Millie's Guide to Top 5 Tips to Acing Your SATs
Mille's Top 5 Tips to Acing Your SATs
At Millie, we love SATs. They’re the most internationally recognized qualification you can get and will give you the widest variety of schools around the world to apply to.
With exams being cancelled at the moment, you might be wondering why exactly you should even be thinking about the SATs right now – especially as there are multiple SAT dates across the course of the year.
We’re here to say, don’t get complacent! The SATs in June and November are only for students taking the SAT Subject Tests, in other words a small proportion of students. Most students will want to take the regular SAT, which leaves just the August, October, and December dates.
If we then factor in the time it takes to hit early application deadlines, suddenly August and October are the only exam dates remaining for most students this year.
If any positive can be taken from the current situation, it’s that lots of us have more free time and fewer distractions than usual. This makes it an ideal time to get some studying done, plus sorting your SATs now will allow you more free time to focus on extracurricular activities once the quarantine period is over.
Now you know why you should still be taking your SATs seriously, here are our five top tips on how to nail them.
#1 Know the format
The good thing about the SATs is that they have the same format each year – unless CollegeBoard decides to revamp the whole exam structure, which only happened twice in the past 15 years. That means you can be smart about how you prepare for them. You’ll want to make sure you know the number of questions you’re expecting, and the time you need to allocate to each question.
For example, many students run out of time in the reading section. This section has the most time allocated to it, but don’t relax too much – it’s because it’s the most time-consuming part. When you’re practising at home, time how long it takes you to go through each passage – if you’re averaging any higher than 13 minutes for each, you’re going to run out of time.
Millie’s pro tip: 1 of the 5 passages is a double passage – allow extra time for this. An ideal timing would be 10 minutes for each of the four single passages, then 15 minutes for the double passage, which leaves you 10 minutes to go back and check everything.
#2 Focus On What You’re Good At
With the SATs, your overall total is more important than your individual scores for English and Math. Too often we see students focusing on studying the subject where they feel the weakest, but the way SATs are scored gives you the perfect opportunity to focus on where your strengths are. There’s only so much time and energy you can give to studying, so it pays to use it wisely.
Millie’s pro tip: Focus on studying your best subject until you reach an overall score of 1250, then start studying your weaker subject. Correctly used, this strategy could help you hit the low 700s for your best subject and the high 500s for your weaker one. That’s about 1300 altogether, and a high-enough score to get you into UCLA based on this data.
#3 Never Leave A Question Unanswered
This might seem self-explanatory, but lots of students panic and skip questions they’re not completely sure about. Not answering a question means you’re 100% likely to score 0. When there’s no penalty for guessing, that means you’re just wasting points.
An example scenario: if you skipped 12 questions, guessing the answers to them will probably result in getting at least 3 or 4 of them right. That could equate to anything from 10-50 points that would otherwise have been lost.
#4 Get At Least Six Hours of Study Done Before An Exam
Though studying for an exam is never an exact science, data from the Khan Academy shows that six hours of study has a direct impact on everybody. On average six hours of SAT study will get a student an extra 90 points.
What may surprise you is that an average score increase after 20 hours’ worth of study is only 115 points. That means for an additional 14 hours of study, most students will only score an extra 25 points. While it can be tempting to study as much as possible, it’s important to know that using the same tactics will probably result in diminishing returns after the initial six hours.
Millie’s pro tip: After six hours of study, checking in with your progress (and your happiness) is vital. If it’s working out for you, that’s great, but otherwise it’s the perfect time to think about new initiatives like interactive study groups, or additional mentoring.
#5 Review Score-Use Policies
Score-use policies are how schools actually calculate your overall SAT score, and it’s important to know that the same method is not used everywhere. Some schools will review every single test score, some only your highest test scores from one exam, and some your overall best test scores from multiple exams (known as superscoring).
Millie pro tip: Find out the score-use policies for the schools you’re applying to. This will help you approach your SATs more strategically and work out how these schools will calculate your final score. And don’t make assumptions about the policy a school will use – top colleges like Princeton and Colombia use superscoring and want to give you the best chance of maximizing your overall score.
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