The Ideal SAT Plan of Attack



From our years and years of experience watching students freak out over preparing for the SAT, we thought we’d do y’all a great big favor by laying out a step-by-step 3-month SAT plan to make sure you’re really really well-prepped and manage it without burning yourself out so badly studying that you’re no good at all on the actual test.

All right, pay attention—here we go:

THREE MONTHS LEFT:

Learn lots and lots of new words; do your best to learn 200-300 new words. Make it a daily habit and it’ll get easier each time. And to make it easier still, the internet is bursting with lots of handy dandy vocab resources like freerice.com. Not only do you get to beef up your own vocab, you’re doing something nice for the world too. Quizlet.com is another good source, particularly because you can carry it around with you on your phone and other mobile devices, so you have no reason NOT to work on your vocab. If all of this is too new-fangled for you, worry not: there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned vocab journal and it’ll serve you just as well as other options.

• Finish a section a day. Immediately go over your work to check for mistakes and see where you went wrong—vow never to make the same mistake again.

Don’t let one question suck up all your time. Focus on the ones you can definitely do (usually the easy- and medium-difficulty ones) and get them right.

Don’t be too concerned about time when you’re only beginning to practice; try to finish roughly in time.

Work on accuracy; if you’re going to attempt a question, make sure you’ll get it right so you can avoid losing points on an incorrect answer.

Work out your own tricks and techniques (checklists are a good one to try) that you can use for the SAT in general. Here’s an example:

1. What am I being asked? What am I being tested on? Which category does this question neatly fit into?
2. What are the different ways I can arrive at an answer? (At this stage, you’re thinking about strategy only, not a solution just yet.)
3. What is the best way to get the answer? (Pick a plan, or a couple of plans.)
4. Solve with plans A through C and see what you get.
5. Always reread the question—you won’t believe how many people mess up by mixing up questions and answering the wrong one at the wrong time – and there’s always a trap answer waiting!
6. Double check your work right away.

• Do a full (FULL!) practice test every other weekend.

• Continuously identify concepts that you need to learn or refresh:

Start memorizing your formulas just like you would your vocab: flashcards are your friend!

TWO MONTHS LEFT

Go harder on vocab: ramp up your goal to 500 new words before test day. Don’t forget the old ones! By now, you should have a pretty good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are and you can focus appropriately.

Take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths—lots of students tend to shy away from working on the stuff that’s hard and spend a lot of time honing skills that are already pretty sharp.

Keep doing that one section a day, and keep checking your work immediately on completion. Time is more important now, so start keeping track of how much over the allotted timeframe you go. At the same time, you will have developed a rough sense of how long “one minute” is without looking at the clock, and you’ll “know” when you’re spending too much time on a question.

Your accuracy should be at 90% now: for instance, you should be getting 11 out of 12 questions right.

MORE FULL TESTS! With two months left, you should be finishing a full test every weekend.
By now, you should have all relevant formulas memorized.
Because you will have completed so many practice tests, you’ll start being able to identify trends in question patterns, and you’ll be able to categorize the majority of the questions into neat little boxes.

ONE MONTH LEFT

Really cement your vocab: keep going with another 500 words.

Go up to two practice sections a day—that’s TWO sections.

Accuracy is everything: by this point, you should be getting everything you attempt right—no more than one question wrong at the most. Everything else should be skipped so you don’t lose any points.

Really pay attention to the time now: at this stage you should be looking for areas where you can shave off seconds here and there to make full use of the time you’re given.

Before beginning every answer, ask yourself: what is this question here for? What are they trying to test?

Keep doing that weekly practice test!

ONE WEEK LEFT

Know another hundred words and keep on practicing those 2 sections a day. Now you should be looking at outlier questions and see how weird they get.

ONE DAY LEFT

Relax! We mean it: go watch a movie, hang out with your friends, and try and find your happy place.

Check out our guide for test day here, Good luck!

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