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4-Step Guide: How to Study for the SAT in a Month

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Mar 23, 2017 2:00:00 PM

SAT Strategies

 

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If you've only got a month before test day, don't freak out! Although it's not a ton of time to prepare for the SAT, it can be enough if you use your time wisely.

In this guide, we share with you our best advice on how to study for the SAT in a month. We'll begin by analyzing the feasibility of studying for the SAT in a month and then go over the critical steps you must take in order to get your plan going. Finally, we’ll leave you with 12 high-impact tips you can use during your studies and on test day to help you get the SAT score you need for college!

NOTE: This article largely assumes you’ll be conducting a self-guided study plan. Those who'd prefer a helping hand should take advantage of our expert SAT tutors as well as our completely customizable SAT prep course!

 

Is Studying for the SAT in a Month Doable?

Let's start by addressing the crux of this article: is studying for the SAT in a month a feasible endeavor? The answer is yes; however, how doable a month-long study plan is depends greatly on what kind of score improvement you're hoping for.

In terms of total point improvement on the SAT, here are the (approximate) numbers of hours you'll need to study:

  • 0-30 point improvement: 10 hours
  • 30-70 point improvement: 20 hours
  • 70-130 point improvement: 40 hours
  • 130-200 point improvement: 80 hours
  • 200-330 point improvement: 150 hours+

As you can see, the higher the score improvement you want, the more hours you’ll have to dedicate to studying for the SAT. Because the SAT is such an important test for college, and because high school students are busy people, our usual recommendation is to set aside at least six months for SAT prep. This way you won't have to squeeze in too many study sessions each week, and you should still be able to hit the score you need — even a fairly lofty one requiring an increase of 200+ points. For those who'd like to improve their SAT scores by something closer to, say, 100 points, three months should generally suffice.

But not everyone has three or six months to commit to studying for the SAT. So if you've only got a month to get started, don't worry; you can still increase your score. You just need to be willing to clock in the necessary amount of study time whenever possible.

There are limitations to this, though. If you want to improve your SAT score by something close to 200 or 300 points (150+ hours of study time), one month likely won't give you enough time to do so. For a plan like this to work, you'd have to study about 38 hours a week, or more than five hours a day! This is way too much time for anyone to dedicate entirely to SAT prep. At this rate, you're guaranteed to burn out after a day or two!

So to recap, studying for the SAT in a month is doable, as long as you:

  • Are ready to create a regular study schedule and stick with it.
  • Want to improve your total SAT score by no more than 130-200 points (equivalent to about 80 study hours).

Now, let's take a look at how to study for the SAT in a month using our simple four-step plan.

 

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How to Study for the SAT in a Month: 4 Critical Steps for Getting Started

Getting the most out of your month-long SAT study plan means figuring out what your current SAT score is, what kind of score you need for college, and how you intend to achieve that score. Our essential steps below will teach you how to prepare for the SAT in a month, so you can take the test with confidence.

 

Step 1: Find Your Target Score

In order to determine how many hours you'll need to study, you must first find your SAT goal score. This is the score most likely to get you into all of the colleges you're applying to.

The easiest way to find your SAT goal score is to search for average SAT scores (which are usually presented as score ranges) on your schools’ websites. Get on Google and look for “[College Name] average SAT” or “[College Name] 25th/75th percentile SAT.” You can also browse our SAT requirements database by searching for "[College Name] SAT requirements PrepScholar." Here is an example of USC's SAT requirements page.

Your target score should match or exceed the 75th-percentile score for your most competitive college. Getting this score will give you the best shot at gaining admission into all of your colleges, even your most competitive ones.

 

Step 2: Figure Out Your Baseline Score

Once you’ve found your goal score, it’s time to figure out your baseline score (where you’re currently scoring on the SAT). You will use this benchmark score to determine the number of points needed to hit your goal score (as described in Step 1).

To get your baseline score, take an official SAT practice test. Be sure you recreate a realistic test-taking environment as closely as you can: take the test in a quiet room and time yourself exactly as you'll be timed on the SAT. Once finished, use your test’s answer guide to calculate your individual Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) scores as well as your total SAT score. This total score will serve as your baseline score.

