21 SAT Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

July 24, 2023
8 min read

It can be stressful and challenging to take the SAT. We’ll cover SAT strategies to help you navigate this tricky exam.

Are you gearing up to take the SAT? As one of the most widely recognized standardized tests for college admissions, the SAT is crucial in determining your academic potential. While the exam can be challenging, understanding the right tips and tricks can make a significant difference in your performance. 

Whether you're a first-time test-taker or looking to improve your previous score, this article will equip you with essential SAT tips to help you confidently approach the exam and maximize your chances of success.

Overall SAT Strategies and Test-Taking Tips

Exams can be stressful and daunting. Here are some SAT tips that will help you achieve your academic goals. 

Tip 1: Pay Attention to Keywords

Keeping track of keywords and context is an effective SAT tip to help you better understand the question. Make sure you carefully analyze the keywords in the question and passage in both the Reading and Writing sections. Look for clues that indicate the main idea, tone, or purpose. 

Similarly, in the Math section, pay attention to the specific wording of the problem to understand what is being asked. Context is crucial for determining the correct answer and avoiding common traps.

Tip 2: Manage Your Time Wisely

Wisely managing your time is a crucial SAT strategy that can significantly impact your performance. With limited time for each section, effective time management ensures you can complete all questions and review your work within the allocated time frame. 

Start by setting time goals for each section and stick to them. Pace yourself throughout the test, ensuring you don't spend too much time on a single question. If you encounter a challenging question, it's better to make an educated guess and move on than to get stuck and waste valuable time. 

By maintaining a steady and efficient pace, you can maximize the number of questions answered and increase your chances of earning a higher score on the SAT.

Tip 3: Use the Process of Elimination

The SAT can be challenging. That’s why you must use the process of elimination when you’re unsure about an answer. 

Carefully analyze each answer choice, identify any inconsistencies or logical flaws, and cross out choices that do not align with the question or passage. 

By eliminating the incorrect answer choices, you narrow down your options and increase the probability of choosing the right answer, even if you are initially unsure. This technique saves time and reduces guesswork, allowing you to approach questions confidently. 

SAT Preparation Tips You Must Use

Before you take the test, you’ll need to prepare well! Here are some SAT preparation tips to help you enter the exam with confidence. 

Tip 4: Review the Test Structure

Before you start studying, take some time to review what’s on the SAT and how much time you’ll have to complete it. Being familiar with what’s on the test can be incredibly helpful. This way, you’ll be able to better determine what to spend your time on as you build your SAT study plan

Here’s a breakdown of the SAT sections, what’s tested in each section, and the time you’ll have to complete each section: 

Section Primary Content Time Limit Number of Questions Time Per Question
Reading Craft and structure
Information and ideas
Standard English conventions
Expression of ideas
65 minutes 52 75 seconds
Writing & Language Command of evidence
Words in context
Expression of ideas
Standard English conventions
Analysis in history/social studies
Analysis in science
35 minutes 44 48 seconds
Math (no calculator) Algebra
Advanced math
Problem-solving and data analysis
Geometry and trigonometry
25 minutes 20 75 seconds
Math (calculator) Algebra
Advanced math
Problem-solving and data analysis
Geometry and trigonometry
55 minutes 38 87 seconds

Tip 5: Take Lots of Practice Tests

Taking a practice test is one of the best ways to study for the SAT. It allows you to come face-to-face with questions that mimic the real structure of the SAT.

However, it’s a good idea to take more than one practice test. Not all tests are alike, and taking many different practice tests not only exposes you to different wordings and concepts but also helps to sharpen your skills and solidify your knowledge in the process.  

Tip 6: Participate In a Study Group

If you’re starting to feel worn out and overwhelmed studying on your own, consider joining a study group! 

Joining a group can give you accountability and help you to study more effectively. It can also help you feel more supported. 

You can also learn from the group members as your weak points may be their strong ones, and vice versa. Remember, the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else! 

