SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

The Ultimate SAT Study Guide for SAT Prep

Posted by Allen Cheng | Aug 23, 2018 12:00:00 PM

SAT Strategies


At PrepScholar, we've written the largest set of high-quality SAT guides available, covering pretty much everything you need to know to improve your score on the SAT. They're all free and online, right here on our blog, and we think they beat any book you can purchase.

This guide, our Ultimate SAT Prep Study Guide, combines our most important SAT guides on one page. If you master all of the concepts linked to on this page, use them in your own practice and studying, and stay motivated to work hard, you'll have an amazing shot at improving your SAT score. Essentially, you'll have a huge advantage over students who don't know this information and lack the motivation to employ it in their own studying.

First we'll cover how to use this guide. We'll then go through, section by section, what's important for you to know. Here's an outline of what's coming next:

  • How to Use This SAT Study Guide
  • Intro to the SAT
  • The Right Mindset for SAT Prep
  • SAT Content and Strategies
    • Overall SAT Test Strategy
    • SAT Reading Prep Guides
    • SAT Writing Prep Guides
    • SAT Math Prep Guides
    • SAT Essay Prep Guides
  • SAT Logistics and Planning


How to Use This SAT Study Guide

This guide contains the information we believe is most important for all students taking the SAT to know. It's ordered roughly in the sequence we recommend reading the articles in.

This guide also serves as a launching point for further reading. Many of these links will direct you to pages with more links, and you should explore the resources we link to that you find helpful.

There's a lot to read here, and you probably won't be able to do it all in one sitting. If you find this guide helpful, bookmark this page or email it to yourself to remind yourself to come back to it later.

You'll notice as you read further that we cover a lot more than just test content, which is where most students tend to focus too much of their time. Rather, we also cover test strategy, mindset, behavior and motivation, and planning in the context of college admissions.

If you're serious about improving your SAT score,  you need a lot of information. It's not just about SAT test content — you also need to master test strategy so that you can apply your foundational knowledge to the specific format of the SAT. You need to have the right mindset as you approach the test and understand the perspective of the College Board, the SAT's creator. You need to stay motivated to be able to push through the dark days when you don't feel like doing SAT prep. You also need to consider what your college goals are, find an SAT score target that's right for you, and plan the logistics of taking the SAT.

I encourage you to even read the guides about subjects you feel like you already know. In the worst case, you'll just spend 10 minutes refreshing important concepts. In the best case, you'll learn a new aspect of SAT prep that can have a big impact on how you study.



Intro to the SAT

If you're a beginner in SAT prep, it's important to understand the format of the SAT, what's tested, and how it works. This section will give you a strong foundation to help you understand the test more deeply.


Complete Guide to the New SAT

The SAT underwent a huge transformation in 2016, so it's important to know the basics about the test and its format. What kinds of sections are on it? What do questions look like? Start building your foundation here.


What's Actually Tested on the SAT Reading Section? SAT Reading Skills

What's Tested on the SAT Math Section? Topics and Practice

What's Tested on the SAT Writing Section? Grammar and Questions

Next, learn what's tested on each of the three sections on the SAT: Reading, Math, and Writing and Language. Each of these guides covers the format of the section, question types, and the skills you'll need to have to do well.


How Is the SAT Scored? Scoring Charts

You know that your SAT score will likely be an important part of college admissions. But how is the test graded to arrive at a final score out of 1600? What happens when you skip or miss questions? How is each section scored out of 800? Learn here in this guide.


What Is the Average SAT Score?

SAT Percentiles and Score Rankings

It's good for you to get a sense of what SAT scores are considered good on a nationwide scale. These guides tell you the average SAT score overall and for each state, and your national percentile for your score.


Is the ACT Easier Than the SAT?

This is a common question. If you're trying to decide between focusing on the SAT or the ACT, it's important to understand exactly what the differences are and how to decide which test to take. Here's a clear breakdown of each test with strategies for figuring out the right test for you.


Want to learn more about the SAT but tired of reading blog articles? Then you'll love our free, SAT prep livestreams. Designed and led by PrepScholar SAT experts, these live video events are a great resource for students and parents looking to learn more about the SAT and SAT prep.

Click on the button below to register for one of our livestreams today!

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The Right Mindset for SAT Prep

What many students don't appreciate is that doing well on the SAT is as much about good planning and your mental mindset as it is about understanding the stuff that's actually tested. This section contains concepts that are critical for all students to understand before they spend any time doing even a single test question.


