If you are in your junior or senior year of high school, you definitely need to be thinking about the SAT. For me, I chose to take it first semester of my junior year, when it was still the old SAT which is on the 2400 scale, to get it out of the way. It’s a good idea to start early, but it’s also not too late until after you’ve applied. I hope my tips from my experience help!
I took a free practice SAT
An SAT prep program was offering a free practice SAT at my school, which allowed me to take it once and get my results quickly without there being an official score report. You should definitely check with your school, or even just look up “free practice SAT” because they might have one at a school near you that you could participate in. When I took the practice test, I did not prepare for it at all. I wanted to see how I would do without preparing, but I wouldn’t have done this if I had paid and was taking it for real. Also, when you take a practice SAT, a lot less people are taking it so you get your results much sooner and generally, it is a more detailed report. This gives you a good jumping off point to improve your score.
I got the CollegeBoard SAT prep book
Since I got a 1950 (1380 on the new SAT) without preparing, I knew that I could do better if I prepared. Many people think that they should start with a class, even before taking the SAT. This is totally false and often a waste of your money. Classes can be helpful if you do not have the discipline to work on your own, or need a lot of help with more basics and test taking strategies. I am a natural test taker, so I decided to work with the CollegeBoard prep book first and then consider a class if I was not getting the results I wanted. I began by working through each section, bit by bit. Reading comprehension is a skill that is hard to gain, but for Writing and Math, many of the rules that you need to know and may not remember on your own are explained in the book. After going through the sections, I took one of the practice tests in the back of the book and scored significantly higher.
I took it once for real, then used my results
When I took it for real, I had to wait much longer for my results. When I got them, I was very surprised to see that writing was my lowest category. Testing can be peculiar in that way. Science is my best category on the ACT, yet I am considered a “language arts person” and do not particularly excel at science. While my score had moved from a 1950 to a 2170 (1500 on the new SAT) , I decided to give it a shot and try to score higher. Since I got 770 on both reading and math, I decided not to work with those two categories because the chances of getting them higher were very low. I worked mainly with my writing, which was a 630. I went back into the book and reviewed the writing section and did more practice tests.
I took it again
The next time I took it, I increased my score again but by much less. It moved only 30 points! Now having a 2230 (1530 on the new SAT), 280 points higher than my initial score, I decided that future studying and test taking would be fruitless. What I learned from the people who worked for the SAT prep program that held the free SAT is that, in general, scores do not change more than 300 points, and the higher your score is, the harder it is to increase it.
My biggest advice to anyone getting ready to take the SAT is to try to find a free test to take, or at least take a practice test in a book without any prep to see how your natural results are, and to take studying seriously! It can be very hard to sit for a long time and go through the book or take a practice test, but most of the time it is worth it. While I never took an SAT prep course, I would recommend taking one only if you know you struggle with test taking, or the book is not giving you the results that you want. Best of luck!