Tip 7: Review Your Mistakes

It’s not very fun to think about the mistakes you’ve made, but it’s important not to brush over them. Instead of just accepting that you got a question wrong, stop and pay attention. Take intentional time to consider why you got the question wrong and what you can do to get it right next time. 

This is a crucial studying tip that will help eliminate simple mistakes on the real test! 

Tip 8: Focus On Your Weaknesses

Not every aspect of the SAT deserves equal prep time! Each student is different and has different strengths. Don’t spend equal time on everything if you’re significantly stronger or weaker in one area! 

For example, if you’re great at math but just can’t seem to nail down your reading comprehension skills, you can take less time studying math. Instead, block out lots of time to practice reading because that’s the specific area that needs to be strengthened. 

Tip 9: Use a Bubble Sheet

Bubble sheets can be confusing and irritating. To avoid any issues with them on test day, try taking your practice test with a bubble sheet. You might even consider printing it out and writing down your answers with a pencil. 

If you practice using a bubble sheet in your test prep, you’ll be less likely to be confused by it and mix up your answers on test day!

Tip 10: Learn Word Etymology

Memorizing a long list of vocabulary words can be exhausting. One way to make vocab less daunting is by learning etymology! 

If you’re familiar with the Latin and Greek roots of words, then you’ll be able to make more educated guesses as to the meaning of an unknown word. This can make identifying tricky vocabulary words much easier!

For example, if you know that the Greek word pathos means “feeling”, then you can infer that the word “empathy” means to feel as someone else does. 

Tip 11: Improve Reading Speed

The faster you can read, the faster you’ll be able to get through all the questions. It’s always worth it to free up some time on the test, so try learning some speed reading tricks or testing out tips like following along with your finger as you read. 

Simply reading in and of itself can also help improve your reading speed and comprehension - so if you’ve got a spare minute, grab a book and practice!

SAT Reading Tips

The SAT Reading section is the first part of the exam you will complete. Here is a general overview of this section:

  • Time limit: 65 minutes
  • Number of Questions: 52
  • Number of Passages: 5

Below are a few SAT Reading tips to help you ace this section. 

Tip 12: Skim the Questions First

Skimming the questions before delving into the passage is a useful strategy for tackling the SAT Reading section. By quickly glancing over the questions, you can understand what information to look for while reading the passage. 

This approach helps create a mental roadmap, allowing for more focused and efficient reading. While skimming the questions, it's important to underline or mark any keywords, phrases, or line references that directly relate to the passage. 

This way, when reading the text, you can easily identify the relevant sections without wasting time searching aimlessly. 

Skimming the questions first not only aids in comprehension but also assists in time management, as it provides a clear direction and purpose while navigating through the passage and answering the questions accurately and effectively.

Tip 13: Pay Attention to Context

Context refers to the surrounding information and details provided in the passage that helps clarify the meaning of a specific word, phrase, or idea. By considering the context, you can better comprehend the intended message and make accurate inferences. 

Look for clues within the passage, such as the tone, the argument, or the surrounding sentences, that provide hints about the meaning of a particular word or phrase. Understanding the context helps you avoid misinterpretations and select the most appropriate answer. 

Also, paying attention to context helps identify the purpose of specific paragraphs or the overall structure of the passage.

Tip 14: Predict Before Looking at the Answer Options

Before reading the answer choices, take a moment to formulate your answer based on your understanding of the passage. This lets you approach the question with a clear idea of what you expect the correct answer to be. 

Doing so allows you to actively engage with the passage, focusing on the relevant details and eliminating potential distractions from the answer choices. Predicting helps maintain your perspective and prevents you from being swayed by seemingly plausible but incorrect options. 

While your prediction may not always match exactly with the provided choices, it serves as a guide and helps you approach the answer options more critically and confidently. 