You can also use this practice test to get a feel for which areas of the exam and which question types are most challenging for you.

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Step 3: Create a Study Schedule

The third step is to come up with a study schedule you'll be able to follow fairly rigidly over the course of a month.

First, find the difference between your baseline score and your target score to get the total number of points required to achieve your target score. Then, look for your difference using the following point ranges to determine how many total hours you'll need to study over the course of a month. As I mentioned previously, one month should give you enough time to study for up to 80 hours and attain, at a maximum, a 200-point score increase:

  • 0-30 point improvement: 10 hours
  • 30-70 point improvement: 20 hours
  • 70-130 point improvement: 40 hours
  • 130-200 point improvement: 80 hours

The second half of this step is to divide your hours into a feasible weekly study plan. Below are various schedules you can try out depending on the score range you're aiming for on test day.

Always choose the best plan that will work for you personally. So if you loathe the idea of studying for the SAT on weekdays, stick to longer study sessions on the weekends. On the other hand, if studying for more than an hour straight is utterly torturous for you, opt for shorter, more frequent study sessions scattered throughout the week.

 

Light: You Want to Improve Your SAT Score by 0-30 Points

If your baseline score is within 30 points of your target score, congratulations! You have a very doable month-long study schedule. For this plan, your total prep time is about 10 hours, or a mere two and a half hours a week.

Your options for a weekly study schedule are as follows:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes, once a week
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes, twice a week
  • 30 minutes, five times a week

 

Medium: You Want to Improve Your SAT Score by 30-70 Points

In this scenario, your baseline score is slightly more removed from your target score — but not by much! For this medium-sized plan, you must study a total of 20 hours, or five hours a week on average.

Ideal study schedules for this plan include:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes, twice a week
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes, four times a week
  • 1 hour, five times a week

 

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Heavy: You Want to Improve Your SAT Score by 70-130 Points

Now we get to the tougher plans. With this schedule, you'll have to really start buckling down to reach your goal of 70-130 points. To do so successfully within a month, you must study for a minimum of 40 hours, or about 10 hours a week.

Possible study schedules are:

  • 3 hours and 20 minutes, three times a week
  • 2 hours and 30 minutes, four times a week
  • 2 hours, five times a week

 

Heavier: You Want to Improve Your SAT Score by 130-200 Points

This SAT prep plan, though technically feasible, requires a high amount of diligence, regularity, and commitment. To improve your baseline score by 130-200 points, you must study for a minimum of 80 hours, or 20 hours a week on average. Note that at this rate, each of your study sessions will be fairly lengthy at three or more hours long.

Your best options for a foolproof study schedule are as follows:

  • 5 hours, four times a week
  • 4 hours, five times a week
  • 3 hours and 20 minutes, six times a week

 

Impossible? You Want to Improve Your SAT Score by 200-330 Points

This certifiably insane plan would require a total of 150+ study hours in a month — that's 38 hours a week! Therefore, due to its impractical nature, I do not recommend attempting this plan. Instead, it'll be more helpful for you to aim for a slightly smaller point increase (see plan “Heavier” above) and then retake the SAT at a later date if you want to improve your score even more. Just be sure you give yourself more than a month of study time on the second go-around — ideally, anywhere from three to six months.

 

Step 4: Gather SAT Study Materials

Now that you've got a foolproof study plan, it’s time to gather the SAT prep materials you’ll use for content review and practice during your prep sessions.

If you've already got a stash of SAT materials ready to use, awesome! If not, here is a convenient compilation of some of the best SAT resources currently available: 

  • The Ultimate SAT Study Guide for SAT Prep: This guide contains links to all of our most important and relevant SAT articles. Use this guide as a broad reference for information on both SAT study resources and test-taking strategies. You can also use it to answer any questions you may have concerning scoring and other SAT logistics.
  • The Best SAT Prep Websites You Should Be Using: Online study materials can be just as helpful as SAT prep books as long as you know where to find quality resources! Use our guide to help you find the best online SAT resources, from practice questions and strategy guides to virtual prep courses.
  • Khan Academy: A partner website of the College Board (the creators of the SAT), Khan Academy offers a plethora of realistic SAT practice questions and tutorial videos — all for free! Check out our comprehensive guide for tips on how to incorporate Khan Academy into your SAT study plan.

