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How to Ace the SAT

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
While taking the SAT may seem like a daunting task, with proper preparation, it need not be. Read on for tips, ideas and resources to help you ace this test.

How To Do Well On Your SAT

To ace your SAT, you'll need to know about the content of the exam, its structure, and the types of questions you'll be asked. You'll also want to mentally prepare yourself for test day.

Review And Study The SAT's Content

Because the SAT measures what high school students have already learned in their courses, the key to acing the SAT is, fundamentally, having mastery of those concepts and skills. First, you'll want to review the specific content of the SAT's three sections, outlined below.

Math Section

The math section of the SAT measures your fluency, understanding, and ability to apply math skills. Questions focus on algebra, data analysis, problem solving, and complex equations, along with some geometry and trigonometry. The math section is broken down into two sections: one on which you may use a calculator, and one on which calculator usage is prohibited.

You can brush up on the knowledge and skills you'll need by taking Study.com's SAT Math Prep: Review and Practice course, which features over 100 lessons focused on the exact content of this section.

Reading Section

In the reading section of the SAT, you'll read several written passages that will focus on literature, historical U.S. documents or speeches, social studies and science. Each passage may include graphics. You'll then be asked questions measuring your command of evidence, understanding of vocabulary in context, and ability to analyze science and social studies subjects.

To learn more about this section, check out Study.com's SAT Reading Prep and Practice course, which includes short video lessons and self-assessment quizzes.

Writing and Language Section

On the writing and language section of the SAT, similar to the reading section, you will begin by reading written passages. You will then be asked to edit and improve the vocabulary, use of evidence, presentation and expression of ideas, and grammar.

To master the skills you'll need for this section of the test, see Study.com's SAT Writing Prep and Practice course.

Subject Tests

If you plan to apply to a school or program that requires or recommends taking SAT subject tests, check out these courses to review what you'll face on the SAT subject tests in chemistry, biology, world history, U.S. History, physics, literature and math.

Understand the Structure of the Exam

The SAT takes about three hours to complete, including two short breaks. If you choose to take the optional essay section, that requires an additional 50 minutes.

SectionNumber of QuestionsTypes of QuestionsTime Allowed
Math 58 multiple choice and grid-in 80 minutes
Reading 52 multiple choice 65 minutes
Writing and Language 44 multiple choice 35 minutes
Essay 1 essay analyzing a written passage 50 minutes

To learn how to properly pace yourself, take advantage of the full-length SAT practice tests available on the College Board website (collegeboard.org).

Prepare for Test Day

Not knowing what to expect when you arrive to take the SAT may cause unnecessary jitters and serve as a distraction. To eliminate that stress, note these important facts about your SAT test day:

  • You should arrive between 7:45 a.m. and 8 a.m. If you arrive after 8 a.m., you probably won't be able to take the test.
  • You will be assigned a seat.
  • You must have a valid government- or school-issued ID that exactly matches the name with which you registered for the SAT.
  • You can only work on one section of the test at a time, and the testing supervisor will tell you when you may start and when you must finish each section.
  • You may expect to get two short breaks, one lasting 10 minutes and one lasting 5 minutes. These are the only times you will be allowed to consume food or beverages.
  • It's best to leave your electronic devices behind. If you try to charge, check or use a phone or other device - or even if it makes a noise - you may be dismissed from the test and your scores will be canceled.

Test-Taking Strategies

If you're confident in you knowledge, but worried that you don't have adequate test-taking skills, check out these few short lessons to help you:

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