The College Board has recently partnered with Khan Academy to provide free SAT prep resources. There are a lot of resources offered, and they can be a great help if you know how to use them correctly.
This guide will explain exactly what prep materials Khan Academy offers, what they’re best for, when you should rely on other prep materials, and tips for getting the most of out Khan Academy's resources.
What Is Khan Academy SAT Prep?
Khan Academy is a free, online resource that offers video tutorials on a wide variety of subjects, including SAT prep, which is what this article will be focusing on. The resources they offer are video tutorials, personalized study recommendations, practice questions, quizzes, and four full-length practice exams (which are also available on the College Board’s website). These resources were designed to help students identify the areas they need to improve on and give them targeted practice based on those recommendations.
Because Khan Academy developed these resources with the College Board, you can be sure they are an accurate representation of what the actual SAT will cover. To learn more about Khan Academy and their test prep resources, check out our other Khan Academy guide which gives a complete introduction to this resource.
How Can You Get Started With Khan Academy SAT Prep?
How can you begin using Khan Academy’s test prep resources? Read the following steps below to help you get started.
Set Up an Account
If you haven’t used Khan Academy before, the first thing you want to do is go to their website and create an account. You’ll need an account to access their resources and track your progress. Signing up for an account is simple and requires your name, e-mail, and birthdate.
After you’ve created your account, you can choose which subject you want to study. In your case, this would be Test Prep, and you can choose to study for the new SAT or the PSAT/NMSQT. If you choose to study for the new SAT, you’ll be given two options for your next step: send your PSAT scores to Khan Academy or take a diagnostic quiz.
Import Your PSAT Scores
If you have already taken the PSAT, you can have your scores uploaded to your Khan Academy account. You do this by signing into your College Board account (Khan Academy will take you directly to the site) and giving the College Board permission to send your PSAT scores to Khan Academy.
Khan Academy will then use your PSAT scores to give you personalized study recommendations for the SAT. If you haven’t taken the PSAT yet or don’t have your scores, that’s no problem, just read the next section.
Take Diagnostic Quizzes
If you don’t have PSAT scores to upload, then you can still get your personalized study recommendations by taking diagnostic quizzes. There are eight diagnostic quizzes, four in Math, and four for Reading and Writing (two in Reading and two in Writing and Language).
Choose which quiz you want to take first. The quizzes are short, only about 5-10 questions each. If you ever don’t know how to answer a question, you can select the option, “I would be guessing” so that Khan Academy knows you need to work on that topic.
After you complete a quiz, you’ll immediately learn which questions you answered correctly and be given a skill level for each of the topics you were tested on. The higher your skill level, the better you understand that concept. If you get the majority of questions for a topic correct, you will be assigned Skill Level 3. If you get the majority of questions incorrect, you will be assigned Skill Level 2 for that topic. Khan Academy is still working on resources for Skill Level 1, so you won’t be assigned that level, and you can only reach Skill Level 4 after using some of their resources and showing improvement on future quizzes.
After you finish either the four quizzes for Math or the four quizzes for Reading and Writing you will be given an overall skill level for that area and recommended practice questions and video tutorials based on the subjects you need to practice the most.
As you review each topic, you’ll do exercises designed to help raise your skill level in that topic. These exercises include practice questions, videos, and timed quizzes. Once you reach Skill Level 4, you can assume you have a solid knowledge of that particular subject.
You can also easily choose a particular subject to review because each section has a list of all the subject areas it tests, and for each there are practice problems and videos (usually with both easier and harder examples).
Following certain steps can help make Khan Academy much more helpful.
What Is Khan Academy SAT Prep Best For?
Now that you know how to get started with Khan Academy, how can you get the most out of it? Khan Academy can be a helpful resource, but there are certain areas that it’s best for and other areas where you’d be better off using other resources. Read the next two sections to learn how to use Khan Academy to your best advantage.
Strength #1: Specific Study Recommendations
Khan Academy’s test prep resources can help you if you aren’t sure how to begin your SAT prep or you aren’t sure what to study. After taking the diagnostic quizzes or uploading your PSAT scores, Khan Academy will give you personalized study recommendations.
These recommendations are based on the skills you need to focus your studying on the most, and each time you log in, there will be new recommendations for you. In this way, Khan Academy provides some structure for you to base your study plan around.
This can be particularly helpful for students who don’t know anything about test prep or feel overwhelmed by it. Khan Academy will break it down and walk you through the process.