As a bonus resource, our SAT blog offers a vast amount of SAT information, from tips and strategies to testing logistics and more. So feel free to use this resource if you have any questions about the SAT or simply want to review content using our free study guides!

Once you've selected a solid assortment of quality SAT resources, read on to see our top tips on how to study for the SAT in a month.

 

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How to Prepare for the SAT in a Month: 6 Surefire Tips

A month isn't a particularly long time to study for the SAT, but with our six surefire tips, you're guaranteed to get the score you want on test day!

 

#1: Familiarize Yourself With the SAT Format

As is the case with any exam, knowing what to expect on test day can give you a big advantage, not to mention a little extra confidence. Start your SAT prep by familiarizing yourself with how the test is scored and what type of content it tests. Then, move on to the specifics of each SAT section by learning about what kinds of questions you'll encounter on the exam and what kinds of skills you'll need to master in order to get a high score.

For an in-depth overview of each SAT section, refer to the following guides:

Knowing the SAT format inside and out will give you the upper hand on test day by ultimately eliminating the risk of surprises.

 

#2: Take 2-3 Official Practice Tests to Measure Your Progress

Once you've begun studying for the SAT, it's important you consistently check whether your SAT score is improving or not by taking official SAT practice tests.

For a month-long study plan, two or three official practice tests should suffice. Take the first test at the beginning of your study plan to get your baseline score (as described in Step 2 above). Then, take a second test about halfway through your study plan to determine whether your prep materials and study methods are actually helping you, and to see whether you have any glaring weaknesses you need to concentrate on more.

Practice tests must be taken at the appropriate times to be most effective. So don't take a test too early (less than a week after you’ve started studying for the SAT) or else you likely won’t notice any significant changes. Similarly, don’t take a test too close to test day, as this will only drain your energy!

 

#3: Review Core SAT Math Topics

Your study plan would be incomplete if you don't spend any time reviewing the core concepts tested on SAT Math. Broadly, the three major SAT Math topics are algebra, advanced math, and problem solving and data analysis. Altogether, these three topics account for 90 percent of Math questions.

But what exactly should you study? Start by mastering the basics of integers. (You can also check out our advanced guide to integers for details on prime numbers, absolute values, exponents, and more!) Afterward, progress to the following critical SAT Math topics:

For Algebra
For Advanced Math
For Problem Solving and Data Analysis

We also offer individual Math strategy guides, which you can access through our ultimate SAT math prep guide.

 

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#4: Learn Basic Math Strategies

In addition to mastering core SAT Math topics, it's imperative you learn some of the basic strategies for tackling SAT math.

One key strategy you can use while studying is to re-solve math problems you’ve missed before looking at the answer explanations. Here's how it works: using high-quality math practice questions (those on the official SAT practice tests are always safe bets), you’ll answer various SAT Math questions and then check your answers one by one. As you do so, mark the ones you got wrong and then immediately attempt to solve them again, this time using the correct answer as a hint. Re-solving questions allows you to think more deeply about why you missed a question and what other ways you can use to approach it and come up with a solution.

Additional Math strategies are plugging in answers and plugging in numbers. With these two strategies, you can attempt almost any math problem, even if you’re clueless about how to solve it. These strategies work well if you don't know how to simplify algebraic expressions or how to use algebra to solve systems of equations and inequalities.

 

#5: Review Core SAT Grammar Topics

Switching gears now! For the SAT Writing and Language section, you must possess a working knowledge of written English conventions and then use this knowledge to correct and improve sentences in various passages. In short, you must understand all of the fundamental rules of English grammar and punctuation.

