Like most things, there are a million ways SAT prep can go wrong, and comparatively few ways to do it right. We could devote an entire website to the things that have held students back from getting the highest scores they can. It would be utterly depressing, though, so we’re not doing that. We’re no Eeyore. We’re just going to cherry-pick a few of the most common problems so we can avoid them ourselves.
1. Thinking that simply showing up to a class will help you
This isn’t to say there’s no value in SAT prep courses. There’s plenty. But most of what you can get out of that class, you can get out of self study. Actually, the most important part of the class is the stuff you do yourself. The vast majority of SAT-prep students don’t do much of their homework, and they don’t improve. If they don’t get in the hours of experience outside of class, their scores stagnate. It’s 100 percent vital that you take it on yourself to practice SAT-style questions. Don’t assume a teacher can just tell you how to take the test. You need to do it.
2. Not following a schedule
It’s a rare breed of person that can keep up a solid rate of studying with no guidance. You’ve had a long day, right? You just want to settle into the couch and veg, but you realize you should do a little bit of SAT prep. You open up your Official Guide, flip through a few pages and…close the book. Overwhelmed. Don’t feel like it. Tomorrow.
That’s not exactly uncommon, is it? You have to structure your prep time. Ideally, you’ll have enough time to follow a three-month SAT study schedule, but if you’re a bit tight on time check out the one-month SAT study schedule instead. By keeping your eye on the schedule, you avoid the let-it-pile-up-until-the-last-minute-and-then-cram-like-crazy syndrome (catchy name, right?).
3. Not picking apart wrong answers
So you get a question wrong while you’re studying. You look at the correct answer for a little while, try to figure out why it’s the answer, and move on. What if it’s hard to figure out? Or if you feel like you just made a quick, dumb slip-up? It’s really tempting to just ignore that mistake, and that’s just about the worst possible thing you can do while studying. Every wrong answer deserves your attention. The only way to improve, to really bring up your score, is to pick apart each and every wrong answer and figure out exactly why you didn’t get it right. Simply put, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, your score won’t go up.
4. Ignoring test strategy
There are a number of SAT question types that are really well suited to specific strategies. Learn the approach for each question type. Sentence completions, for example, are much easier if you focus on the sentence and come up with your own word for the blank before looking at the answer choices. If you don’t learn to apply these strategies, you’re limiting yourself. You can get higher scores on the SAT simply by learning the material it covers, but that won’t get you the highest score you can earn. In order to really nail the SAT, you’ll need to study the test, not the content.
All four of these points (and how to avoid them) come together into one crucial thought: In the end, the best way to bring up your SAT score is to sit down with SAT questions and patiently, thoroughly figure them out. The more you do that, the more you’ll see results.