As experts in SAT preparation and admissions abroad, we at Jamboree are always thinking about how to simplify the SAT for you. Every year our faculties take the SAT to get a first-hand account of what goes on once you cross the threshold of the SAT examination room. As we know what it feels like to be in your place, you can count on us for the very best SAT of preparation tips! Follow these religiously and see how it works wonders to help you get your target score in SAT 2023.
Know the SAT
Knowing everything about what you’re up against is the key to winning. Here are a few quick facts that you must know before you begin your SAT preparation.
The SAT is an exam that is required to be taken by school students who want to study an undergrad degree at universities and colleges in the United States. Universities in India, UK, Singapore and Canada also accept SAT scores as part of their admission process.
Of late, some Indian universities have also begun to accept SAT scores.
The SAT exam is 2 hours and 14 minutes long. The exam consists of 2 sections: Reading and Writing section and the Math section.
Reading and Writing section of the SAT exam has 54 questions to be attempted in 64 minutes
Math section has 44 questions to be attempted in 70 minutes
Total SAT score lies between 400 to 1600.
Depending upon your achievements, profile, target college and advice from your admissions counsellor/faculty, you should decide your target SAT score.
Also read: SAT Syllabus 2023 and Exam Pattern
Be the early bird
A lot of people ask us when is the right time to begin preparing for the SAT. Our answer is: the sooner, the better. For students who aim to make it to the Top 20 colleges in the US for undergraduate programs, Class 9 would be an ideal time to start. This has a twofold advantage—first, your preparation is not rushed. And second, it would also give you ample time to create an exceptional profile that would stand you in good stead when you begin to apply to colleges 2 years down the road. (We will explain the importance of the latter as we go on.) Bonus points if being the early bird you can earn college credits while still at school through APs!
A large number of students also come to us in Class 11. In that case, students must work dedicatedly for good results.
Take a diagnostic test
A diagnostic test helps you figure out where you stand now. In a sense, it helps you get a sneak peek of SAT questions before you decide to jump into SAT preparation in earnest. Don’t freak out if you don’t do well in your diagnostic test.
In our experience of being a part of thousands of students’ SAT preparation journey, we have seldom encountered anyone who scores a straight 1500 (or more) without any prior exposure to SAT questions. Most Indian students score modestly, around 1250 (scaled), in their diagnostic test. This is not because the SAT is tougher than your school exams, it’s just that the SAT is a bit different. It does not directly test your knowledge that you’ve gathered at school. Rather, it tests your SKILLS to apply that knowledge to solve questions.
Chalk out a clear plan of action
Now that you know where you stand in terms of SAT preparation, it is time to draw a plan of action. This SAT Study Plan is super-effective to help you divide your entire SAT preparation into small achievable week-wise modules. If followed sincerely during your SAT preparation period, it would push you to study each day—something that is crucial when preparing for the SAT exam. Most students with 1400+ SAT scores advise that studying 2-3 hours every day helps more than studying once or twice a week for say, 10 hours.
The SAT Study Plan is your best guide to week by week preparation. Your SAT classes will also follow a standard structure designed for deep and thorough SAT preparation. You will also be required to study certain parts of the text before you come to class. Ensure that you come prepared to class as not only does such a preparation methodology help you make the best of your SAT lessons, but also it helps you develop a habit of studying consistently.
Take help from experienced SAT teachers
Whatever you do, don’t get misled. There is plenty of free advice on the internet on how to prepare for the SAT. But does it really work? No one knows for sure! We’ve had students who dabbled in many of these novice websites before they came to us. They immediately felt the difference in our problem-solving methods, and later admitted that they regretted how much time they’d wasted by following some wrong advice or the other.
Most SAT questions can be solved by multiple methods. But know this, there is only ONE SIMPLE METHOD that leads to RIGHT ANSWER WITH THE HIGHEST SPEED AND ACCURACY. And that is where experienced specialists come in.
Read the right literature to get exposure to SAT vocab
The best of SAT-takers are stumped by SAT Reading Comprehension. They often complain that the passages are ‘too long’, ‘too boring’, ‘too complex’… you get the drift. There’s only one way to remedy it, and unfortunately, there is no simple shortcut to this: read extensively, but read wisely. In every SAT, the College Board gives passages related to US and World Literature, History and Social Studies, and Science. These passages are sourced from American Classics (fiction/non-fiction), momentous speeches from American icons, and from journals and magazines (TIME, The Atlantic, The Week, Science, etc.) Make it a point to read at least a 1000-words article each day for 2 months and see what a world of difference it makes to your vocabulary of American English words.
Tackle SAT passages smartly
When faced with an SAT passage, you may be tempted to read word for word right from the start. With the clock ticking, this is not exactly a good idea. Instead, try and skim the passage just to gather the basic idea of what it’s about. Move to the questions now and quickly surmise what they’re asking. First, answer those that are related to the meaning of the word in context. Keep an eye out for primary purpose/stance/position questions—more often than not, you would get a clue in the first 2-3 paragraphs. If there are graph based questions, answer those by analysing the title, axes, labels and unit increments. 80% of the time this strategy works and for the rest…well, that’s what experts are for!
