problem most students run into while preparing for any exam is time management and not having covered everything they should have before the test because they ran out of time. Those of us in the habit of studying at the last minute are VERY familiar with this pain and how much it ends up costing us. Putting it bluntly, starting your SAT prep late is akin to self-sabotage; the SAT is not like your average tests and cramming on the last night is a destructive idea. Even if you manage to scrape together a decent score, know that you could have done so much better had you just managed your time.
We recommend starting your SAT prep months at least three months in advance. Giving yourself this long a period for preparation lets you fully utilize all the resources available to you and get in a great deal of practice before you actually go to give the exam on the test day. Studying about an hour everyday is a great strategy, but if you’re the kind of person who can only manage longer study sessions once or twice a week, try to make the most out of them and get as much done as you can. The important thing is to study on a regular basis, so that anything you learn stays fresh in your mind till the next session comes along and you’re not wasting any time relearning what you forgot from last time.

2) Study resources

With the internet being as expansive and accessible as it is today, there is wealth of knowledge right at your fingertips waiting to be discovered and resources for SAT prep are no exception to the rule. From practice tests to SAT prep guides to online lessons on each topic covered in the SAT, there are a ton of resources to choose from that cater to basically every learning style out there. But if reading from a screen isn’t your thing, all of these resources can easily be bought in their paperback versions from any book store that sells text books. So, the availability of study material is definitely not an issue.
The only real thing you need to look out for is the year your selected resource material was published and the authors who wrote them. As far as versions are concerned, opt for the post 2016 prep material, since that’s when the SAT format was last changed and while older versions are still usable, they’re considerably outdated. As for the authors, try to stick to material provided from the official sources like Collegeboard, its associated partners and other respected publishers, since their practice material is going to be as close to the real SAT paper as possible.
Tip: The best books to refer to with respect to them being most similar to the real SAT are Barron’s for the reading section, KAPLAN and Princeton for the writing section, and KAPLAN for the Math section. The essay section can be best prepared for by following the College Board Official Guide samples.

3) Solo or group study?

Well, what works best for you? Would you rather gather together with your friends at a spot and hunker down to solve practice papers together, or would you prefer the privacy of your room when studying for the SAT? Granted, both strategies have their own advantages with you being able to focus better on your own but covering more when with friends, but at the end of the day, you already know what works best for you. Now’s not the time to experiment.

4) Ask for help when you need it

Just because you choose to study on your own doesn’t mean you’re on your own. You have a wealth of peers, seniors and teachers all rooting for you to succeed and willing to help you at a moment’s notice. Don’t be ashamed to ask if you’re stuck on a question or even an entire topic; asking for help may feel embarrassing, but it’s better to swallow your pride and ask than to leave your concepts unclear and pay for it on the test day. And if you ever feel you can’t prepare for the SAT on your own, it’s perfectly fine to hire tutor or join a class; lots of people have been in the same situation as you and getting help is the bravest thing you can do in this scenario.

A day before the exam

If you’ve followed the tips given above, then you’ve probably gotten a good deal of preparation under your belt as the SAT draws near. However, instead of ramping up your preparation as the SAT draws closer and closer, we recommend slowing down your prep towards the last three days and not studying at all one day before the exam. You’ve already studied all you can and overworking your brain a day before the exam rarely ever works out. Might we suggest that you take this time to relax and get a good night’s sleep instead? After all, you can’t hope to achieve high scores if you’re dozing off in the middle of the paper. Besides, you’ll perform way better on your test with a fresh mind rather than a tired one, and that a well-researched fact.
Tip: DO NOT forget to carry your passport with you on the day of the exam as they do not let you sit for the test!

To conclude

The SAT may be the most important test you’ll give for getting into a good university, but it doesn’t have to be the hardest thing you have to do to get in. All it takes is a little planning, hard work and persistence and anyone can get a decent score.