When I first registered for the SAT with Essay, I had no idea how to begin preparation. There are so many books and teachers available, most of them falsely claiming to help you get a perfect score, that it becomes easy for students to get confused, misguided and eventually with a score lower than the requirement for their dream college. But there’s nothing to fret over, really. As someone who has spent a lot of time exploring the many resources available and kept track of how they affected my score, I can safely say that the key to acing the SAT is studying smart.This means different things for each student and there are a few simple steps to find the best resources for you. First and foremost, is to set a target score for yourself to motivate you. Secondly, do a couple of diagnostics online to assess where you stand in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Ask yourself if you are losing points due to the time-limit, unfamiliarity with the course or simply silly mistakes. Note down how many questions you get wrong on each section. Now you have a game-plan and can use the appropriate resources tailored just for you.
This is, by far, the hardest section on the test. Luckily, it’s not that hard! If you are not a fan of reading, you might struggle with this at first but eventually, with practice, you will get the hang of it. The SAT tests how you perform with a diverse collection of passages. I suggest you spend time doing only one type of passage before moving onto the other types. For example, start with Social Science and work your way towards Literature. You should go through the Qs Types shared by Sir Talal to help you get tips about what answers are usually wrong and right and the best way to approach each type of question. If time-limit is an issue, you need to practice speeding up your reading without compromising on your comprehension of the texts. This is only possible through practice and a positive attitude. It may sound like superficial advice, but a lot of students find themselves stuck re-reading a sentence over and over again and stressing out because they don’t understand a few difficult words. You’re only wasting precious time which will, coupled with your nervousness, ruin everything else on the test. Try to look at the passages and questions holistically by skimming through them. Ask yourself what the main idea, tone and theme of the passage is. It helps to underline or jot these key points down in pencil on the text as well.
In my first few practice tests, I would get nearly 15 questions wrong in this section and would rush to finish on time. In my actual SAT, I got only 3 wrong. Progress in this section is not as quick and obvious as it is in the up-coming ones which may dishearten you but by constantly persevering, you can drastically improve your score.
I used to get nearly 10 wrong on this part but got 1 wrong on my actual test. This section is the easiest to improve in. You need only understand a few grammar rules and familiarize yourself with the question types for the most part. Sir Talal’s manuals helped me immensely with all the rules. Write all of those down and memorize them if this section is where you struggle. Revise the rules before each practice test and you will notice a huge difference. But to get a perfect score, you need to know when to switch your focus from individual sentences to the entire passage. Again, underline sentences or write down your notes about the text such as the main idea of each paragraph and that of the whole text. This will make the process easier for you and you will get your perfect score.
If this is where you lose all your points, you can cut yourself some slack because chances are you’re probably not a dunce at Math. I myself went up nearly 200 points in a matter of weeks and got 2 wrong on my SAT by following a few simple steps. First of all, you need to note that there are two aspects of this section: with and without calculator. Most students struggle with the first Math section (without calculator) because of the time-limit. The questions are really simple but having to do them in just 20 minutes without a calculator may lead to a lot of silly mistakes, affecting your score. I suggest you practice on Khan Academy and do all the amazing material shared by Sir Talal everyday till you start getting a perfect score with time to spare for re-checking. The second section is relatively easier to do in terms of the time-limit. You can afford to solve the questions slowly to avoid unnecessary mistakes. However, you need to be familiar with the course and question types to do well in it. I would recommend you to write down all your notes and regularly revise them. Keep a track of the questions you get wrong and solve them again till you get the right answer. Revise the method you employed before onto the next diagnostic so you do not repeat your mistakes. There are a million different ways of getting to the same answer so if you practice enough you will be able to judge which methods and calculator hacks bring you to your answer in the fastest way possible so you can revise your answers before time is up.
Most students, too caught up practicing the sections before to give due time to the essay, end up doing it for the first time on the test day itself. Needless to say, don’t disregard this section. It is as important as the SAT itself and most universities require a good essay score.
The essay tests whether you’ve understood the main idea and the literary devices used to amplify it as well as your ability to note it down for the examiner in a descriptive way. In other words, you’ll be marked on Reading, Writing and Analysis.
The most important thing to do when reading the text is to mark up the literary devices used. Don’t waste your time looking for smart-sounding tools. Even the punctuation of the text is a valid point to develop upon in your essay. Once you have your points, develop them one by one in each paragraph. The more you describe their effect on you as a reader, the more points you will earn for Analysis. Quoting the passage for evidence will improve your Reading score. You’ll need to throw in slightly fancier vocabulary than you would normally use in everyday life for a high score in Writing but this can be done easily by memorizing certain phrases and words before hand.
It is commonly said that your actual SAT score is normally 100 points below what you usually score doing diagnostics at home. Don’t let these words be true for you. Every time you do a diagnostic, make sure you’re sitting in front of timer, all by yourself in silence, with no distractions. Try and replicate the test day environment. Don’t go on any breaks other than those that are a part of the test and don’t move onto more diagnostics before figuring out where you went wrong and why on the test you just finished. I would highly recommend getting lessons from Sir Talal as well. Everything I have advised to you, Sir Talal will make sure you implement upon by providing the appropriate resources, books, past papers, manuals summarizing everything you need to know so you can revise on the last day and even a checklist of everything you should get done before your tests. He’s also there to help you out with any questions you are unable to solve on your own as you practice. After his classes, you won’t just be guessing, you’ll know you’re choosing the right answer every time.
Lastly, as Sir Talal says, “The SAT is an intelligent exam.” and your goals is to not let it outsmart you. Good Luck!