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’re at, whether you’re 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.
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 improving 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, 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. On some SAT prep apps, the text is hard to read or the setup of the app makes it difficult to identify the functions and navigate among them.
#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 Are 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. All are free of charge!
#1: Daily Practice for the New SAT
This is the College Board’s official SAT prep app. Every day the app offers a new practice question, which can cover any topic. This feature might not help you if it’s on a topic you already know. Since previous questions of the day are archived, though, you can access these instead. These are organized by section and can be sorted by difficulty level or even the date they were posted.
The official SAT app also has a function through which you can scan an official SAT practice test you've taken and get it corrected. Unfortunately, many app users have complained that the scanning function doesn't work well, so be aware of this potential issue before using the app.
This app is overall solid because it offers College Board-approved questions and explanations. However, it doesn’t have thorough content instruction, and the number of questions is limited.
#2: Ready4 SAT
This app is definitely one of the best SAT prep apps. It offers the following features:
- Ample content instruction
- A mock SAT with up to 100 questions
- Complete answer explanations to questions
- 60 SAT lessons
- Hundreds of virtual flashcards
- 1,000+ realistic practice questions
Initially, you take a short diagnostic test of 10 questions so that the app can customize a course of instruction for you. However, because there aren’t many questions in this test, the app might not be able to accurately determine your current SAT skill level.
Though a great SAT prep app, it's not perfect.
First, the content instruction it provides is pretty brief, so it might not be enough if you’re really struggling with a particular topic.
The user experience isn't ideal, either. For Reading and Writing, passages and questions are on different screens, and it was a little difficult for me to find the underlined portions of the passages for the Writing questions.
Additionally, the app isn't maintained regularly. The last update to the iOS version came in September 2017, which means that the content might be out of date. Additionally, old apps can be unstable and crash often, so your mileage may vary there, too.
Lastly, the entire app isn't actually free. While you can access some of its features without having to pay, you'll need to fork out $19.99 for a premium account if you want the full experience.
#3: 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.)
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 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.
#4: SAT Exam Prep Practice Test / SAT Test Prep Practice Q & A
The free version of this SAT app offers 300 practice questions, but if you pay $0.99-$1.00, you'll get 471 total questions, a mock SAT, and access to so-called “SAT Genius experts.”
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. Like other SAT apps, the app isn't updated regularly, either. (The last update was in December 2017, which means the app might be out of date and/or unstable.) 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: Practice, Prep, and Flashcards
This app, created by Varsity Tutors, offers in-depth study materials for the SAT's Math, Critical Reading, and Writing sections.
The two biggest perks of this app are its user interface and its flexibility. First, 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, you can also study by concept, choose a pre-made flashcard deck, or just answer the app's Question of the Day. It's also easy to focus on your weakest categories because the app breaks its content down by test section and subject areas. Lastly, the SAT: Practice, Prep, and Flashcards app lets you time your practice so you can see how much time you're spending answering different types of questions.
On the negative side, this app—like so many others in this category!—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. Additionally, there's a chance the questions and information are out of date, too. The SAT is constantly updating its question types, which means you need to study current materials to make sure you're ready for the test.
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 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 and to figure out how many points you'll need to get in order to hit 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 the SAT: Practice, Prep, and Flashcards app are pretty good. 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 and you'll be doing the test on an app, so it won't be an exact simulation.
That said, you can 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 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.
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 six 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.