Rules and concepts most commonly tested on the SAT Writing section include:

  • Commas, colons, and semicolons
  • Apostrophes and possessives
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Modifiers
  • Homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings)
  • Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses
  • Redundancy
  • Idiomatic phrases

 

#6: Develop a Strategy for Reading SAT Passages

Passages are abundant on both the Reading and Writing sections of the SAT; in fact, every question on these two sections is based on a passage! Therefore, it's important you cultivate the ability to interpret various types of passages both quickly and accurately.

There are many methods for approaching SAT passages. Because the Reading and Writing sections pose different types of questions in regards to their respective passages, you may find it easier to develop separate reading strategies for each section.

On the Reading section, test takers typically use one of the following strategies for reading passages:

And on the Writing section, test takers tend to use one of these strategies:
  • Answer questions as you read the passage paragraph by paragraph (highly recommended)
  • Answer each underlined question in order as you read the passage
  • Skim the passage and then answer the questions
  • Read only the underlined sentences (not recommended)

Ultimately, which passage-reading strategy you choose is up to you, and its success depends on how you read and digest information best. To help you determine which strategy works well for you, test out the different strategies listed above using the Reading and Writing sections on official SAT practice tests (make sure you time yourself for the same amount of time you’ll be given on the SAT). After you take the tests, compare your scores for each section. Any scores that are significantly higher on one test should point to a strategy that suits you.

 

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6 Additional SAT Study Tips for the High Achiever

The following six tips are geared toward those who are planning to spend at least 40 total hours on studying for the SAT in a month and would like additional tactics for reaching their SAT goal scores.

 

#7: Carefully Analyze Real Questions

Your study sessions will likely feel pretty long, so spend some of your time carefully analyzing real SAT questions. The best resources to use for this are official SAT practice tests.

As you peruse the questions on these tests, look for concrete clues to help you identify the type of questions you're encountering on each section. For example, can you differentiate the big picture questions on the Reading section from the little picture questions? On the Math section, can you identify which problems fall under the Heart of Algebra category? The Data Analysis and Problem Solving category? How do No Calculator questions differ from those on the Calculator section?

Examining how various types of concepts are presented on the SAT will allow you to become an expert on the SAT format. As a result, you'll start to spend less time trying to comprehend SAT questions and more time trying to solve them.

 

#8: Master ALL Applicable Math Topics and Grammar Rules

Test takers hoping for a staggering point increase must move beyond the basics of SAT Math and grammar and start delving into more advanced (albeit less commonly encountered) SAT topics.

For the Math section, spend extra time mastering the final 10 percent of topics (called “Additional Topics in Math”). This category primarily covers:

Additionally, try to memorize all of the major SAT Math formulas. Although you’ll be given a list of formulas on the exam, these formulas revolve exclusively around geometry (a less commonly tested topic). Thus, it's imperative you memorize other relevant formulas, such as those for algebra and trigonometry, that will not be given to you on the test. That being said, you should still memorize the ones on the test, too; doing this will save you time on test day, as you won't need to repeatedly check the list of formulas for help.

In regards to grammar, those with ample time on their hands should make it a goal to master all of the rules detailed in our complete SAT grammar guide. This guide goes over some of the more complex grammar topics, including relative pronouns, parallel structure, and fragments and run-on sentences, that you'll need to know for the SAT.

 

#9: Hone Your Reading Comprehension Skills

To become an expert at SAT Reading, you must not only know how to read the passages but also how to select the correct answer. And here's the trick: there is always only one answer that is 100-percent, unambiguously correct.

What do I mean by this? All correct Reading answers are supported by direct evidence in the passages. So of the four answer choices given to you for each question, only one will be clearly correct — all of the other choices will contain some sort of clue to indicate they are clearly incorrect.

Make sure you practice honing this trick with high-quality Reading questions. As you do so, think deeply about why the incorrect answer choices are incorrect. Dead giveaways for incorrect answers are those that:

  • Are too broad
  • Are too specific
  • Are unrelated to the passage
  • Say the opposite of what’s written in the passage
  • Contain extra information that isn’t written in the passage
  • Offer a slightly plausible interpretation that isn’t directly supported by the passage

Even a single word can make an answer choice incorrect, so always keep a sharp eye as you consider answer choices on the Reading section.