Strength #2: In-Depth Ways to Solve Problems
If you’re struggling to understand a certain topic and reading explanations isn’t cutting it, then Khan Academy’s video tutorials may help you. Khan Academy is known for their videos, which break down problems step-by-step. For SAT prep, they have video tutorials for each topic the SAT tests. For example, they have videos on more than 20 different grammar topics alone.
These videos typically range from 2-10 minutes long, and they involve Sal Khan (the founder of Khan Academy) working through each step of a sample problem. Most topics have videos for both a basic example and a more challenging example.
For some people, being able to see and hear someone work through a problem can make a significant difference in how well they understand the concept. You can also watch these videos as many times as you need to for the information to sink in.
Strength #3: Drilling Certain Skills
Because Khan Academy's resources are clearly organized by specific topic, you can easily use them to drill yourself on a particular skill or topic you want to strengthen. For example, if you need to improve your knowledge of, say, linear functions, you can find that topic in Khan Academy's resources, then watch videos and complete practice problems that focus specifically on that area.
This is a more focused and effective method of studying specific skills than just completing an entire practice test would be, so it'll save you time and help you strengthen that skill faster.
Strength #4: Official Resources
As I mentioned above, since Khan Academy developed these resources with the College Board (the designer of the SAT), their resources are considered official. This means you can be certain that they give an accurate representation of what the SAT will be like and what topics it will test.
Some lower-quality test companies provide prep materials that aren’t always an accurate representation of the SAT. They may ask questions on topics the real SAT doesn’t, ignore important subjects the SAT covers, or ask questions in a way the SAT never would.
When you’re preparing for the SAT, the more accurate your prep materials are, the more they’ll help you, and Khan Academy offers high-quality resources. Using official prep resources can be particularly helpful if you’re just beginning to study for the SAT and don’t have a solid knowledge of the test yet. Once you’ve studied the test more, you’ll begin to be able to identify when unofficial prep resources deviate from the actual exam.
What Is Khan Academy Test Prep Not as Good For?
We have an entire guide that explains why you shouldn't only use Khan Academy's resources for your SAT prep, but here is an overview of three of their most important shortcomings. For each weakness, an alternative resource is suggested.
Weakness #1: Test Strategies
As we mentioned above, Khan Academy’s resources are considered “official” because they were developed with the College Board. While this means they accurately represent the SAT, because Khan Academy is working with the College Board, they won’t provide tips and strategies for the SAT that can help boost your score. This is probably the biggest drawback of using Khan Academy.
Khan Academy explains how to answer specific questions in a very in-depth way, but they don’t include a lot of information on general trends of the test, such as which subjects the SAT has more questions on, ways the SAT can try and trick you, and patterns test makers follow when they develop questions. They also don’t give students strategies to follow when they take the test, such as when to skip questions, how to tackle Reading passages, or time-saving tricks to solving math problems. Knowing this information can really help you improve your SAT score and feel more confident about the test.
ALTERNATIVE: Look for non-official prep resources to get this information. To get you started, we have a ton of information on the SAT, including guides specifically for the Math, Reading, and Writing and Language sections.
Weakness #2: Variety of Lessons
Khan Academy offers some high-quality video lessons, but there is very little variety in the way they cover information. Each video lesson consists of explaining an example problem. While this can be very helpful, there are no lessons just on covering general topics, such as a lesson that explains how to solve linear equations or one that explains basic grammar principles.
Seeing practice problems explained step-by-step is definitely helpful, but, for many people, they’ll need more information and guidance when learning topics they don’t know much about or have trouble understanding. Khan Academy doesn’t have videos like these under test prep; you would have to look through their other resources to try and find videos that focused on the topic you're trying to learn.
Only using the test prep video lessons Khan Academy offers may mean you don’t get enough preparation for the SAT because you’re only learning how to answer specific problems, not the basic concepts behind those problems.
ALTERNATIVE: It’s great to use Khan Academy’s resources, but you should supplement them with additional lessons. You could buy an SAT prep book with practice questions, or you can check out some other online resources.
Weakness #3: Realistic Practice Test Experience
Practicing for the SAT under realistic test conditions is important because it helps you feel more prepared for the real exam and spot potential weaknesses, like time management issues, that you wouldn't have otherwise noticed if you weren't answering practice questions under conditions similar to those of the real exam. While Khan Academy offers practice questions, quizzes, and full-length tests, using their resources will not always give you the most accurate testing experience for three reasons:
Typically Only Test a Few Questions at a Time
While Khan Academy does offer the four official full-length practice tests that you can take in one sitting, most of the time you will only answer about 5-10 questions at a time. The real SAT is long, and if you only answer questions in short quizzes, you won’t know how you hold up during a 3-4 hour long exam. You may know all the content but get exhausted after 2 hours and make silly mistakes. Taking full-length practice tests lets you know how long tests affect you and also builds up your endurance.
