SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

The Ultimate SAT Study Guide for SAT Prep

Posted by Allen Cheng | Sep 16, 2015 9:00:00 AM

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 the concepts linked to on this page, use them in your own practice and studying, and stay motivated to work hard, you have an amazing shot at improving your SAT score. You'll have a huge advantage over the students who don't know this information and don't have the motivation to employ it in their own studying.

First we'll cover how to use this guide, and then we'll go section by section through 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 Logistics and Planning
  • The New 2016 SAT


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 you read them.

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 can't do it in one sitting. If you find this helpful, bookmark this page or email it to yourself, and remind yourself to come back 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. We cover test strategy, mental 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 push through the dark days when you don't feel like doing SAT prep. You also need to consider what your college goals are, have the SAT score target that's right for you, and plan the logistics of taking the SAT.

So I encourage you to read 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 launch into understanding the test more deeply.


What is the SAT? An Explanation of the Test

Let's start from the basics. What is the SAT and who creates it? Why do so many people take it? When should you take the SAT? Here's an overview of all the basic points.


What's Actually Tested on SAT Reading?

What's Actually Tested on SAT Math?

What's Actually Tested on SAT Writing?

Next, learn what's tested on each of the 3 sections on the SAT - Reading, Math, and Writing. Each of these guides covers the format of the section, the types of questions asked, and the skills you need to know to do well.


How is the SAT Scored?

You know that your SAT score is what's most important from taking the SAT. But how is it graded to arrive at your final score out of 2400? What happens when you skip or miss questions? How is each section scored out of 800. Learn in this guide.


Average SAT Score and SAT Score Percentiles

It's good for you to get a sense of what SAT scores are considered good on a nation-wide scale. These guides show you the average SAT score in the nation 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 for you to understand exactly what the differences are and how to decide what to study. Here's a clear breakdown of each test with a strategy on how to figure out which test you're better at.



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 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 in comparing you on equal footing to the rest of the country. Learn more about how the SAT achieves that here.


What's a Good 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 for your personal college goals. It's not what your friends think you should get, and it's not what your parents keep telling you is what you should aim for. Figure out what your target SAT score should be here.


How to Beat Procrastination in SAT Prep

A common problem in pretty much everyone's life is procrastination. We put off an unpleasant task for later because we're pretty sure we'll get around to it, and watching Youtube videos feels so much better right now.

This is a huge problem for a lot of students and SAT prep. It's not as fun as texting or Snapchatting, and the test seems so far away. It's often really hard to sit down for 5 hours a week and actually commit to working through problems and improving your SAT skills.

We wrote a practical guide to beating procrastination. You'll learn about why people procrastinate at all and how this applies to SAT prep. Importantly, we also share specific strategies you can use to stop procrasting in your prep.


How to Get a Perfect SAT Score, by a 2400 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 an 1800, I recommend you read this guide.

I've gotten perfect scores on two versions of the SAT - back in 2004 when it was out of 1600, and more recently with a 2400. It didn't magically happen - it 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 much more about the mental game of understanding why your score is low, where your weaknesses are, 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 that are tested on the SAT. We'll go through section by section for the most important guides you need to read.


Overall SAT Test Strategy

The Best Way to Review Your SAT Mistakes

A lot of driven students prep for the SAT by doing a ton of practice questions without 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'll teach you how to use every mistake you make on the SAT to identify your weaknesses and improve your prep.


The Best SAT Prep Books, Reviewed

Are you a self-studier who plans to study entirely by using books? We've reviewed the best books available for SAT prep here. We'll talk about the best books for overall studying and for each section, then talk about books you should probably avoid. Even if you're getting tutored or enrolling a class, this is still useful to read to see if there's anything you can supplement your studying with.



SAT Reading Prep Guides

The Fundamental, #1 Rule of SAT Reading

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

In SAT Reading, do you ever find yourself waffling between 2 or 3 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 this #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 learn strategies to identify incorrect answers in SAT Reading questions.


How to Attack SAT Reading Passages and Questions

SAT Reading gives you a passage and a bunch of questions about that passage. How you read the passage and approach the questions, and in which order, dramatically affects how well you answer the questions.

Many students use an ineffective strategy to attack these passages, costing them valuable time and causing mistakes. Here you'll learn our recommended best approach to SAT Reading passages.


How to Get an 800 on SAT Reading

Aiming for a high score on SAT Reading (above a 600)? This guide covers what you need to understand to have a great shot at getting a perfect score on SAT Reading. You'll learn how to discover your biggest weaknesses, strategies to fix them, and the mindset you need when practicing SAT Reading.


How to Improve Your Low Reading Score to a 600

Are you scoring below a 600 on SAT Reading? The first thing you should do is aim to break a 600. The strategies you should be using are quite different from the ones you'd use if you were going for an 800. You should skip the harder questions and try to maximize your score within the time you have available. Learn more here.


The Best Way to Study SAT Vocab

You may know that SAT Reading tests your vocabulary in the Sentence Completion section. Many students spend a lot of time trying to memorize vocab words inefficiently. Here's my strategy on how to memorize SAT vocab words effectively so that you focus your time on the words that you don't know.


The Ultimate Guide to SAT Reading Prep

This guide contains everything else you need to know about SAT Reading. We cover every single question type, with custom strategies on how to attack each one. Every other great SAT Reading prep guide we have is on this page.



