You might use apps to take photos of your food and put dog filters on your face, but did you know you can also use apps to prepare for the SAT? It's true! There are a number of apps designed to increase your familiarity with the SAT and get you closer to reaching your goal score.
In this article, I'll let you know how you can use apps in your SAT preparation, and I'll name five of the best free SAT prep apps currently available.
SAT Apps: An Overview
As mobile apps have become more popular, the College Board, SAT prep companies, educational app companies, and individuals have created their own apps to help students prepare for the SAT.
Those who have created the apps are trying to capitalize on the popularity of mobile apps and want to make SAT prep material more accessible for students.
If you have an SAT prep app on your phone or tablet, you can conveniently study for the SAT wherever you are, whether that's at home, school, or a boring family function. Also, studying on an app is more enjoyable and interactive for some students than is using a traditional SAT prep book.
Note that while most SAT prep apps are free, some do cost money in order to use them.
Why SAT Prep Apps Are Not Enough
SAT apps can be a good study tool, but you probably won't be able to solely rely on them to hit your target score. If you want help doing that, check out our guides on how to get a perfect score on the SAT and the best ways to study for the SAT.
So why aren't SAT apps enough? Here are some key reasons to be aware of.
For one, most SAT apps don't have adequate practice questions. Either there are too few of them or they're not representative of the questions you'll get on the actual SAT. As a result, you'll likely need more real SAT questions or more realistic practice questions to be able to sufficiently drill your knowledge and improve your content weaknesses.
Finally, most SAT apps aren't customized to your skill level. To improve your score, you need to focus on strengthening your personal weaknesses. For example, you might want to get better at time management on the Reading section, or you might need lots of help with linear equations.
Generally, SAT prep apps aren't effective at determining where you're weak and aren't designed to help you zero in on the areas in which you need to improve your skills most.
Sorry, kid, but you're gonna need more than an app to get a 1600.
What Makes a Good SAT App?
There are specific qualities you should look for in an SAT practice app.
#1: Tons of Realistic Practice Questions
The best SAT apps will offer hundreds of practice questions for you to hone your skills. These questions should use the same format as questions that appear on the SAT and should be roughly as difficult as those on official SAT practice tests.
Moreover, solid questions will provide you with thorough answer explanations so you're able to understand how to correctly approach and answer them.
#2: Good User Experience
SAT apps should be easy to navigate and use. Sometimes the text on an app is hard to read, or the setup of the app makes it difficult to identify and navigate the functions.
#3: Thorough Content Instruction
A good SAT prep app will clearly teach you the content you need to know in order to excel on the SAT. After doing a lesson or reading an answer explanation, you should have no lingering confusion about the topic you're studying.
A quality SAT app will break down the topic and thoroughly explain it. You should be able to start with limited knowledge on a topic and then, after using the app, understand it well enough to correctly answer related SAT questions.
A bad app will provide only brief instruction, meaning you'll continue to be uncomfortable with a content area you struggled with. If you have any unanswered questions about a topic, you'll need more content instruction.
Apps aren't always the best teachers.
#4: Questions and Lessons Divided by Specific Topics
A good SAT app will divide practice questions and content instruction by more specific topics than just Reading, Writing, and Math.
If you know the topics on which you need extra help, you should know exactly where to go. If you need more help with comma rules, for example, you should be able to easily find instruction or practice questions to help you study that specific content area.
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The 5 Best SAT Apps
If you want to use SAT practice apps in your studying, here are five that can provide some benefit to you. What's especially great is that all are free of charge!
#1: Khan Academy
The Khan Academy SAT prep app offers a portion of the Khan Academy SAT prep website. The Khan Academy is a partner of the College Board, and that affiliation means the Khan Academy app is now the official SAT prep app.
With this app, you get quality video instruction that walks you through a number of practice problems related to SAT topics. I enjoyed these videos, and I believe watching them is a good way to improve your content knowledge and your ability to tackle SAT questions.
Unfortunately, the app doesn't offer actual SAT practice questions for you to do. That's because the Khan Academy app isn't just for SAT prep—it gives users access to all of Khan Academy's lessons.
All in all, you might as well just use the website so you can have access to the practice questions and everything else Khan Academy has to offer.
#2: SAT: Practice, Prep, Flashcards
Created by Varsity Tutors, this SAT app offers in-depth study materials for the SAT's Math, Reading, and Writing sections.
The two biggest perks of this app are its user interface and flexibility. The app is well designed and easy to use; you can pick subjects, practice materials, and even a flashcard deck quickly and easily from the navigation menu. Honestly, the app is just pretty.
In terms of flexibility, the app gives you many different ways to study. Not only does it offer diagnostic and practice tests, but you can also study by concept, choose a pre-made flashcard deck, or just answer the app's Question of the Day. Additionally, it's easy to home in on your weakest categories because the app breaks its content down by test section and subject areas.