If you haven't been taking complete practice tests, taking the entire SAT at once can be an exhausting experience.
Questions Are Answered Online
A smaller, but still important issue, is that, unless you choose to print out the exams Khan Academy offers, you will be taking them online, which is not how you will take the actual SAT (which is always taken with pencil and paper). Only taking practice SATs on a computer may mean you get tripped up on test day because you discover you’re slower at answering questions on paper and run out of time on a section.
Questions Are Mostly Untimed
The majority of practice questions you answer on Khan Academy are untimed, giving you as much time to work on them as you want. While this may be helpful if you’re just starting out and taking your time to put new knowledge into practice, timing is a huge component of the SAT, and if you get used to taking all the time you need, you could end up burned on the real exam when you run out of time midway through a section.
ALTERNATIVE: Take at least a few practice tests on paper, and take the entire test at once, under real test conditions. We have a bunch of free and official practice exams you can print out and take (these are the same official practice tests found on Khan Academy and the College Board's website), as well as a guide that will explain how to make your practice tests as realistic as possible.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Khan Academy
Now you know the strengths and weaknesses of Khan Academy’s SAT study material. Use the following four tips to get the most out of their resources and raise your score more quickly and efficiently.
Tip#1: Upload Your PSAT Scores or Take the Diagnostic Quizzes First
While it may be tempting to start right away with video lessons or a few practice questions, the best way to start using Khan Academy is to give them a baseline of your strengths and weaknesses, either by uploading your PSAT scores or taking the diagnostic quizzes. Doing this at the beginning will allow you to see which areas you need to improve in the most in, and it will also allow you to track your skill level in each area and see how much you improve.
Even if you don’t plan to follow all of Khan Academy’s suggestions, having them available can be helpful down the line if you don’t know what to study next or want to know how much progress you’ve made in a subject.
Tip #2: Work Through a Few Subjects and See Which Methods and Resources Are Most Helpful
Khan Academy offers several different types of prep resources, and you should try multiple methods to see which helps you learn best. For example, if you’re looking to improve your math skills, for one subject you could go straight to the practice problems, for another you could watch the video tutorials first, and for a third subject you could go back and forth between videos and practice problems.
See which method you learn the most from, then use that method the majority of the time as you continue studying.
Tip #3: Use Practice Tests Wisely
The four full-length exams (also available on the College Board’s website), are currently the only official practice exams available for the revised SAT. While there are unofficial exams available, official exams are the best to use because they give you the most accurate representation of what the actual SAT will be like.
Therefore, you’ll want to use these practice exams carefully. Don’t just take them all at once; spread them out over the course of your studying.
Also, take them under official testing conditions. If you take the tests online, Khan Academy times each section of the practice exams to make them more realistic, but they also offer you the choice to stop after each section and review your answers. We don’t recommend you do this; instead, take the test all the way through as you will for the actual SAT in order to see if your score changes after several hours of testing.
Tip #4: Supplement With Other Resources
As mentioned above, Khan Academy offers some high-quality resources, but there are some areas they’re not as strong in as others. Use other resources to learn about tricks of the SAT, identify patterns test makers use when developing questions, and to answer additional practice questions. To get you started, check out our guide to other online SAT prep resources.
The College Board’s decision to partner with Khan Academy and offer free SAT prep resources has benefits for many students. Anyone can create a Khan Academy account and make use of their video tutorials, personalized study recommendations, practice questions, quizzes, and full-length exams.
Because they offer a study plan and recommendations for what you should be working on, Khan Academy’s resources are best for students who aren’t sure how to begin their SAT prep or don’t know which areas they need to focus on. The materials can also be particularly useful if you are more of a visual learner and make use of the videos that explain example problems step-by-step.
Khan Academy’s SAT prep resources are not as good at providing a totally realistic testing experience or teaching students the tricks and patterns test makers use, so you will still want to supplement your study with other resources.
To get the most out of Khan Academy’s resources, we recommend you upload your PSAT scores or take the diagnostic quizzes in order to learn which areas you need to study the most, make use of their multiple resources to see which study methods work best for you, and take the full-length exams under realistic testing conditions and spread out over the period you are studying.
Interested in more information on Khan Academy and why they've decided to offer free SAT prep material? Check out this guide to learn all about Khan Academy and their SAT resources.
Wondering when you can take the SAT? Our guide lists all the upcoming SAT test dates for 2016 so you can start planning.
Want to use your PSAT results for Khan Academy but aren't sure how to get your scores? Learn how to get your PSAT score report.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.