Tip 15: Look Out For These Traps

The SAT can be known to use tricky wording to confuse test-takers. Getting familiar with the common wrong answer traps is important because it can help you navigate the answer choices more effectively. Here are some common wrong answer traps to watch out for:

  • Extreme language: Be cautious of answer choices that include extreme or absolute language such as "always," "never," or "completely." These choices are often incorrect as they oversimplify or overgeneralize the passage's information.
  • New pieces of information: Watch out for answer choices that introduce new information or ideas not directly supported by the passage. Stick to what is explicitly stated within the text.
  • Partial truth: Wrong answer choices may contain elements of truth or be partially correct, but they do not fully address the question or match the passage's main idea. 
  • Opposite answer: Sometimes, the SAT presents answer choices that oppose what the passage states or implies. These choices can be tempting if you're not paying close attention. Always refer back to the passage to verify the accuracy of the answer.
  • Irrelevant information: Be wary of answer choices that include details or information irrelevant to the question or the passage's main idea. 

To navigate through these traps, it's important to carefully read and comprehend the passage and refer back to the relevant lines or paragraphs.

SAT Writing Tips

The SAT Writing section is the second part of the exam you will complete. Here is a general overview of this section:

  • Time limit: 35 minutes
  • Number of Questions: 44
  • Number of Passages: 4

Below are a few SAT Writing strategies to help you do well on the exam.

Tip 16: Rely On Your Knowledge of Grammar Rules

Relying on your knowledge of grammar rules is crucial when approaching the SAT Writing section. By understanding and applying these rules effectively, you can identify and correct errors in sentences and improve the overall clarity and coherence of your writing. 

For example, let's consider the following sentence: 

"The teacher, along with her students, are preparing for the field trip." 

In this case, the subject "teacher" is singular, while "are" is a plural verb. Applying the subject-verb agreement rule, you would recognize the error and select the correct answer that rephrases the sentence to say: "The teacher, along with her students, is preparing for the field trip." 

By relying on your knowledge of grammar rules and rather on how something sounds, you can confidently navigate through the SAT Writing section and choose the most accurate and appropriate answers.

Tip 17: Make Sure Your Answers Are Concise and Relevant

The SAT Writing section often requires you to identify and correct errors or improve the clarity and effectiveness of a given passage. It's crucial to provide concise answers that directly address the specific issue without adding irrelevant information. 

Focus on providing the most relevant information or revision that best addresses the question prompt. Additionally, ensure that your answer aligns with the context and purpose of the passage. 

Tip 18: Read It Out Loud

Reading out loud is a helpful technique when tackling the SAT Writing section. Reading the passage or the question prompt aloud engages both your visual and auditory senses, enhancing your understanding and comprehension of the text. 

Reading aloud allows you to hear the rhythm and flow of the sentences, making it easier to spot errors, awkward phrasing, or inconsistencies. It can also help you catch punctuation mistakes and improve your overall grasp of the writing conventions.

Additionally, reading out loud can aid in identifying missing or misplaced words, as well as clarify the meaning of complex sentences. It is a useful strategy to ensure that your writing is clear, coherent, and conveys your intended message effectively. 

Incorporating this practice into your SAT Writing preparation can sharpen your editing skills and improve your overall performance on the exam.

SAT Math Tips

The SAT Math section is the third and final part of the exam you will complete. Here is a general overview of this section:

  • Time limit: 80 minutes
  • Number of Questions: 58

Below are a few SAT Math tips and tricks to help give you that competitive edge. 

Tip 19: Memorize Math Formulas

At the beginning of the SAT Math section, you will be provided with 12 formulas. While these formulas are accessible throughout the test, constantly flipping to the front of the section to reference them can consume valuable time. Therefore, having these formulas memorized before the exam is highly recommended. 

Focus on memorizing formulas such as:

  • Pythagorean theorem
  • Area and perimeter formulas
  • Quadratic formula
  • Trigonometric ratios
  • Rules for exponents and logarithms. 

