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What Is Khan Academy SAT Prep? How Can It Help You?

Posted by Christine Sarikas | Feb 21, 2016 8:30:00 AM

SAT General Info, New SAT



Are you preparing for the SAT or PSAT? Maybe you’ve heard of Khan Academy and are wondering what it is and if it can help you raise your score. In cooperation with the College Board, Khan Academy recently released free materials to help students prepare for the SAT.

This guide will answer all your questions about the Khan Academy SAT content including what it is, if it’s really free, what resources it provides, and how it differs from other official SAT prep materials. By reading this guide, you'll learn exactly what information Khan Academy offers and how you can use it to study more effectively and boost your SAT score. 

Feature image credit: Wikimedia Commons


What Is Khan Academy SAT Prep?

Khan Academy is an online education non-profit that was founded by Salman Khan in 2006. Khan Academy offers thousands of free videos that cover a variety of topics, including math, economics, and science. Anyone can sign up for a free account and have access to all the videos that Khan Academy offers. The videos typically consist of example problems and notes handwritten by an off-screen narrator (usually Khan himself).

In 2015, Khan Academy and the College Board (the company that designs and administers the SAT, PSAT, and AP tests) teamed up to provide free SAT study tools, which is what this guide will be focusing on. (Since the College Board doesn't administer the ACT, Khan Academy does not offer materials directly geared towards ACT prep.)


Why Are Khan Academy and the College Board Offering These Resources For Free?

Both Khan Academy and the College Board are non-profit organizations. This means that their goal is to provide a benefit to others, not to make a profit. Instead, they use their excess revenue to further their mission or aim. Khan Academy states that their mission is to “provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”

Multiples studies have shown that students from wealthier backgrounds tend to perform better on the SAT than students from less wealthy families. The College Board wants your SAT score to be based on how intelligent you are, not how rich your parents are.

As a way to try and solve this problem, they partnered with Khan Academy, which offers all its lessons for free, so that students from all economic backgrounds have access to the exact same material. This is part of the College Board’s larger rebranding of the SAT, which also included many significant changes to the exam. 



All of Khan Academy's resources are offered for free.


What SAT Prep Resources Does Khan Academy Offer?

As we mentioned above, as a result of its partnership with the College Board, Khan Academy offers official study materials for the SAT (which can also be used to prepare for the PSAT). These resources include video lessons, full-length practice tests, quizzes, personalized practice recommendations, sample questions and more. We’ll explore each of them in more detail below.



After you create your account, one of the first things you’ll be prompted to do is take a diagnostic quiz so Khan Academy can determine your strengths and weaknesses in each SAT section. Eight short quizzes are available: two for Reading, two for Writing and Language, and four for Math. After you complete each quiz, you will be able to review your answers and see how to solve each problem.

You will then be given personalized recommendations based on your score. There are four different skill levels you can be placed into for each SAT topic. If you answered a lot of questions in a particular subject correctly, you will start at a higher skill level and have more challenging practice questions. If you answered a lot of questions incorrectly, you’ll start at a lower skill level and work your way up to more advanced questions.

Many times you’ll start at different skill levels for different topics within a section. For example, if you took a quiz for the Math section, based on your answers you could be starting at Skill Level 2 for circle theorems, linear equation word problems, and complex numbers, and you could be starting at Skill Level 3 for graphing linear equations, isolating quantities, and radical and rational equations.

Your skill level in each area will give you personalized practice recommendations, which we cover next.


Personalized Practice Recommendations

As we just mentioned, your scores on the eight quizzes will determine your personalized practice recommendations. For example, if you generally score well on the Reading section but struggle with analyzing scientific passages, you will be directed to practice questions and videos that focus mainly on scientific passages.

These recommendations make it easier for you to spend your time efficiently because you’re focusing on concepts you need to work on and not wasting your time going over topics you already understand.


Video Lessons

Video lessons are the hallmark of Khan Academy, and dozens of them are available that cover each of the three SAT sections: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Khan Academy SAT videos are typically 2-10 minutes long, and they involve presenting an example problem and breaking down exactly how to answer it.

Reading videos cover each of the four types of text passages the SAT contains. The Writing and Language section has videos on writing style as well as over 20 videos on different grammar concepts such as pronoun agreement, punctuation, and modifier placement. Math includes videos on algebra, data analysis, and numerous other topics.

Many topics have videos that are organized by difficulty, so you can start by watching a video with easier examples and work your way up to more challenging problems.



Khan Academy's video lessons may help you understand difficult topics better.