Why Is the SAT Important for Your College Goals?

You know that you need to take the SAT to get into college. But why do colleges actually care about the SAT? Couldn't they just use your grades and application to evaluate you? 

The SAT serves a critical function in college applications by comparing you on equal footing with the rest of the country. Learn more about how the SAT achieves that here.


What Is a Good SAT Score? A Bad SAT Score? An Excellent SAT Score?

This is a question on nearly every student's mind. You've likely heard from other students, your parents, or teachers about what a good SAT score is or isn't. If they've given you a specific number without any reasoning or logic behind it, they're dead wrong.

The truth is, there's only one SAT target score that's good for you and your personal college goals. It's not what your friends think you should get, and it's not what your parents keep telling you to aim for. Figure out what your target SAT score should be in this guide.


How to Beat Procrastination in Your SAT Prep

A common problem in pretty much everyone's life is procrastination. We put off unpleasant tasks for later because we're pretty sure we'll get around to them — and watching YouTube videos feels so much better right now.

This is a huge problem for a lot of students and their SAT prep. Studying isn't nearly as fun as texting or Snapchatting, and the test seems so far away. It's often really hard to sit down for five hours a week and actually commit to working through problems and improving your SAT skills.

So we wrote a practical guide to beating procrastination. You'll learn about why people procrastinate and how this problem applies to SAT prep, too. More importantly, we share specific strategies you can use to stop procrastinating in your test prep.


How to Get a Perfect 1600 SAT Score, by a 2400 Expert Full Scorer

If you're aiming for a high SAT score, this is a must-read guide. Even if you're aiming for any score above a 1200, I recommend reading this guide.

I've gotten perfect scores on two versions of the SAT: back in 2004 when it was (originally) out of 1600, and later when it was out of 2400 (now the test is back to the 1600 scale!). My perfect scores didn't magically happen — they took a lot of hard work.

In this perfect score guide, I've put every important concept that I believe you must understand to get a super high SAT score. This guide doesn't contain any actual test content; it's more about the mental game of understanding why your score is low, where your weaknesses lie, and strategizing focused attacks on your weaknesses to improve your score.



SAT Content and Strategies

By reading the guides above, you'll have a strong mental framework for understanding what the SAT is and how you can do well on the test.

Next comes the part where you'll be spending most of your time — mastering the concepts and skills tested on the SAT. Section by section, we'll go through the most important guides you need to read.


Overall SAT Test Strategy

The Best Way to Review Your Mistakes for the SAT

A lot of driven students prep for the SAT by doing a ton of practice questions without any insight. They churn through practice tests mindlessly without reviewing their mistakes or understanding how to improve. Why? It feels great, and it feels like progress.

This is a critical mistake — it's like pounding your head against the wall. If you don't do practice problems and review them with the right perspective, you'll be wasting hours of your time. In this guide, we teach you how to use every mistake you make on the SAT to identify your weaknesses and improve your prep.


Best SAT Prep Books 2018

Are you a self-studier who plans to study for the SAT using books alone? We've reviewed the best books currently available for SAT prep in this guide. We talk about the best books for overall studying and for each section, as well as books you should avoid. Even if you're being tutored or taking a prep class, this article is still useful to read to see if there's anything you can supplement your studying with.


The Best SAT Prep Websites You Should Be Using

If you prefer to study online, then this list is for you. It contains all the best SAT websites, from strategy guides, to study tips, to high-quality practice questions for all sections of the SAT. Websites are a great way to do some quick studying as well as a way to prep without needing to carry around a prep book.



SAT Reading Prep Guides

The #1 Critical, Fundamental Strategy of SAT Reading

If there's only one guide you read for SAT Reading, make it this one. 

On SAT Reading, do you ever find yourself waffling between two or three answer choices that all seem plausible? Do you throw up your hands and just guess on one of them?

Nearly all students suffer from this problem. That's because they don't understand the #1 critical rule about SAT Reading: every question has only one unambiguously correct answer, and every other answer is unambiguously wrong for specific reasons.

In this guide, you'll learn this concept in detail and get strategies for identifying incorrect answers on SAT Reading questions.


The Ultimate Study Guide for SAT Reading: Strategies, Tips, and Practice

This guide contains everything you need to know about SAT Reading in one place. We cover every single question type, with custom strategies on how to attack each one. Every great SAT Reading prep guide we've created can be found on this page!


