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How to Self-Study for the SAT : The Ultimate Guide

Although many colleges are turning to test-optional in the aftermath of the changes due to Covid19, there is still a great advantage for students to submit the score to enhance their chances of being accepted. Getting a competitive score may seem distant for beginners, but it is certainly achievable with an adequate amount of dedicated study time. You just have to keep in mind that you can finish your prep faster than you think with the right direction for your study.


While there are numerous SAT prep courses and tutoring that will give you guidance on studying, you can also choose to study on your own and still get the score you want. Since you don’t have a course curriculum to follow, you will have to create your own study plan to keep yourself on track to finish your preparation on time. Once you have your study plan, the next step is to gather qualified resources that you can rely on during your self-study.


Below are the four steps you need to follow to prepare for your self-study. This is a process that will turn your self-study into a successful one, so we recommend you follow through once and for all!


1. Take an Official Practice Test

Finding out the baseline will help you strategically determine how many hours you have to spend for your target score. You can either College Board or Khan Academy to access the printable official tests created by the test-makers(Signing up need for Khan Academy).

If a 3-hour-long full test seem too demanding for you, we recommend you take at least a shortened version of the test. Although the test does not include all the question types in the exam, you will still be able to get the estimated total score from the questions you have answered. You can take either 15-minute or 45-minute test here.



2. Set Your Goal Score & Test Date

Now you know where you stand, it’s time to set your end goal! Take a look at the SAT scores of the applicants at colleges you want to apply and aim to get a score in between the 25th and 75th percentile. You can consult this article that provides the data for some of the popular schools in the U.S. as well as the chart that converts SAT composite score to national percentile.

Once you have your target score, look up the upcoming SAT exam dates and choose the date you wish to take the test. If you have to increase more than 200 points, try to set your test date 3-4 months from now. It is recommended to take the test at least twice so you can benefit from Superscoring, which is an option that allows you to submit the best sectional scores to the college you are applying to. In this sense, try to pick your first exam date that gives you time to take one more before your college application deadline.



3. Create Your SAT Study Plan

Once you have your goal score, you can start creating your own curriculum and your study schedule to carry out the plan before your exam date. Organizing your curriculum will be divided in to two phases : concept learning, and practicing.


Concept Learning

Look at the full content areas that need to be covered for each Reading, Writing, and Math section and assign a period to study each concept. Also, writing the list of question types associated with each concept will not only help you set a realistic timeline but also help you study the concept in the context of the real exam. If you are stronger in particular areas, like many other students, expect to spend more time on your weaker concepts. Along with the contents, you will be learning some strategies for solving questions which you can practice using as you go. Generally, students can go over the entire concept in 1-2 month(s) with dedicated studying.


Practicing

After you have gone over the basic concepts, you can dive into the practice test & review phase where you can optimize your test-taking skills. During this time, you can practice using different skills per question type, solve questions in time, and be more familiar with the test format.

It is ideal to take a full test at least every two weeks and even more towards the end of your preparation period. It is important to spend enough time and energy in reviewing the test and know in and outs of the question types that you always struggle with. Remember, the fastest way to raise your score is to get your wrong answers right!


Student taking a practice test
It's important to review your practice tests and make notes on your frequent wrong answers

4. Gather Resources

The last step before you start is to prepare all the materials to help you study according to your schedule. Below are some of the tools you can look into.


1. SAT Prep Books

There are a number of books that lists some of the useful tactics. The book published by College Board, The Official SAT Study Guide introduces some strategies on taking the exam. Another famous SAT strategy book is SAT Prep Black Book, which gives you detailed explanation for the questions from the Official SAT Study Guide.


Some other books that are considered helpful for self-study are :

  • The Critical Reader : The Complete Guide to SAT Reading

  • Barron’s SAT Study Guide

  • Kaplan SAT Prep Plus 2022

  • The Princeton Review SAT Premium Prep


2. Online Course

Khan Academy provides the most famous free SAT prep program that is created in collaboration with College Board. It includes videos, explanations, and official practice questions. While it can be the most relevant and reliable resource, the amount of material may not be enough for students to practice their test-taking strategies.

Although there are a lot of premium online courses, you can consider taking a self-paced course that will minimize the cost and still provide the tools you need. If you are disciplined enough to have your own study schedule, getting a supply of qualified study materials on the side will take your self-study to a next level. The best part of self-paced course is that you can get access to Q&A help when you need it, which can be very handy when you are stuck in certain areas or questions.


A student self-studying
Using a self-paced course can help you acquire the resources at a minimized cost

Final Tips Before You Start

First, you may give yourself credit for deciding to prepare for the SAT exam on your own. Using your own will and effort to achieve your goals is a valuable endeavor in itself. However, with no one to hold you accountable, your self-paced SAT prep may require some time to get used to. At first, you may have to use extra discipline to fulfill the study time you have assigned for the day. Once you pass that phase, you will be able to enjoy the magic of witnessing your own personal improvement. The best tip to help you get to that stage is to set the intensity at "just a little challenging". You may be able to know when to effectively study or take time off once you get in the zone. Also, start with the materials at your level and gradually increase the level of difficulty. This way, you won’t get too overwhelmed and create your own pace of build up on your knowledge.


What’s Next?

Prestige’s 5-week SAT self-paced program is designed to best support you with your self-study. It provides the ultimate package to master the SAT exam - weekly study plan, concept videos, questions and lecture notes, and instant Q&A help. You will also have weekly live sessions where you can ask questions directly to the instructors, which is a great perk that no other self-paced course provides. Go ahead and enroll today!

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