Lastly, the app lets you time your practice so you can see how much time you're spending on answering different types of questions.
On the negative side, this app isn't updated regularly. While it's stable and usable for now, it's not clear whether that will be the case in the future.
#3: SAT Exam Prep & Practice
This app is published by Magoosh, a pretty well-known test prep company. That means you're going to get good quality study materials on this app.
The interface for this app is clean and easy to use, which is definitely a plus. They also provide video lessons for you to use in case you need a little extra help with math, reading, and writing questions. The app also lets you track your progress.
The downside to this app is that it doesn't provide the in-depth information you need to really grasp tough topics. The videos aren't great quality, and they're not optimized for learning like the Khan Academy videos are. Additionally, there are a limited number of prep questions in each SAT category (about 150 each). That's not a huge number of practice questions...which means you probably won't increase your score a huge amount by using this app alone.
But the app is free, so if you're looking for a few extra resources to supplement other apps or SAT test prep books, then this might be a good choice for you.
#4: SAT Test Prep Practice
The free version of this SAT app offers 300 practice questions, but if you pay $0.99, you'll get even more questions, a mock SAT, more flashcards, and access to 24/7 support.
On the positive side, this app has many realistic Math practice questions and perhaps the best user experience of all apps on this list.
Negatively, however, the explanations to the questions aren't great, and there's no real content or strategy instruction. Also, avoid the Critical Reading, Language & Vocab, and Word Knowledge questions altogether—these don't use passages and are nothing like actual Reading and Writing questions on the SAT.
#5: SAT Daily: Exam Prep
This free SAT app is designed to encourage you to do a bit of SAT studying every day. It includes a regularly growing question bank of several hundred practice questions, a question of the day, and full-length practice tests.
One feature users particularly like is the in-depth answer explanation each question has. This means that, if you answer a particular question incorrectly, you can read the explanation to fully understand where you went wrong and what you need to do differently next time--a key part of raising your SAT score.
Some users do complain that the app design isn't particularly user friendly and that there are bugs that still need to be addressed, but the quality of the questions is generally praised, and the designers regularly use user suggestions to keep improving the app.
How to Use SAT Apps in Your Studying: 4 Tips
As previously mentioned, SAT apps can be a good resource, but you shouldn't solely rely on them for your SAT prep. Here are some ways you can (and should) use SAT apps in your study sessions.
#1: For Additional Practice Questions
In your SAT studying, start with official SAT practice tests. The questions on these tests most closely resemble real SAT questions, and the College Board provides explanations for all of them. Use one test to get your baseline score, which will tell you how many points you must get in order to reach your goal score by test day.
Once you've gathered your primary materials, use SAT apps as supplementary resources. With apps, you can do additional practice questions (once you've used up those in your books and tests) and can continue to drill your basic knowledge.
I'd start with the College Board app since it's the only app to offer official SAT questions.
#2: To Improve Your Weaknesses
If you know the types of SAT questions you struggle with, you can use apps to do more questions related to those topics or to get more focused content instruction.
For content instruction, Khan Academy and SAT Prep: Practice Tests and Flashcards are pretty good apps. I'd also use the apps that organize questions by specific topics. Be sure to focus on the topics with which you need the most help.
#3: To Change Up Your Study Routine
If you're always studying with the same SAT book or website, you can use an SAT app to alter your normal routine. Changing your routine can energize you and give you additional motivation to study.
Just make sure you're using the apps in a way that will be most beneficial to you or you'll end up wasting your time. For example, don't just drill Heart of Algebra questions if you're already getting all those questions right in your prep.
#4: To Take Mock Tests
A few of the SAT apps offer timed mock tests and diagnostic tests. You can use these apps to simulate the test-taking experience. However, unlike the actual SAT, you'll be by yourself taking the test on a phone or tablet, so it won't be an exact simulation.
Still, you can use apps' mock tests to help build up your test endurance and check to see how you're doing with time management under pressure. You can also use these tests as diagnostics to help determine the types of SAT questions with which you're still struggling.
Best SAT Apps: Takeaways and Recommendations
SAT apps can really help you in your test prep, as long as you ultimately use them in conjunction with other high-quality resources, such as SAT prep books, a tutor, or a prep course.
SAT practice apps work best once you already have a solid foundation. In other words, you should be familiar with all the content on the SAT and be aware of your current weaknesses. Furthermore, keep in mind that you'll have to learn test-taking strategies elsewhere since most apps don't offer much in the way of tips.
If you can afford to pay for a resource, our fully customizable SAT prep program improves your weaknesses, teaches helpful strategies, and provides plenty of high-quality practice questions.
Are you struggling to find time for your SAT prep? Find out how to balance your SAT studying with school and learn how to build an SAT study plan that suits your schedule.
Want some more fun ways to prepare for the SAT? Try one of these SAT prep games!
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Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.