5 Ways to Maximize Your Score on the SAT

By Geraldine Woods, Ron Woldoff

Want your SAT test day to be filled with confidence and joy? Here are five ways to help you make sure you ace the test.

Keep your blanks in the right row

As you take the SAT, you may skip a question here and there. No problem. Just be sure that the answers you do fill in end up in the correct rows. As you fill in the bubbles for your answers, consciously match each question number with the number on the answer sheet. At the end of a section, recheck your answers to make sure you’ve finished at the right number. When you reach the last minute of your time, go back to the empty lines and fill in a bubble — any bubble — so that you’ve answered every question.

Follow all directions

When the proctor says, “Turn to Section 3,” triple-check that you’ve actually opened the booklet to Section 3. You’d be surprised what sweaty hands can do. If you work on the wrong section, the proctor may seize your exam booklet and send you home, scoreless and unhappy. Then you have to take the test again!

Order the operations

In the heat of battle, you may forget to attack a math problem in the proper order. When you start a Math section, take a moment to write “PEMDAS” at the top of the page to help you remember which steps you should take, in the right order. Then recheck the order of operations as you move through the questions.

Give them what they want

No matter how much you understand about a topic, if you don’t give the SAT-writers what they ask for, you won’t get a point for your answer. For example, a question that asks about the number of people with orange ties may be chock-full of information about people with purple, tie-dyed, spaghetti-stained, and other ties. One of the answers will undoubtedly be the number of people with tie-dyed ties. Always double-check to make sure you’ve answered the question being asked.

Write legibly

Okay, your essay doesn’t have to look like a work of art, but it does have to be readable. If your handwriting resembles the flight of a drunken chicken, the scorer won’t be happy. And you definitely want a happy scorer. If you choose to write the optional essay, recheck it and neatly rewrite any illegible words. If you have to scratch out a few words to make them legible, do so. You don’t lose points for strikethroughs, but you may lose points if the reader can’t read enough of your essay to understand your ideas.