Preparing for the SAT: How Many Hours is Enough?


Students online considering preparing for the SAT generally all have one big question: how many hours should I study for the SAT?  When does prepping for the SAT become a waste of time?  

The short answer is that every hour helps, and unless you've already studied for 100 hours or more, it's not a waste of time yet.  Why do you think that is?

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Why Students Need to Spend More Time Studying for the SAT

The answer from research, from experience, from teachers and college counselors is absolutely clear.  It's the natural combination of two factors.  The first is that the SAT is so important in your life.  A 100 point increase on average doubles your chance of getting into any given college, and raises your lifetime salary by $44,000.  For almost all students, the value of increasing your SAT score is immense.

The second reason is because the SAT is so studiable.  A recent report shows that as few as 10 hours of focused studying can improve your SAT score by dozens of points.  Students in any old SAT prep course improve their score by over a hundred points easily.  In fact, we ourselves are so confident in your ability to improve (and the quality of our product) that PrepScholar even guarantee 160+ points on our online SAT prep program.

You do the math: a better college, and a lifetime salary increase of $44k just for a few dozen hours of studying and spending a few hundred dollars on a good program.  It'll be the best investment of time and money you've made in your life!


Surely There's a Limit to the Benefits of SAT Study, Though?

Yes, there is a limit, but for most people, the limit is their own willpower, motivation, and free time.  In another blog post, I give some tips for overcoming these limitations.  But suffice it to say, for almost all students, further studying will help.  In fact, as a rule of thumb you should not even consider the possibility that you are studying too much unless you've hit the 100 hour mark.  

Students looking for a low benchmark so they can wing the SAT won't find solace in the facts above, but they are what they are.  The SAT is important, and studying at the margin helps, even when you've already studied a lot.


How to Tell You've Studied Enough

First, if your score is 1520 or above, you've studied enough, even if you don't get perfect.  I'll go into it in another blog post, but long story short, the difference between 1520 and 1600 often is just sampling noise.

Second, the following only applies if you've studied more than 100 hours.  If you have not studied 100 hours, do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not use the reasons below as excuses to stop studying.  Likely they don't apply because you haven't even found your best way of preparing for the SAT yet.

Third, a sign that you've studied enough is that you score has not improved by more than 40 points in the last forty hours of studying.

Fourth, you might have studied enough if you're trying many different ways of studying (improving vocab, doing real practice, taking an online course, etc) and still don't improve.



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About the Author
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Dr. Fred Zhang

Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.

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