13 SAT Tips to Help You Study and Take the Test (2023)


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13 SAT Tips to Help You Study and Take the Test

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn more about how to prepare for the SAT and strategies you can apply the day of your exam.

13 SAT Tips to Help You Study and Take the Test (1)

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a college entrance exam often used as part of your application to a bachelor’s degree program. While it's just one piece of your overall application—and many schools have made it optional—a good SAT score can show admissions officers that you're ready to begin your undergraduate studies and can even help you stand out from other applicants.

Following a few SAT tips may help improve your score, which in turn may increase your chances of being accepted into the top colleges or universities on your list. We’ve compiled a number of tips to help you prepare to take the SAT with confidence.

13 Tips to Prepare and Take the SAT

We've arranged the tips below beginning with pre-study preparation and moving into the day of the test, so you feel comfortable and confident to do your best.

1. Review what’s on the test and how it’s structured.

You'll have three hours to complete 174 questions on the SAT, which are divided into an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section and a Mathematics section. Understanding the types of questions you'll encounter in each section and how long you have to complete them can provide helpful context as you get ready to study.

SectionNumber of questionsFocus of questionsTime to complete
Reading52Comprehension and analysis65 minutes
Writing & Language44Grammar, vocabulary, and editing35 minutes
Math (with calculator)38Algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry55 minutes
Math (without calculator)20Algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry25 minutes

2. Take several practice tests.

Before you begin the work of studying, take a free practice test online to get a sense about your natural strengths, and to better understand where you should focus your efforts. For example, if you feel confident about your vocab based on your practice test but didn't do as well as in the non-calculator math section, then you may want to spend more time studying math and less time reviewing vocab.

3. Review your mistakes.

With your practice test and any subsequent practice tests you take, take time to review your mistakes and note what happened: Did you run out of time? Did you not understand the question or how to find the answer? Or did something else happen? Knowing what went wrong can help you avoid similar errors on the day of the SAT, and can help point out areas where you should spend more time studying.

13 SAT Tips to Help You Study and Take the Test (2)


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4. Purchase an SAT prep book or other study materials.

If you’re someone who enjoys studying solo, there are many SAT prep books available to purchase or potentially available from your local library. They offer study tips, detailed descriptions of the testing format, pacing techniques, weekly study guides, and several practice exams.

5. Take an SAT prep course online or in-person.

In addition to a prep book, you may want to look into signing up for an SAT prep course, which can offer more structure, feedback, and support. Check with your high school counselor to see if your school offers a prep course. If not, they may have information about SAT prep courses that are available locally or online.

Learn more: SAT vs. ACT: Which Should I Take?

6. Join an SAT study group.

Whether you start a study group with friends or join one that’s already established, there are many benefits to studying with others. Not only do you tend to be more accountable about preparing than if you studied on your own, but you might receive more support, which can reduce your stress as you get ready to take the SAT.

7. Hire an SAT tutor.

An SAT tutor can provide more one-on-one help than you might get from a prep course or study group. They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and set up a study plan. Keep in mind, however, that hiring a tutor can be expensive. If you're considering this course of action, be prepared to pay between $60 and $200 per hour.

8. Focus on your weaker areas.

Spend more of your time strengthening the area—math or reading or language—that you feel less confident about.

  • For reading, spend time reading harder passages and time yourself to increase your reading pace.

  • For language, build your vocabulary by purposely seeking out new words or reading more difficult articles and books

  • For math, review the algebra, geometry, and trigonometry concepts the SAT typically covers

8. Review the instructions.

When the day of the test arrives, don’t rush past the instructions to get to the questions, even if you’ve taken several practice tests and think you know what to expect. Make sure you understand what you’re being asked to do. Oftentimes, instructions may even contain helpful information to frame the way you should approach a question.

9. Start by answering the questions you know.

As you tackle each section of the SAT, answer the questions you know first. This can be a really effective time management strategy given that you have limited time for each section. Make a light mark next to the questions you don't know and return to them once you’ve worked your way through everything you do know. Note that questions typically get harder toward the end of each section.

