Sat Test Taking Tips for Teens

The SAT Reasoning Test (also sometimes called the SAT I) is one of the best known standardized tests for high school students. The test is often compared to the ACT, but the two are fairly different. If you are considering taking the SAT, you should prepare specifically for that test. Luckily, several ways exist to do so.

Learn the Format

It is crucial to understand what you are getting into by registering for the SAT. Every test consists of ten sections, and every sitting begins with an essay. Every student will have the same number of multiple choice sections, but each test presents them in different orders. For instance, while you are answering math questions, your neighbor may be answering reading or writing ones.

The scoring of the test is fairly straightforward. An incorrect answer in the multiple choice section incurs a penalty of 1/4 a point. A correct answer gains a point. A skipped question or in incorrect answer in the grid in math section does not cause a gain or a penalty. The entire sitting time for the test is 3 hours and 45 minutes, and most centers give students breaks after every two sections.

How to Prepare

Quite simply, practice makes perfect. One of the most obvious ways to gauge your aptitude before taking the SAT for the first time is to take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). This test is essentially half of the real thing: less sections and no essay. But it functions to show you what you can expect on the SAT, which areas you need to improve on, and also allows juniors to enter the National Merit Scholarship competition.

Practice books are also helpful. There is little difference by make, though Princeton Review and Barron’s are probably the most popular test prep sources. Many of these books have ample exercises to help you improve in your weak areas, while some simply offer a lot of practice tests.

On that note, the official SAT and ACT sites also offer free tests to students, and searching for old tests can be a great form of practice.

Create a Low Stress Situation

Do not attempt to cram for a standardized test. All you can do is try to learn the skills. Treat your first sitting as a diagnostic test and work up from there. Also, give yourself time to improve. Avoid waiting until senior year rolls around to start testing. Some people test for the first time as sophomores; a good strategy would be taking the PSAT in tenth grade, studying to retake it in eleventh grade for National Merit and/or Achievement purposes, and taking the SAT at least once as a junior. Feel free to take the ACT as well; that test is shorter and includes science, and some people prefer it.

Overall, the SAT can be as easy or difficult as you make it. As long as you practice adequately and allow yourself to calm down and accept that you probably will not score a 2400 the first time, you can have a relatively stress free test taking experience and expect future success.