The Best Way to Read the Passage in SAT Reading

SAT Reading gives you passages and a bunch of questions about each passage. How you read passages and approach their questions (and in which order) dramatically affects how well you'll be able to answer the questions.

Many students use ineffective strategies to attack these passages, costing them valuable time and points. Here, you'll learn our recommended approach to SAT Reading passages.


The Best Way to Study SAT Vocab Words

Vocabulary isn't a huge part of the SAT anymore, but you'll need to how to study it if you're aiming for a perfect or near-perfect Reading score. My strategy teaches you how to memorize SAT vocab words so that you use your prep time effectively.


How to Improve Your SAT Reading Score: 8 Strategies

Are you scoring below 600 on SAT Reading? The first thing you should do, then, is aim to break 600. The strategies you'll need to use are quite different from the ones you'd use if you were aiming for 800. For example, we recommend skipping harder questions to help you maximize your score in the short amount of time you have.


How to Get 800 on SAT Reading: 11 Strategies by a Perfect Scorer

Aiming for a high score on SAT Reading (above 600)? This guide covers everything you need to understand to give yourself a great shot at a perfect score. We teach you how to pinpoint your biggest weaknesses, give you strategies to fix them, and explain the mindset you'll need when practicing for SAT Reading.



SAT Writing Prep Guides

What Is SAT Writing and Language? 5 Tips to Excel

SAT Writing tests grammar rules in a very strange way; it's not at all like the grammar tests you've taken throughout your schooling. Here, we discuss the unique style of the SAT Writing section and strategies you need to succeed in it.


The Complete Guide to SAT Grammar Rules

The core of SAT Writing is its grammar rules. Subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, and writing style are all tested in this multiple-choice section. Read our extensive guide to learn every grammar rule you'll need to know for Writing.


The Complete Prep Guide for SAT Writing: Grammar, Strategies, and Practice

This guide contains everything else you need for SAT Writing, including detailed guides for every single grammar rule tested. We teach you expert strategies for attacking different question types, and give you tips on how to eliminate answers. We also offer our best advice on how to practice SAT Writing questions effectively.


How to Improve Your SAT Writing Score: 8 Key Strategies

Are you scoring in the 300-600 range on SAT Writing? The first thing you should do is reach 600. There are a few specific strategies you can use to raise your score quickly: learn and practice the most important grammar rules that appear, skip the hardest questions, and figure out how to pick the right answer.


How to Get 800 on SAT Writing: 11 Strategies From a Perfect Scorer

Aiming for a high score on SAT Writing (above 600)? This guide covers the core strategies you need to use as you aim for perfection. We'll cover how to learn every grammar rule to mastery, how to train your weaknesses in a focused way, and what it takes to get 800 on test day.



SAT Math Prep Guides

Heart of Algebra: Key Strategies for SAT Math

3 Key Strategies for SAT Passport to Advanced Math

Problem Solving and Data Analysis: Key SAT Math Concepts

SAT Math is divided into three main content types: Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis. These guides not only give you an overview of the kinds of problems you can expect but also offer expert tips for attacking math questions effectively.


The Complete Guide to SAT Math Word Problems

Many students find word problems to be the trickiest problems on SAT Math, and since they make up about 25% of math questions, you need to know how to tackle them. This guide explains how to approach and simplify word problems so they're less intimidating and can be answered easily.


The 28 Critical SAT Math Formulas You MUST Know 

To answer SAT Math questions both quickly and correctly, it really helps to know the important formulas you'll need for the test. Memorizing these 28 critical formulas and knowing how to apply them to new questions will not only empower you but also improve your Math score.


The Ultimate SAT Math Prep Guide: Tips, Formulas, and Practice

We've written a ton of content about SAT Math, and it's all available here in this guide. We cover every major math concept tested, from integers and rational numbers to advanced algebra and solid geometry. Read this guide to get the rundown of every critical idea you need to know for a great SAT Math score.


7 Most Common SAT Math Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Don't let little mistakes keep you from getting the SAT Math score you want on test day. In this guide, we go over the most common mistakes test takers make on the Math section, such as forgetting formulas and solving for the wrong value, and teach you how to avoid making them.


How to Improve Low SAT Math Scores: 9 Strategies

Are you scoring in the 300-600 range on SAT Math? This guide shows you how to think about the Math section correctly and how to apply test strategies to give yourself the best chance at improving. In particular, we discuss how to avoid getting bogged down by questions that are too hard for your level, and how to use your study time effectively.