10. Use the process of elimination.

When you're struggling with a particular question on the SAT, the process of elimination can help. Each question has only one right answer so narrowing your options can improve your chances for getting a question right. In fact, you may find that on some questions, you can find the right answer by eliminating all but one.

11. Guess on questions you don't know.

Remember that when you're finished with the SAT, you're scored on the number of questions you answer correctly, not the number of questions you complete. Therefore, if you’re not sure of an answer, then guess. You won't be penalized for guessing, and it's possible you just might guess correctly.

12. Manage your time well.

It's easy to lose track of time when you're taking the SAT, especially if it's your first time. Note how much time you have to complete a section and keep an eye on the clock so you make sure you leave enough time to get through all the questions or return to the ones you don’t know.

13. Retake the SAT to improve your score.

You can take the SAT as many times as you want—though you will pay for each time—to improve your score. Many students choose to retake the SAT at least once (for a total of two times).

Next steps

To learn more about college life, take advantage of the University of Washington’s 101: Understanding College and College Life offered for free on Coursera. You'll get information about your search for potential colleges and universities, choosing a major, living on campus, study strategies, and more.

Or explore bachelor's degrees from renowned universities on Coursera. Many do not require an entrance exam as part of the application process, and you can learn from your own pace without having to relocate.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.


13 SAT Tips to Help You Study and Take the Test? ›

To get 1500 SAT, you need to get at least 48 right out of 52 in the Reading section. 41 right out of 44 in the Language section and 55 right out of 58 in the Maths section. It is essential to note that the marks are collectively calculated to derive an SAT score.

What is the most effective way to study for the SAT? ›

Below, we break down nine ways to prepare for the SAT, with advice from test-prep experts.
  1. Create an SAT Study Schedule. ...
  2. Use Quality Prep Materials. ...
  3. Increase Your Reading Speed. ...
  4. Target the Mistakes You Can Control. ...
  5. Come to Test Day Prepared. ...
  6. Answer the Questions You Know First. ...
  7. Eliminate Incorrect Answers.

How to get 1500 on the SAT? ›

To get 1500 SAT, you need to get at least 48 right out of 52 in the Reading section. 41 right out of 44 in the Language section and 55 right out of 58 in the Maths section. It is essential to note that the marks are collectively calculated to derive an SAT score.

How to get a 1400 on SAT? ›

To get a 1400+ (700 Math, 700 Reading & Writing) you need:
  1. all of the math and grammar content – no gaps at all.
  2. a superior vocabulary. ...
  3. excellent reading skills.
  4. excellent reasoning skills – in other words, you need to be spot on with your problem solving techniques and approaches.

How do you get a 1600 on the SAT? ›

4 Essential Tips for Scoring a Perfect 1600 on the SAT
  1. Start Preparing Early. You should start studying and preparing for the SAT at least three months before your test. ...
  2. Use Official SAT Study Materials. ...
  3. Practice the Pacing. ...
  4. Target Your Mistakes and Revisit New Material.

How can I improve my SAT fast? ›

The best way to improve your score is to use Official SAT Practice, offered through a partnership between College Board and Khan Academy. Official SAT Practice makes your practice time more efficient by giving you personalized, targeted practice based on your SAT score report.

How many hours should I study for SAT? ›

Studying for the SAT in a month is possible, though it's recommended that you spend 10 to 20 hours per week over the course of two or three months prepping for the SAT.

Can I get into Harvard with 1500 SAT? ›

There's no absolute SAT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 1460 to have a chance at being considered.

What is a good SAT score for Ivy League? ›

What's a Great SAT Score for Ivy League Admission? An SAT score of 1580 (out of 1600) will place you exactly in the top 25% of the applicants for most Ivy League Institutions, whereas an SAT score lower than 1450 would place you in the bottom 25% of the total applicants.