Creating flashcards is a great way to help you memorize these key formulas. Understanding the concepts behind these formulas will also help you apply them in different scenarios and adapt to various problem-solving situations. 

Tip 20: Solve the Problem Step-By-Step

The Math section of the SAT involves solving many problems. Instead of rushing through the question or attempting to solve it in your head, it is important to break down the problem into smaller, more manageable steps. Carefully read the problem, identify the given information, and determine what the question asks for. 

Then, develop a clear plan or strategy to solve the problem. Take time to perform each step accurately, showing all your work to ensure clarity and precision. This step-by-step approach helps minimize errors and lets you track your progress throughout the problem-solving process. 

It also helps you identify any mistakes you may have made and enables you to backtrack or re-evaluate if needed. 

Tip 21: Watch Out for Unit Swaps

When taking the SAT Math section, watching out for unit swaps is important. Unit swaps occur when the units of measurement change within a problem or between the given information and the answer choices. These swaps can be tricky and lead to incorrect answers if not carefully considered.

Pay close attention to the units mentioned in the problem and ensure you use the appropriate units throughout your calculations. Take note of conversions between units, such as inches to feet or minutes to seconds, and make the necessary adjustments to maintain consistency. 

Also, double-check that the units in the answer choices match the units requested in the problem. Being mindful of unit swaps can help you avoid simple mistakes and ensure that your calculations align with the information.

FAQs: SAT Tips

If you still have questions about SAT tips, check out these frequently asked questions. 

1. Is It Easy to Get a 1200 on the SAT?

Your ability to score 1200 on the SAT depends on various factors, including your existing knowledge, skills, and level of test preparation. Generally speaking, a score of 1200 is considered above average and places you in the 74th percentile of test-takers. 

However, whether it is easy or difficult for you depends on your strengths, weaknesses, and the effort you put into studying.

2. How Can I Get a 1500 on the SAT?

Yes, it is possible to get a 1500 on the SAT. However, it requires diligent preparation, effective SAT strategies, and effort. Here are some ways you can increase your chances of reaching your goal:

  • Create a Study Plan: Develop a study plan that includes dedicated time for each section of the SAT. Allocate more time to areas where you need improvement while maintaining regular practice time in all sections.
  • Focus on Weaknesses: As you practice, pay extra attention to the areas you struggle the most. Review your notes on these areas to build your skills and confidence.
  • Seek Additional Resources and Support: Consider seeking additional resources or support, such as SAT prep courses, tutors, or online platforms that offer personalized study plans and guidance.
  • Stay Motivated and Consistent: SAT preparation requires consistent effort over an extended period. Stay motivated by setting smaller milestones, rewarding yourself for progress, and maintaining a positive mindset.

If you implement these tips and work hard, scoring 1500 on your SAT is possible. 

3. What Is the Most Difficult SAT Section?

The difficulty of SAT sections can vary from person to person, depending on individual strengths and weaknesses. However, many test-takers find the Critical Reading section the most difficult due to time constraints. 

4. How Long Should I Study for the SAT?

The duration of SAT preparation can vary depending on your starting point, target score, and the amount of time you can dedicate to studying each day. 

However, as a general guideline, allocating at least two to three months of consistent studying is recommended. This time frame allows for adequate practice, review of content, and familiarization with the test format.

Get started studying for the SAT today with our free SAT Practice Questions!

Final Thoughts

Implementing effective SAT tips and tricks is important because they can significantly enhance your performance on the exam. By familiarizing yourself with the test format, practicing with official SAT materials, and developing efficient test-taking strategies, you can confidently approach the SAT and maximize your score. 

Remember to allocate sufficient time for preparation, focus on your areas of weakness, and maintain a consistent study routine. With dedication, perseverance, and the right approach, you can navigate the SAT successfully and increase your chances of achieving your desired score. 

Best of luck on your SAT journey!

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