Don’t lose heart if you don’t score well in mocks
Mock SATs are meant to boost your confidence, to give you a feel of the real thing so that there are no ugly surprises in store for you on the D-day. So if you don’t score well in the first few mocks, don’t lose heart or get demotivated.
Our student Karthik from Hyderabad scored 1290 in his first SAT mock test. He learned and practised the strategies that we’d taught him in class and eventually scored 1540 on the SAT. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes and root out the topics, questions or concepts where you tend to make errors.
Analyse your mocks deeply
Your mock test result would give you a section-wise analysis of your performance. Analysing it carefully is as important as taking the mock itself. Did you eliminate the right option on the basis of a reasoning error? Did your perceptions come in the way of answering a contextual question? Did you make a careless calculation error while trying to solve a question fast? Is your basic concept shaky? There is no real substitute for SELF-ANALYSIS. For Karthik (our SAT 1540 scorer from Hyderabad) a ‘silly mistake’ cost him 10 points on the SAT Math section. But for it, he laments he could’ve easily scored a perfect 800 on SAT Math.
Know your weak areas and work steadily on eliminating them
Make a section-wise list of your weaknesses, topics or areas that you are most likely to stumble in. These are red-flag topics; be hyper-alert when you face a similar question in your next mock. Schedule a session with your faculty and discuss how to get rid of these mistakes. Take it as a personal challenge—to constantly learn from your mistakes. Remember, during SAT preparation, the only competition that you have is with yourself! Aim to make lesser mistakes and score better with each mock SAT.
Schedule your test intelligently
The SAT is held 7 times a year, in the months of March, May, June, August, October, November and December. SAT registration dates are opened months in advance. So, consider carefully your timetable, your exams and project work at school before you schedule your SAT.
Some students prefer to take the SAT during regular school days—they feel it keeps them in a ‘charged’ state. Others like to take a 3-4 days’ break as they feel it helps them get into SAT mode. Choose your test date wisely, you don’t want to be swamped with project deadlines or midterms during your SAT.
Take refresher session just before the exam to revise concepts
Normally, students have a gap of two months or more between their last SAT preparation class and their SAT test date. It is easy to lose track of your SAT ‘mindset’ with all the school activities going around. So taking revision classes is a good idea as it helps you brush up on all important concepts and relevant question-types. Revision classes are also amazingly helpful for students who want to retake the SAT.
Keep up your motivation and drive throughout your prep time
Motivation is what gets you started, habit keeps you going! Some students begin SAT preparation with a lot of enthusiasm only to have their motivation fizzle out once the regular classes are over. Once you are done with your SAT classes, do give in at least 2-3 hours exclusively to your SAT preparation every day. In that time practice questions as per the SAT Study Plan.
It is extremely important to not get out of touch with problem-solving strategies that were taught to you in class. The more you practise them, the better you will get at solving questions with speed and accuracy.
Instead of looking for ways to keep up your motivation, aim for developing a study habit. On some days (due to school exams, project work and other activities) we understand, it would be difficult to give in even an hour to SAT prep. But barring those unavoidable days, get into a habit of studying every day without fail. If you find it difficult to study at home, join a library or go someplace where you can study undisturbed. Last but not least, switch off your mobile phone so that you don’t get distracted during these 2-3 hours.
Work on profile improvement
College admission committees don’t just consider your SAT score, they holistically assess your entire profile—your academics at school (Class 9, 10 and 11 grades), extracurricular activities that you engage in, your essays, letters of recommendation and statement of purpose.
Essentially, they want to get a complete picture of you as a person. If writing is one of your strong points and if you have been blogging consistently for a few years, make sure to leave a digital footprint by adding the URL of your blog in your online application. Similarly, if singing is your hobby, shoot a video of some of your songs and upload them on Youtube. If you have volunteered for community service or social work, make sure you mention it. If you hold positions of responsibility at school, for example, if you are a head boy or head girl or if you have led a team, it doubles your chances of making it to the top tier universities. We frequently come across students who voluntarily give up such positions of responsibility so that they can focus solely on their studies, but such a move may prove to be counterproductive when applying for colleges abroad.
Be prepared to take a re-test to improve score‘
Not everybody scores well the first time around. If the need arises be prepared to take the SAT 2nd or 3rd time. Don't give up!’ says Arushi Arora, SAT 1500 scorer from New Delhi. Agrees Nehansh Saxena, who improved his SAT score by 150 points the 2nd time he took the SAT.
Our take on this matter is: make up your mind that you have to do it right the first time. But God forbid, if it just doesn’t seem to be your day, then don’t lose heart and be prepared for a re-test. Also, as the SAT allows you to reschedule your test date, make use of it and put your best foot forward!