Can I get into an Ivy League with a 1500 SAT? ›

A 1500 SAT score is incredibly competitive and makes you eligible for admission into all colleges — even the most competitive ones, the Ivy Leagues. Included in the institutions you can apply to are the University of Chicago, Columbia University in the City of New York, and Duke University.

What is the most common SAT answer? ›

Just make sure you stick with it for each and every guess. C isn't any better or worse than any other letter, or any more likely to be the correct answer, but if you decide to stick with it for every blind guess you make, you'll have a better chance of success than if you try your best to be "random."

Can I get into Harvard with a 1400 SAT? ›

While a 1400 makes you eligible to apply to places such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, it won't make you a competitive candidate.

Has the SAT gotten harder? ›

In many ways, the new SAT is much easier than the older version. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't study and be prepared! While the format may be better for some students, the questions are still designed to test your ability and skills in each particular subject.

What did Elon Musk score on SAT? ›

Elon Musk reacts to GPT-4 scoring 93% on SAT exams.

What was Mark Zuckerberg's SAT score? ›

Mark Zuckerberg.

The founder of Facebook scored the perfect 1600 on the SAT and attended Harvard University. There's no surprise there on the score or prestigious university!

Can you get a 0 on SAT? ›

The lowest SAT score you can get is actually zero (which means that you didn't even turn in your test). But really, the lowest possible score on the SAT is 400. This would be achieved by answering no questions correctly on the test.

What part of SAT is easiest to improve? ›

If you're trying to boost your SAT Reading/Writing and Language score, the Writing and Language section is the easiest to tackle. With a few SAT Writing and Language strategies, you'll be on your way to a much higher score.

What is the best time to take the SAT? ›

It's generally best to take the SAT in the fall or spring of your junior year and then again in the fall of your senior year. The specific month you choose depends on your outside commitments and how much time you want to prepare for the exam.

Is Khan Academy good for SAT? ›

Is the Khan Academy a Good Way to Study for the SAT? Yes! Khan Academy offers personalized and interactive tools and resources for SAT study and prep. The site gives students a tailored practice plan based on their practice scores or previous scores.

How can I study for SAT by myself? ›

Planning your SAT practice
  1. Diagnose your skills early on. ...
  2. Take at least two full practice tests. ...
  3. Familiarize yourself with the instructions for each test section. ...
  4. Study outside the box. ...
  5. Take a break the night before the test. ...
  6. Set yourself up for success on Test Day.

Is 2 days enough to study for SAT? ›

Tip 4: Try to Study for At Least 2 Weeks in Total

Ultimately, you have to give your brain adequate time to retain new SAT concepts! So try to study, at a minimum, at least two weeks before your test. A month or longer is, of course, even better.

What is the best age to start preparing for the SAT? ›

Junior school: The 11th grade, also known as a junior school, is the best time when a student can start the preparation for the SAT exam. This is an age perfect to comprehend things precisely and learn things at a good pace.

What is the lowest SAT accepted to Harvard? ›

SAT Score Required for Harvard

SAT average score for Harvard University out of 1600 is 1515. Harvard University's SAT 25th percentile is 1460, indicating that less than 25% of applicants score below 1460. Harvard's 75th percentile SAT score is 1570, which implies that 75% of applicants score less than 1570.

Is 1150 a good SAT score? ›

The average national SAT score is between 1050 and 1100 every year (on purpose), putting an 1150 at an above-average 67th percentile — that's a score to be proud of! It means that you scored higher than 67% of all other test takers.

What GPA does Harvard accept? ›

The GPA requirements for Harvard University are between 3.9 to 4.1. You will need an incredibly high GPA and will likely be graduating at the top of their class in order to get into Harvard University.

What is the lowest Ivy SAT? ›

Ideal ACT/SAT Scores for Ivy League School Applications

The minimum SAT score to get into an Ivy League school ranges from 690 to 730 for the reading section and from 700 to 730 for the math section. Getting 700 or 710 (or higher) on both of these sections will give you an advantage at most Ivy League universities.

What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.