SAT Writing Prep Guides

The Big Secret to SAT Writing

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'll discuss the unique style of the SAT Writing section and strategies you need to succeed in it.


Every SAT Grammar Rule You Need to Know

The core of SAT Writing is its grammar rules. Subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, and writing style are all tested in the multiple choice section. In this complete guide, we cover every grammar rule you need to know.


How to Write a Great SAT Essay, Step by Step

Aside from multiple choice, the other major part of your SAT Writing score is your essay. Here's our expert guide on how to write a great scoring essay, step by step. You'll learn the essay structure that the SAT expects and how to win points on organization and critical reasoning. If you follow all the advice here, you're almost guaranteed a 10 out of 12 on your SAT essay.


How to Get an 800 on SAT Writing 

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


How to Improve Your Low SAT Writing Score to a 600

Are you scoring in the 300-600 range on SAT Writing? The first thing you should do is reach a 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 in the most questions, skip the hardest questions, and learn to pick the right answer.


The Complete Prep Guide to SAT Writing

This guide contains everything else you need for SAT Writing. We have detailed strategy guides for every single grammar rule tested in SAT Writing. We teach you expert strategies on how to attack each question type and how to eliminate answers. We also give our best advice on how you should be doing practice questions effectively.



SAT Math Prep Guides

How to Stop Running Out of Time on SAT Math

One of the biggest problems for students taking SAT Math is that they run out of time before the section is over. Sound familiar? It's really easy to idle on a tough question for 5 minutes before realizing that you're stuck - but by then it's too late to get your limited time back. This is our strategy guide on how to avoid this problem.


How to Get an 800 on SAT Math

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 analyze your mistakes. We'll also cover how to eliminate careless mistakes, a common problem for people aiming for those last points, and how to have the right mindset for getting an 800.


How to Improve Your Low SAT Math Score to a 600

Are you scoring in the 300-600 range in SAT Math? This guide will show you how to think about the math section correctly and apply test strategy to have the best chance at improving your score. In particular, we'll cover how not to get bogged down by questions that are too hard for your level and effectively how to spend your time studying.


Every SAT Math Formula You Need to Know 

To do SAT Math questions quickly, it really helps to know the important formulas you need for the test. Memorizing these 21 formulas and knowing how exactly to apply them to new questions will empower you to improve your Math score. Here's a guide on how.


Every Article We've Written About SAT Math In One Place

We've written a ton of content about SAT Math. We've covered every concept needed on SAT Math, from integers and rational numbers to advanced algebra and solid geometry. Find them all here.



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 to understand how to structure your time before the test and plan for the SAT in the context of college admissions.


When Should You Take the SAT?

Planning out your SAT testing schedule is really important to doing well. You need to have enough time to take the SAT a few times to try to improve your score, and you need to have enough time to prep in between to have a great shot at improving your score. In this guide you'll learn a solid SAT testing date strategy that works well for most students. We'll also bust a common myth about SAT test dates and curves.


SAT Test Dates for 2015-16

Here's a list of every SAT test date available this year, including deadlines for registration and when you'll get your score back. We also cover the latest date by which you can take the SAT for early admissions and regular decision college applications.


How Long Do You Need to Study for the SAT?

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


What's SAT Superscore? How Does It Help You?

How Does SAT SuperScoring Affect Your Test Strategy?

SAT Superscoring is the practice of combining your best section scores from different test dates and creating a Superscore. The College Board's technical term is SAT Score Choice. A lot of schools now allow it, which has huge implications for your test strategy. In particular, the more times you take the SAT, the greater the chance you have of increasing your score. We'll cover all the important concepts in these guides and how your testing strategy should change because of Superscoring.



The New Redesigned SAT in 2016

The SAT was redesigned in 2016. The score scale has returned to being out of 1600 rather than 2400. But beyond this, how did the test change? How did what you're tested on change? What does this mean about your test prep strategy? The guides here will help you figure out the new test if you're more accustomed to the old.


Complete Guide to the New 2016 SAT

Here's our complete guide on what's changing in the new SAT. We'll cover why it's changing, overall test changes, and section by section skill changes. If you want to really understand how the new SAT will work, this is the place to start.


Complete Guide to the New PSAT, Redesigned in 2015

Just like the SAT, the PSAT is changing in 2015. At a high level, the changes match those of the SAT, though there are a few specific points relating to the PSAT. Learn what those are here.


For the Class of 2017 and 2018, Will Colleges Accept the Current SAT?

There are a lot of advantages to taking the current 2400 version of the SAT. Because it's been around for 10 years, there's a lot more known about it and much more study material available to prepare you for the test. So if you're in the class of 2017 and 2018, should you take the current version before it stops being offered? One of the most important questions is whether colleges will actually accept the current 2400 SAT for you. We interviewed admissions officers at 30+ schools and gathered the surprising results here.


Should You Take the New SAT or Old SAT?

Up until January 2016, you still have the chance of taking the current version of the SAT. Should you take the current version, or should wait until the new SAT? Check out this guide to figure it out quickly.


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 you, and then use them as launching points to even more guides.

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

There's a lot to learn out there - that's the first step. The hard part that comes after 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.


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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.

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