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SAT Study Guide: Free SAT Preparation Tips

To get a high score, one needs to do more than just develop strong math and verbal skills; one needs to work smart by making good strategic choices while working through the test.  Here are some tips to help maximize test scores. 

  1. Know The Format.   The test makers go to great lengths to make sure that every PSAT and SAT I contains the same question types, testing the same range of math and verbal skills.  Take advantage of this fact by getting familiar with the questions that appear on the test and practice answering them.
  1. Learn The Directions.  Use every second during the test to answer questions   and get points.  Don't waste time on test day reading the directions.  Pick up a student guide and get familiar with the directions before the test.
  1. Predict The Answer.  On the PSAT and SAT I, the surest way to avoid falling for traps on test day is to predict the answer before looking at the answer choices.  For example, if answering an SAT Sentence Completion, don't just jump into the answer choices to see which one fits; read the sentence, predict the missing work and scan the answer choices to see which one fits.
  1. Use the Order Of Difficulty.  On the PSAT and SAT I, often the Math and Sentence Completion questions are arranged in order of difficulty, (i.e. the questions get progressively harder as you work through each question set). Use this knowledge to plot strategy for each section; for example, consider spending extra time on early questions to make sure to net "easy" points.
  1. Skip Around.  Within any given section of the PSAT and SAT I, one may skip around and answer the questions in any order.  If a particular question or passage is difficult, skip it; return to it later if there is time.
  1. Pace Yourself.  The SAT I and PSAT ask a lot of questions in a short period of time.  To get through a whole section, it's important not to spend too much time on any one question.  Get used to the pressure by practicing under timed conditions and keep a brisk pace throughout the test.  Make sure to wear a watch as the test proctors do not always provide numerous time-checks.
  1. Guess.  Test takers often talk about a "guessing penalty" on the SAT.  This is a misnomer; it's really a "wrong-answer penalty."  Guess wrong and lose points.  Guess right, and you gain.  By eliminating one or more answers as definitely wrong, the odds of guessing the correct answer increases.
  1. Be Careful With The Answer Grid.  Even if every question is correctly answered on these tests, the score will undoubtedly be lower if it is gridded incorrectly.  Be careful when inputting answers.  One time-proven gridding strategy is to circle the answer for each question in the booklet as it is figured out, then transfer those answers to the answer grid in groups of five or more.
  1. Look for Quick Points If Time is Running Short.  Some questions can be answered more quickly than others.  For instance, some reading questions ask to identify the meaning of a particular word in the passage.  Questions such as these can often be answered quickly when time starts to run out at the end of a section.
  1. The Most Obvious Choice on Difficult Questions is Almost Always Wrong - but it's not far off.  When in doubt, look for the answer that is closest to the most obvious choice.
  1. The Correct Answer to Multiple-Choice Reading Comprehension Questions are Easily Defended Factual Statements or Carefully Worded Opinions.  Choices that use exclusive or extreme words (only, always, never, all, none) are rarely if ever correct, unless proceeded by a qualifier like "not," in which case they are almost always correct.
  1. When Asked to Compare Fractions, Turn Them Into Their Decimal Equivalents by Dividing the Top number by the Bottom Number (with a calculator!)  It's hard to know whether 6/15 is greater or less than 7/16 but it is easily compare their decimal equivalents.  6/15=.4 while 7/16=.4375.  Clearly 7/16 is greater.
  1. Bring a Digital Watch (it's easier to read) and a calculator (it's permitted).

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