What is a good SAT score for scholarships? ›

So you're probably wondering, What's a good SAT score for scholarships, and how can I find them? The short answer is that you should aim for an SAT score between 1200 and 1600 if you want to secure some scholarships based on merit–and the higher within that range you score the more money you're looking at.

What is the lowest ACT score to get into Harvard? ›

There's no absolute ACT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 33 to have a chance at being considered.

What is an elite SAT score? ›

It depends. For the Ivy League, competitive scores range between 1500-1550. For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400. 1300 and above will make you a competitive applicant for most other public universities and private universities.

Can I go to Ivy League without SAT? ›

In addition, all highly selective universities (with the exception of MIT) including The Ivy League, Stanford, Northwestern, and Boston University, all have announced that they will remain test optional through the high school class of 2024.

What is the best guessing letter on SAT? ›

Guess any letter for any question. It doesn't matter if you guess A,B,A,B or A,A,A,A or any variation. Your expected number of correct answers are equal—actually, you'll actually do sliiightly better by guessing randomly on every question.

What is the best letter to guess on a test? ›

C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test.

Which SAT is usually the hardest? ›

In online forums, students also tend to identify Test #3 as the hardest of the official practice tests, so there truly seems to be a clear consensus. It's important to remember though that a hard practice test can actually be a great resource!

Does Harvard accept 3.7 GPA? ›

Can I get into Harvard with a 3.7 GPA? Harvard does not have a minimum GPA requirement. However, Harvard is highly competitive, so it may be challenging to get in with a 3.7 GPA. The average GPA for entering Harvard students is 3.9.

What is the hardest school to get into? ›

Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, unsurprisingly, are America's toughest colleges to get into in 2023, according to Niche's most recent rankings.

Is a 4.4 GPA good for Harvard? ›

The average high school GPA for admitted students at Harvard University is 4.18 on a 4.0 scale. (You can calculate your high school a GPA here.) This is a very competitive GPA, and Harvard University is clearly accepting students at the top of their high school class.

Which SAT test date is easiest? ›

As with all college prep, the earlier the better! Try to take the SAT in August, October, or November. These three test dates should have little trouble getting your scores to colleges in time, assuming your earliest deadline is somewhere around January 1.

Is it worth taking the SAT 3 times? ›

Most students score higher on SAT retakes, which makes it worthwhile to take the test more than once. According to the College Board, 2 out of 3 students who retake the test raise their scores the second time.

How many times is it bad to take the SAT? ›

Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. We recommend that they take it at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year. Most students get a higher score the second time, and most colleges consider a student's highest SAT score when making admission decisions.

Who has the highest SAT score ever? ›

Hari, from Colorado, achieved 1600 on the SAT, the highest SAT score ever recorded. He also received a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.

Is SAT based on IQ? ›

Scores on the SAT do correlate with scores on IQ tests and other standardized tests of intelligence. This is unsurprising considering that the SAT was originally derived from an IQ test for army recruits.

Has anyone ever gotten a 200 on the SAT? ›

Each test has a slightly different scoring scale than all others, though generally, they are very similar to one another. Each section is scaled in 10-point increments, so it is possible to get a 200, a 210, a 220 (and so on up the line), up to an 800.

What was Bill Gates GPA? ›

Neither was Bill Gates whose 2.2 GPA at one point alarmed his parents. Ronald Reagan graduated with a C-average. None of these esteemed men were mediocre in intelligence or achievements, regardless of their high school grades.

What is the top 1% SAT score? ›

Understanding Your SAT Score
Composite Score (Out of 1600)Percentile Rank
23 more rows

Who got 2400 on SAT? ›

A senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Modesto High has posted a perfect score of 2400. Here's his secret: practice. “It's how much you prepare,” said Waleed Khan.

What's the lowest SAT score someone got into Yale with? ›

Yale has no official cutoff or minimum SAT score that they require from applicants.

What is the lowest SAT score colleges will accept? ›

Less selective public institutions, as well as many small liberal arts colleges, regularly accept applicants in the 950-1050 range. Public universities in your state might also accept residents with scores on the lower end of the scale depending on their policies and your other qualifications.