Practice Questions

There are thousands of practice SAT questions available on Khan Academy. Each of the subjects tested on the SAT has videos and practice questions related to it, so after you watch a video on a particular concept like syntax or linear equation word problems, you can try out some questions on that topic to see how well you understand it.

After you answer a problem, you will learn immediately whether you got it right or wrong, and an explanation will appear for every answer choice that explains why that particular choice was correct or incorrect.


Full-Length Practice Tests

Khan Academy also offers four full-length practice tests (the same practice tests that the College Board offers on its website) that users can take either online or with pencil and paper.

You can take these tests all the way through like you would on test day, or you can stop after each section and review your answers. Like the quizzes and practice problems, each question includes a complete explanation of why each answer option is right or wrong.


Summary: Khan Academy's Test Prep Resources

To recap, Khan Academy's test prep resources include:

  • Diagnostic quizzes to help you figure out how strong you are in each subject before you begin studying.
  • Personalized practice recommendations so you can focus on learning the material you need to improve on.
  • Video lessons to help clarify topics you don't understand right away.
  • Numerous practice questions to help strengthen your skills.
  • Full-length practice tests to get you used to the real SAT. 

To learn more about how you should use these resources, and what their limitations can be, check out our guide on how to get the most out of Khan Academy SAT prep.


How Is Khan Academy Different From The Official SAT Study Guide?

How do the Khan Academy SAT prep materials differ from The Official SAT Study Guide? The Official SAT Study Guide is a 792-page book produced by the College Board that includes practice questions and information on the SAT and how to study for it.

To start, one way in which these resources are similar is that they’re both produced in cooperation with the College Board. This makes them high-quality resources because you can be sure they give an accurate representation of the SAT. Both also offer the same four full-length practice tests, as well as additional questions, explanations, and tips to help you understand the test.

However, as a whole, Khan Academy’s information is more in-depth.


Advantages of Khan Academy

Because Khan Academy’s video lessons walk you through each step of solving a problem, they offer you a different way to study and learn new concepts if you feel you haven’t understood a topic as much as you want to just by reading an explanation of it from a book.

Additionally, while both resources offer practice questions that are broken down by specific categories within a section, only Khan Academy helps you identify which of these areas you are weakest in and thus need to practice more.

Other advantages of Khan Academy include the fact that its full-length practice tests are timed, so they’re more realistic, and that Khan Academy automatically grades your responses on tests, quizzes, and practice problems, which saves you the time of grading them yourself. Khan Academy also offers far more practice problems than The Official SAT Study Guide does.




Advantages of The Official SAT Study Guide

Basically all the information The Official SAT Study Guide offers, both its practice tests and additional tips, is available for free either on Khan Academy or the College Board's website. The main advantage of The Official SAT Study Guide is that its practice tests are already printed out for you. Taking the tests with pencil and paper will help you get a more accurate representation of your score than taking the test online since you will be taking the actual SAT on paper.

While Khan Academy offers the option of printing out the exams, printing out four exams that are 70 or so pages each uses a lot of paper and ink, so having the tests already printed can be useful. The book is currently available for about $15 on Amazon, so if that is a big enough incentive for you, you may want to consider purchasing it.


Which Resource Should You Use?

If you use Khan Academy, you will be using all the prep material The Official SAT Study Guide offers and then some, since Khan Academy offers video lessons, personalized study recommendations, and many more practice questions. Students who appreciate having problems really broken down for them or those who aren’t sure which areas of the SAT they need to study can particularly benefit from Khan Academy.

If you would prefer to have your practice tests already printed out for you, The Official SAT Study Guide may be a useful resource for you, but don't expect it to offer many other advantages since almost all of its material is available for free elsewhere.



Khan Academy is an organization that has teamed up with College Board to provide free online resources for the SAT.

These offerings include quizzes, practice questions, full-length practice tests, video lessons, and personalized recommendations so you can focus your studying on the topics you need to improve the most in.

While both Khan Academy and The Official SAT Study Guide are produced in cooperation with the College Board and contain practice tests, Khan Academy is unique in that it offers video lessons and personalized study recommendations. Because it’s fairly new, Khan Academy’s materials are a bit limited, but they can still be a good resource if you use them along with other prep materials.


What's Next?

Want to learn more about the new SAT? We have a complete guide to the revised SAT that goes over exactly what changed, what stayed the same, and how it affects you.

Not sure if Khan Academy is the right prep method for you? Check out this article which goes over the pros and cons of each test prep method.

Are you planning on using those practice tests? Learn how to get the most realistic practice test experience possible to maximize the accuracy of your scores.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)


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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

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.

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