 

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#10: Study Vocabulary

Although vocabulary no longer constitutes a major portion of the SAT, those trying to increase their EBRW scores should cover all of their bases by studying vocabulary words likely to appear on the SAT. Luckily, all of the vocabulary on the new SAT is only about medium difficulty; the challenging part, however, stems from having to know tertiary meanings of common terms.

For quality vocabulary prep, check out our selection of 150 ACT vocabulary words and Scholastic’s 100-word SAT/ACT vocabulary list. (Note that the vocabulary tested on the SAT is now extremely similar to that tested on the ACT, so it's perfectly OK to use ACT vocabulary resources for your SAT prep!)

 

#11: Strengthen Your Weaknesses

Another tip for high achievers is to target your weaknesses by drilling challenging SAT topics and question types. Focusing on your most difficult areas will help you hone your test-taking skills, effectively raising your SAT score. Doing this will also teach you how to detect patterns in the errors you make, so that you can avoid making them again in the future.

The best way to combat your SAT weaknesses is to dedicate more time to both content review and hands-on practice. Use high-quality resources such as prep books for comprehensive content explanations. Then, look for realistic practice questions on your most difficult topics (official practice tests and prep books are solid resources for questions). Work through the questions one by one and check their answers to ensure you understand what mistakes you’re making and how you can alter your habits to answer the questions correctly on test day.

 

#12: Practice Pacing Yourself

Don’t assume that just because you’re familiar with the content of the SAT that you’ll be able to breeze on through it! Instead, take time to develop an ideal pace. One of the worst things you can do on the SAT is leave dozens of questions unanswered, but being aware of how much time you spend on each question should greatly reduce this risk.

On practice tests, time yourself and try to see whether certain question types take you longer to work through than others. Then, work on developing faster techniques and strategies for the types of questions that usually eat up your time.

On the other hand, if you’re routinely finishing practice tests with tons of time to spare but not scoring where you want to score, you’re likely moving way too fast. In this case, devote more time to double-checking your answers and re-reading any ambiguous questions, sentences, or passages.

 

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The Final Word: How to Study for the SAT in a Month

Studying for the SAT in a month, though challenging, can be a feasible option for certain test takers depending on the number of points by which you’d like to improve your baseline score. The more points you want, the more hours you’ll need to dedicate to studying — and thus the harder it’ll be to stick to your study plan. If you are trying to improve your score by a significant number of points — say, 200 or more — one month likely isn’t going to be enough time for you to be able to successfully do so.

To study for the SAT in a month, you must first find your SAT target score based on your colleges’ average SAT scores and then take an official SAT practice test to get your baseline score. After you've gotten both of these scores, select a study schedule that corresponds to the total point improvement you want to make on the SAT.

Once you’ve gathered your SAT prep materials, follow these six tips to get the most out of your month-long study plan:

  • Familiarize yourself with the SAT format
  • Take 2-3 official practice tests to track your progress
  • Review core SAT math concepts
  • Learn basic math strategies
  • Review core SAT grammar topics
  • Develop a strategy for reading SAT passages
And for those with more hours to dedicate to studying, use your extra time to:
  • Carefully analyze real questions
  • Master all applicable math topics and grammar rules
  • Hone your reading comprehension skills
  • Study vocabulary
  • Strengthen your weaknesses
  • Practice pacing yourself

With these tips in mind, you should have no trouble implementing a surefire month-long SAT study plan!

 

What’s Next?

Feel like you're running out of time? Stay calm! With our expert last-minute SAT tips and strategies, you can still get the SAT score you want — no matter how little time you've got left before test day.

Need extra help studying for the SAT? Check out our top 21 SAT tips and learn everything you need to know about acing the SAT!

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

Check out our 5-day free trial today:

Improve Your SAT Score by 160+ Points, Guaranteed

 

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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