SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

How to Cram for the SAT: 10-Day, 200-Point Prep Plan

Posted by Dora Seigel | Oct 13, 2017 8:00:00 AM

SAT Strategies

 

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If you’re reading this guide, I’m going to assume you don’t have a lot of time before your SAT test date. If you do have a lot of time before your SAT test date (one month or more), feel free to read this article for useful tips, but I urge you to spread your prep out over the full amount of time you have. Do not wait to cram.

The total amount of time spent preparing for the SAT matters, and though you can make great strides in just 10 days, you still need to put in the time. I’ll guide you through the steps to successfully cram for the SAT and raise your score by up to 200 points.

WARNING: You should not use this SAT cram guide unless absolutely necessary. If you'll have the chance to take the SAT another time, after this test, I recommend doing quick basic preparation for this test date (following the beginning of this guide) and then do a more extensive study program for the next test date. Consider trying PrepScholar or another prep program before your next SAT test date.

If you decide to use this cramming study guide, it is a very ambitious plan that requires tremendous dedication to be successful.

All that being said, if you do decide to follow this plan, I've outlined two preliminary steps below, followed by the fast SAT prep plan itself.

 

Print Your Practice Material

All of the new SAT practice tests created by the College Board are currently available online for free. Print yourself copies of the first four of these free SAT PDFs. I’ll tell you how/when to use them below.

 

Create a Schedule

You need to create a strict study schedule and stick to it. With only 10 days to get a 200 point score increase, 30 minutes per day is not going to do it. Here at PrepScholar, we recommend fitting in about 80 hours of preparation if you’re hoping for a 200 point score improvement.

You need to compress that study schedule into 10 days. Although fitting in 80 hours will be nearly impossible in 10 days (especially if you have school), you probably don’t need quite that much time since cramming gives you the advantage of not losing your muscle memory for test techniques.

I’ve created a sample schedule below that fits in 55 hours of prep into the 10 days before the test.

Day

# of Hours to Study

Wednesday

5

Thursday

5.5

Friday

5.5

Saturday

9

Sunday

10

Monday

5

Tuesday

5

Wednesday

5

Thursday

5

Friday

0

Saturday

0—Take the Test!

 

If you’re on summer vacation, great: you’ll have plenty of free time to commit to this schedule. If you’re attempting to do fast prep during the school year, however, you’ll need to prioritize your SAT prep above all else. It’s only for 10 days!

I’ve outlined the plan for each day below.

 

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10-Day Prep Plan

Before starting this plan, read through what you'll need for each day (both in terms of time and materials). You don't want to block out six hours of study time only to realize that you've left your graphing calculator at school.

Note: This study plan is tailored to students taking the Saturday SAT. If you'll be taking the SAT on a Sunday or during the week in school, you may have to move around the hours for some of the days so that you don't end up having to study for 10 hours on a schoolday.

 

Day 1: Wednesday—5-5.5 Hours

Goals for the day: Familiarize yourself with the test format, pick a target score, and take a practice test.

 

Familiarize Yourself With the Test Format—15 Minutes

Knowing the test format will be a huge advantage when you take the test, I recommend you read through these guides:

By the end of reading these guides, you’ll have a basic familiarity with what’s tested on both sections of the test and how your final score is calculated, which is important to know in order to understand SAT strategy.

 

Pick a Target Score—30 Minutes

If you haven’t already, you need to figure out your target score. I won’t go into depth here because we’ve already got another great guide on picking your target score for your college.

However, the short explanation of how to pick your target score is to aim for a score at or above the 75th percentile score for admits at your target school.

Having a target score will help you stay motivated during your 10 days of preparation. Write the number somewhere important like on your desk, and tell your parents your target score. Putting it out there will make you more motivated to reach it.

 

Take a Practice Test—3 Hours 45 Minutes

Take your first practice test using one of these free SAT PDFs. Make sure to use one of the most recent tests, so your practice test is as similar as possible to your actual SAT test.

Stick to the exact timing. Each section will have the timing listed at the start of the section. Try to imitate the testing conditions. Find a quiet space where you can be alone.

 

Review and Analyze Your Practice Test—1 Hour

Once you’ve completed your practice test, review your practice test following the steps outlined in this guide and grade your essay using the SAT essay rubric.

Analyze your test after you’ve reviewed: Which section was your weakest? Why was it your weakest? Were your issues mainly not understanding the content or did you make more careless errors? Did you not understand the questions? Did you run out of time?

If you cannot readily identify your weakest section (i.e. if your Math and Evidence-based Reading and Writing scores were similar), you should try to identify the one in which you got the most questions wrong because you did not understand the content or information necessary to answer the question. Content issues are impossible to overcome without studying, yet they are the easiest mistake type to fix because all you need to do is simply learn the necessary content.

You need to start by identifying your weakest section because that is what you'll prioritize in your study. You’ll still learn the techniques/strategies for each section, but you should begin with your weakest section.

 

Day 2: Thursday—5.5 Hours

Goals for the day: Learn the strategies for your weakest section and try to apply them to a practice test.

You should have identified your weakest section yesterday. Today, you’ll learn the strategies for that section and practice applying them.

I’m providing links to all of the guides you should read to help with strategy and content knowledge for your weakest section. It’s a lot of material, so try to prioritize the topics within each section that you need the most help in (for example, sentence completion in the Critical Reading section).

