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
- 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 on it, and how the exam works as a whole. This section will give you a strong foundation to help you understand the test more deeply.
If you really don't know much about the SAT, this is the place to start. Get a quick overview of the history of the test, why people take it, what it covers, and more.
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.
Next, learn what's specifically tested on each of the three main 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.
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 these two guides.
It's helpful 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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Starting out on your SAT prep can feel intimidating at first, so allow us to lend you a hand. With this guide, you'll learn every critical step needed to prepare for the SAT, from registering for a specific test date to pinpointing your biggest weaknesses and learning essential strategies.
One of the first steps you take before even beginning your SAT prep is to come up with a schedule that works well for you and will give you a high probability of meeting your score goal. This helpful article goes over how to build your own SAT study plan, step by step.
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 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.
If you're aiming for a high SAT score, this is a must-read guide. Even if you're aiming for any score above 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
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.
This comprehensive guide goes over the most important tips to know for both the SAT as a whole and each individual section. Read this, and you'll learn how to approach the test systematically and effectively.
By far the best resources you can use in your prep are highly realistic (ideally, official) SAT practice tests and questions. Take an official practice test using the designated SAT time constraints and in a quiet room; this will give you a fairly accurate indicator of your baseline score, or where you're currently scoring, which you can use later on in your prep to see how you're improving.
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 top 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 as it'll tell you whether there's anything you can supplement your studying with.
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 and are a handy alternative to carrying around a prep book.
Some people like to study with their phone on the go. Now, you can do this for your SAT prep, too (though this shouldn't be your main mode of studying!). Our guide goes over the pros and cons of the best SAT apps and offers tips on how to use apps in your own prep.
SAT Reading Prep Guides
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.
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!
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.
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.
You have a little over an hour to answer 52 Reading questions on the SAT, meaning you'll have only about 75 seconds per question. To get a great score, you'll need to be able to move fast—and accurately. Learn how to do this with our guide.
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 spending less time on harder questions to help you maximize your score in the short amount of time you have.
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
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 the strategies you need to succeed in it.
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 SAT Writing.
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.
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.
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
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.
To answer SAT Math questions both quickly and correctly, it really helps to know the formulas you'll need for the test. Memorizing these 28 critical formulas and knowing how to apply them to new questions will not just empower you but also improve your Math score.
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.
SAT Math is divided into two sections: a Calculator section for which you may use a calculator and a No Calculator section for which you may NOT use a calculator. Here, we tell you how this latter section tests your math skills and offer tips for acing it.
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.
Most of the SAT Math section consists of multiple-choice questions, but you'll also have a handful of student-produced responses known as "grid-ins." For these questions, you must fill in your own answer. See what these questions look like and get tips for approaching them here.
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.
With SAT Math, you get about 75 seconds per question on the No Calculator section and 87 seconds per question on the Calculator section. This isn't actually that much time when you consider all the calculating you have to do to solve just one question. Our tips here will go over how to stop running out of time on this tricky section.
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.
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
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.
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 14 official SAT essay prompts the College Board has released. It's the most comprehensive set of 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.
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 the advice here and you're guaranteed a strong essay score.
For a complete collection of our best and most important SAT Essay guides, 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.
Not scoring as highly as you'd like to on the SAT Essay? Then take a look at 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 on test day.
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.
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.
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. Use this to look ahead and start planning your schedule.
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.
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 detailed guide gives you a list of all colleges that currently Superscore the SAT.
Concluding Words to Our Ultimate SAT Study Guide
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 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!
Need help with your SAT prep? Allow us to give you a hand. Our customizable online SAT prep program supplies you with realistic 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!
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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.