How to Get 800 on SAT Math, by a Perfect Scorer

Aiming for a high score on SAT Math (above a 600)? You'll learn the key strategies you need to use to master every math concept tested and to analyze your mistakes. We also cover how to eliminate careless mistakes — a common problem for people aiming for those last points — and how to put yourself in the right mindset for a perfect score.




SAT Essay Prep Guides

Should I Take the SAT Essay? How to Decide

The SAT Essay is optional, raising an important question: should you take it or should you skip it? This guide goes over the most important factors to consider when deciding whether the essay is essential for your success.


SAT Essay Prompts: The Complete List

Knowing the kinds of prompts to expect from the SAT Essay can go a long way to helping you feel prepared to get a high score. In this guide, we've compiled a list of 11 official SAT essay prompts the College Board has released. It's the most comprehensive set of new SAT essay prompts available online, and reading through them will give you a better understanding of the types of prompts you can expect to see and what graders will be looking for.

How to Write an SAT Essay, Step by Step

With this expert guide, you'll learn the essay structure that the SAT expects and get specific tips on how to read the passage, organize your response, and use your time wisely. Follow all of the advice here and you're guaranteed a strong essay score.


The Ultimate SAT Essay Study Guide: Tips and Review

For a complete collection of all of our best and most important SAT Essay guides, definitely check out this link. We give you everything you need to know to get a high score on the essay, including a list of colleges that require the SAT Essay, actual essay prompts, and sample essays for a variety of prompts.


SAT Essay Tips: 15 Ways to Improve Your Score

Not scoring as highly as you'd like to on the SAT Essay? Then check out this guide. We give you the best tips you'll need to know, from developing a clear thesis to writing more than one page, to get at least a 6|6|6 essay on test day.


How to Get a Perfect 8|8|8 SAT Essay Score

Aiming for perfection on the SAT Essay? In this article, we reveal our best tips for scoring 8s on all three essay rubrics. Specifically, we explain how a 6 essay differs from an 8 essay, and give you an essential list of do's and don'ts to think about when writing your response.



SAT Logistics and Planning

A major part of doing well on the SAT is higher-level planning strategy. When should you take the SAT? How many times should you take it? How long should you study? These are all important points to consider when structuring your SAT prep time and preparing college applications.


When Should You Take the SAT? Best Test Dates

Planning out your SAT testing schedule is really important to doing well. If taking the SAT more than once (which we recommend), you'll need ample time to prep in-between test dates and hopefully improve your score.

In this guide, you'll learn a solid SAT-test-date strategy that works well for most students. We'll also bust a common myth about SAT test dates and curves.


2018 & 2019 Full Review of Every SAT Test Date

Here's a list of every SAT test date available this school year, including registration deadlines and when you can expect to get your scores. We also cover the latest dates by which you can take the SAT for early admission and regular decision deadlines for colleges.


How Long Should I Study for the SAT? 6-Step Guide

This is a key question on most students' minds, and the answer is that it really depends on your personal goals, where you currently are in your prep, and your potential to improve. This guide breaks down what you need to understand to reach your SAT score target in a timely manner.


Which Colleges Superscore the SAT?

SAT Superscoring is the practice of combining your best section scores from different test dates to create a Superscore. (The College Board's technical term for this is "SAT Score Choice.") A lot of schools now allow it, which has huge implications for your test strategy. In short, the more times you take the SAT, the greater your chance of increasing your score will be. This guide gives you a list of all colleges that currently Superscore the SAT.


Concluding Words

Congratulations on making it to the end! By now, you should have clicked on at least a few of the dozens of guides listed here. Read them, see if you like the advice we give, and then use them as launching points to even more guides.

You might not get through all of this information in one sitting, so bookmark this page or email it to yourself as a reminder to come back later.

There's a lot to learn out there — that's the first step. The hard part that comes after, though, is actually applying the knowledge you've learned and putting it into action. It won't be easy, but it'll definitely be worthwhile for your future. Soldier on.


What's Next?

Need help with your SAT prep? Allow us to give you a hand. Our online, customizable SAT prep program supplies you with realistic SAT practice questions and targets your biggest weaknesses to help you achieve the scores you need for college.

Taking the ACT instead of or in addition to the SAT? Then you'll benefit greatly by taking a look at our ultimate ACT guide. Like this guide, we give you tons of free links and resources so that you can have a successful test day!


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

Check out our 5-day free trial today:

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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. Find Allen on his personal website, Shortform, or the Shortform blog.

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