How to Prepare a Medium-Range Strategy for the SAT

By Geraldine Woods, Ron Woldoff

If you have less than a year to get ready for the SAT, you can develop a medium-range strategy. There are a lot of great ways to prepare yourself for the test, including the following:

  • Do all you can to sharpen your reading skills during your last school year before the SAT. Remember that reading-comprehension skills matter in all three sections of the exam (Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics).

    When you’re doing your homework or surfing the web, make friends with words (not to be confused with the app Words with Friends). Jot down unfamiliar words and examine the context. Can you determine the meaning? If not, hit the dictionary or query (question) someone who knows.

    If you have a spare hour, try a crossword puzzle — a great way to learn new words! Peruse (read thoroughly, scrutinize) the newspaper every day, either online or on paper, and check out the way in which statistics appear. Be sure to read the opinion columns and analyze how the author argues a point.

  • Work on your writing. If your school offers an elective in nonfiction writing, go for it. Consider writing for the school newspaper. Send letters or emails to the editor. Become comfortable with the sort of writing that makes a case for a particular point of view because that’s what you have to analyze on the new SAT — in the essay, multiple-choice writing, and reading sections.

  • Get a math study-buddy. This doesn’t mean a tutor. Yes, you can learn a lot from someone who dreams quadratic equations, but you can also benefit from studying with someone who is on your own level of ability. As the two of you work together, solving problems and reviewing formulas, you can practice and set the knowledge firmly into your brain. All teachers know that you learn best what you have to explain to someone else. Plus, a study-buddy probably can explain what he or she knows in a different way. If the teacher’s explanation didn’t do it for you, your friend’s may.

  • Resurrect (bring forth again) your Algebra II book or borrow one from a friendly math teacher. Look through the chapters that you struggled with the first time you went through the book. Refresh your memory with a sample problem or two.

  • Study the illustrations in your science and history textbooks. Many questions on all three parts of the new SAT include graphic elements. You may see a chart of voting preferences, a graph representing bacterial growth, or a map of cultivated land. Learning to decode these illustrations — as well as similar illustrations in material you read outside of school (you do read other material, right?) — helps you ace the SAT.

  • Take a practice exam. Pay special attention to the explanations accompanying each question that puzzled you (even if you accidentally got the right answer!). After you know which sort of question is likely to stump you, practice the skills underlying those questions. For example, you may discover that your grammar is a bit rusty. Time to hit your grammar book.

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT. You can’t pass up a chance to experience the exam in its native habitat (a testing center), even if the test is shorter than the real SAT. Beginning in October 2015, the PSAT/NMSQT resembles the design of the new SAT.

If you follow this plan, you should be in fine shape for the SAT, and, as a bonus, you’ll have time for an actual life, too.