SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

SAT Prep Tips for Last Minute Studying and Cramming



So the SAT's coming up, and you need to cram for the test. You might have a few weeks, or even a few days left. You might be able to spend just 10 or fewer hours studying. If you're wondering how to best make use of your time before the test, this article's for you. 

First of all, consider delaying the test. If you've spent fewer than 40 hours studying for the SAT up to this point, it's very unlikely that you'll get the highest score possible on your upcoming SAT test. Instead, consider delaying your SAT to a later date and committing to studying early for the SAT in the meantime.

This is especially true if you're a junior in high school or below - you'll have many more chances to take the SAT, and you want to put in a serious effort before your SAT so you can get the highest score possible. This isn't so that you minimize the tests that you take (schools don't really care how many times you took the SAT), but rather so that you don't waste time waiting for your score to arrive, hoping it'll be good enough. Instead you should put that time toward serious preparation.

Note that this doesn't apply if this is the last time you can take the SAT - you might be a senior with this test as your last chance, or you might need it in time for a scholarship. 

If you're still committed to taking the test, here are our top two tips for doing as well as you can:


#1: Take a Practice Test

It's vital that you get comfortable with the format of the SAT, the way it asks questions, and its length. This is especially true if you've never taken a full-length SAT, or if your last test was over two months ago. 

The College Board has a free SAT practice test with answer explanations

Here's how to make the most of this practice test: 

  • Print out the test so you can practice writing on paper. 
  • Follow the timing strictly. You need to get used to two things - the 4-hour length of the test, and the time given for each section. The SAT will cut you off when the section ends, with no allowances. 
  • Grade your test and calculate your SAT score. If you followed the test conditions strictly, your score on the real test is going to be pretty close to this score. Again, use this to help decide whether you want to delay your test.
  • Review each section in detail and figure out why you missed each question. This is the most important part of taking this practice test. The SAT practice test (link again) contains answer explanations for each question. Your goal is to figure out why you missed the question, and how you won't miss it again in the future.

All of the above should take at least 6 hours - around 3 hours to take the practice test, and 3 hours to review the test. 


#2: Guess Strategically

If you're scoring below 600 on a section, here's a simple strategy that can potentially earn you a lot of points: skip the most difficult questions. 


To score a 500, you should skip 1/3 of all questions.


To score a 600, you should skip 1/5 of all questions. 


This might seem crazy. Aren't you leaving points on the table if you don't try to answer all of the questions? Since there's no penalty for wrong answers on the SAT, you should put something down for every question, but that doesn't mean you need to spend time thinking about the answer.

If you're scoring around a 600 when trying every question, it's unlikely that you'll be getting the most difficult questions correct. These questions also take the most amount of time since you'll spend minutes trying to make sense of what the question is asking.

By skipping the hardest questions, you'll be able to spend more time on the easier questions that you're more likely to get right.

As a rule of thumb, if you're spending more than 30 seconds on a question while making zero progress, make a guess and move on to the next one.

You should take one to two hours to learn this strategy and make sure you're comfortable applying it. 


What Now?

If you follow the two steps above, within 10 hours you'll be far ahead of where you started out. You probably won't get the best score you possibly can, but you might do well enough.

What if you want to take the test again?Here at PrepScholar we recommend that you put in at least 40 hours of dedicated SAT prep. You also need to study in the right way so that you don't waste your time. PrepScholar is an online test prep program that creates a customized study program that's unique to you. It learns your personal strengths and weaknesses and creates a complete, comprehensive study plan that will give you exactly what you need to study to earn the most points. Behind the program is our team of dedicated education professionals who are committed to helping you solve your problems, whether it has to do with not knowing what to study, not being motivated to study, or having problems fitting prep into your schedule. Learn more about PrepScholar.


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Allen Cheng
About the Author

As co-founder and head of product design at PrepScholar, Allen has guided thousands of students to success in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions. He's committed to providing the highest quality resources to help you succeed. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and earned two perfect scores on the SAT (1600 in 2004, and 2400 in 2014) and a perfect score on the ACT. You can also find Allen on his personal website, Shortform, or the Shortform blog.

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