What is the lowest good SAT score? ›

While there's no standard for a "good" SAT score, it's best to aim for at least 1200. More importantly, aim for an SAT score that's within or higher than your school's middle 50%.

Is 2 months enough to study for SAT? ›

Two to three months of studying will put you right in the sweet spot for being well-prepared. You have just enough time to become an expert on the test and not let your grades suffer (especially if you're on summer break). But with this amount of time, it can be tough to stay focused.

Is 3 months enough to study for SAT? ›

Three months is a great amount of time to prep for the SAT. You can spread out your studying and you'll have ample time to master the concepts tested on the SAT. It can be difficult to know where to start your SAT prep. The key is finding the right resources, staying organized, and sticking to your plan.

Is Khan Academy enough for SAT? ›

Is the Khan Academy a Good Way to Study for the SAT? Yes! Khan Academy offers personalized and interactive tools and resources for SAT study and prep. The site gives students a tailored practice plan based on their practice scores or previous scores.

Is two weeks enough to study for SAT? ›

Two weeks isn't a lot of time to prepare, but it will give you ample time to at least practice your ability to take tests. For this reason, it's a good idea to do plenty of sample tests. Time yourself and go through the motions of the SATs.

Which SAT is the easiest month? ›

Myth: The March SAT is the easiest SAT test date. Fact: There's no such thing as “the easiest SAT test date.” While it's true that some versions of the SAT are easier than others, it's false that some test dates are predictably easier than others.

How many hours a day should I study? ›

Most people recommend studying for 3 to 4 hours every day on a set schedule that allows your brain to work at its full capacity. You should avoid studying for more than five or six hours as this can lead to burnout and cause you to lose the information that you have learned.

Does it matter if you take the SAT more than 3 times? ›

Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. We recommend that they take it at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year. Most students get a higher score the second time, and most colleges consider a student's highest SAT score when making admission decisions.

Does the SAT get harder every month? ›

While you might have heard that taking the SAT during certain months can yield better results curve-wise, the truth is that this exam is equally difficult at all times of the year.

How long does the average person spend studying for the SAT? ›

Total hours per week: 2; 5-6 on weeks with full practice tests. If you're a first-time test taker, with only three months before test day, you'll likely need more time each week. Plan to spend at least an hour on general content review and then at least two hours on practice sessions and homework.

Is the SAT getting harder each year? ›

A: Yes, the SAT is getting harder.

As the years have passed, students worldwide have improved on the SAT, as the number of real practice tests has grown, and knowledge about the exam has spread.

Are the SATS easier now? ›

The passages on SAT Reading and Writing will be shorter, and the questions on both sections of the exam will be more concise. For many students, that means the questions will be easier to understand. The digital SAT also provides tools and resources that the old version didn't.

What is the hardest SAT practice test? ›

In online forums, students also tend to identify Test #3 as the hardest of the official practice tests, so there truly seems to be a clear consensus. It's important to remember though that a hard practice test can actually be a great resource!

What should I do 2 days before the SAT? ›

2 days before the test date – It's time to take a step back and slow your pace down. Keep just an hour or two to revise and practice but do not overdo it. Avoid burnout. 1 day before the test date – How you spend the last day before your actual test can make a big difference in how you perform on the test.

What SAT score is required for Harvard? ›

Harvard University's SAT scores for admitted students range from 1480 - 1580, with an average score of 1530. Although SAT scores are optional, we recommend that students aim for a good SAT score of at least 1530 to be competitive in the admissions process at Harvard University.

How do I cram the night before the SAT? ›

  1. Take it Easy. There are two ways you can mess this up. ...
  2. Pack Your Bag. ...
  3. Get a Good Night's Sleep is a great SAT strategy. ...
  4. Wake Up! ...
  5. Get Your Heart Pumping. ...
  6. Eat a Healthy Breakfast. ...
  7. Stick with Your Routine. ...
  8. Leave Early.


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