If there is a topic you aren't missing any questions on, don't bother reading that guide now. For example, if you aren't missing any triangle questions, you should not read the triangle guide.

Prioritize the guides: start with the overall strategies, then check out guides on your weakest content areas (for example, if you got all of the circle questions wrong in the Math section, start by reading the circle question article).>

If you don’t have time to read it all in two hours, don’t worry, simply bookmark the articles you didn’t get to read. I set aside time another day in the schedule to review the rest of the articles.

 

Learn the Strategies—3 Hours

 

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Take and Review a Practice Section—2.5 Hours

For your weakest section, sit for a 1 hour 40 minute or 1 hour 20 minute practice session, completing every section of that type from a given test (if you're taking the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section DO NOT include the Essay). The essay is not factored into your composite score, so I do not recommend you waste time practicing it after your first practice test. Use the second test of these free SAT PDFs.

After you’ve taken the section, review using the steps outlined in our other guide that you used for your first practice test. See what areas you’ve improved in and what still needs work.

 

Day 3: Friday—5.5 Hours

Goals for the day: Learn the strategies for your strongest section and try to apply them to a practice test.

 

Learn More Section Strategy—3 Hours

Learn the section strategy for the other section (your stronger section, Math or Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) and read all of the articles listed above for that section. If you’re already doing extremely well in the section you’re focusing on today (you scored over 650 on your first practice test), I’d encourage you to use one of the following guides for your study instead of the previously listed guides:

 

Take and Review a Practice Section—2.5 Hours

For the section you’ve chosen, sit for another 1 hour 20 minute or 1 hour 40 minute practice session. Make sure to use the section from the same test (the second test) you did a section from yesterday. That way, you can save your complete practice tests for use later in the week. After you’ve taken the section, review using the steps outlined in our other guide.

 

Day 4: Saturday—8-9 Hours

Goals for the day: Complete your strategy learning by going back and covering the strategies for your weakest section. Take and review a practice test.

 

Learn More Section Strategy for Your Weakest Section—3 Hours

Go back to your weakest section and finishing reading all of the section strategy articles listed above (if you haven’t finished reading them). If you’re still struggling to get your score close to a 600, I’d recommend consulting one of the following guides in addition to the other guides:

 

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Take Your Second Full-Length Practice Test—3 Hours

Use a brand new (not used) full-length practice test the third test from these free SAT PDFs.

NOTE: skip the essay section since it doesn't count towards your composite score.

As you did for the first test, stick to the exact timing. Each section will have the timing listed at the start of the section. Copy the normal testing conditions as best you can.

 

Review and Analyze Your Second Practice Test—2-3 Hours

As always, review your answers, if you still need to reference our other guide, I’ve provided the link.

Take the time to compare the results to your other tests. Did you improve? In what areas are you still struggling? Go back and review the guides if necessary.

 

 

Day 5: Sunday—10 Hours

Goals for the day: Complete your final practice test, review, and determine where you still need improvement.

 

Take Your Third Full-Length Practice Test—3 Hours

Use a brand new (not used) full-length practice test the fourth of these free SAT PDFs.

NOTE: skip the essay section since it doesn't count towards your composite score.

As you did for the first test, stick to the exact timing. Each section will have the timing listed at the start of the section. Copy the normal testing conditions as best you can.

 

Review and Analyze Your Second Practice Test—2 Hours

As always, review your answers, if you still need to reference our other guide, I’ve provided the link.

Take the time to compare the results to your other tests. Did you improve? In what areas are you still struggling?

 

Topic Refresher—4-5 Hours

Go back to the articles listed above and re-read those for the topics in which you’re still struggling. Create flashcards if you need more help memorizing grammar rules or math formulas and test yourself with them.

If you’re close to mastering all of the sections (scoring 650 or above), check out these guides to study some of the toughest questions:

 

Day 6-9: Monday-Thursday—5 Hours Per Day

Each day, go back and review your mistakes from one of your practice tests. Since there are four days and four practice tests, you should be reviewing one test per day. I recommend rewriting the questions you missed on a separate sheet of paper (or printing out a new copy of the test) and attempting to answer the questions again. If you answer correctly, move on.

If you're still answering the question incorrectly, ask yourself why you got it wrong? Is there a specific subject area that you're not very knowledgeable about? Again, refer back to our other articles for help in any areas that you haven't fully mastered.

You can also try out some official topic-specific practice problems at Khan Academy. These can help you hone the skills you're still struggling with.

 

Day 10: Friday—0 Hours

Relax! You've put in the work. I recommend taking the day before off to let your mind rest and process everything you've done. Exercise, eat healthy meals, and go to bed early. Try to get a full eight hours. Be sure to pack your test ticket, calculator, pencils, erasers, extra batteries, snacks, etc. the night before, so you’re not scrambling the morning of the test.

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Day 11: Saturday—0 Hours

Take the test! Wake up at least an hour before you need to leave for your testing center. This way you’ll have plenty of time to eat a big breakfast. Read the newspaper or a book to get your brain going.

Relax! You’ve put in the work! Now is your time to shine!

 

What’s Next?

How do you figure out which college is right for you? Let us guide you through your college research.

Once you've picked the college for you, how do you figure out what a good SAT score is for that college?

Once you're in, how can you pay for college?

 

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:

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Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)

 

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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.



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