The SAT is designed to test a student’s aptitude and knowledge in three subject areas: reading, writing, and math. Like the ACT, the SAT is used by colleges to evaluate an applicants eligibility for admission. The better a student scores on the SAT the better the chance of getting accepted to a reputable college or university.

The SAT is composed of 5 sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (No Calculator), Math (Calculator), and Essay (optional). Some high schools and colleges require students to complete the Essay portion of the test, others do not. If you’re not committed to taking the Essay portion of the test, you’ll want to research which school require applicants to complete the Essay test for admission consideration. Just to be safe, we recommend preparing for and completing the essay portion of the test.

Keep in mind, if you haven’t registered for the SAT yet, there’s still time! Check out which test dates work best for you on

Below we’ll explore some proven tips, techniques and strategies for improving your overall performance on the SAT as well as your performance on individual sections of the SAT.

General SAT Test Taking Strategies

The following are general SAT test-taking strategies that should be applied through the SAT test. Apply these techniques and strategies on each section in the SAT test and you should see your score improve.

  • Read section directions before the test.
    Study and review the directions for each SAT section before the test. Use your test time for the test not for reading directions.
  • Answer the questions you know first.
    As you go through each section, answer all of the questions you know the answers to first. Mark all the questions you don’t immediately know the answer to and return and answer them later.
  • Eliminate incorrect answers. If you’re able to eliminate even on choice for the selection of possible answers then guess. Sometimes it’s easier to eliminate answers you know to be incorrect than to identify the correct answer. Eliminate all the incorrect answer often leads to the correct answer.
  • Be neat.
    Don’t be sloppy when filling in the answer grid for student-produced response questions.
  • Use your test booklet.
    Since you’re allowed to write in the test book, cross out answers you know are wrong and do scratch work.
  • Avoid stray marks.
    Since a machine scores your test, make sure not to put any stray marks on your answer sheet. SAT scoring machines frequently can’t differentiate between a correct answer and an accidental stray mark.
  • Your first response is usually correct.
    Your first response to a question is usually correct. Don’t change an answer unless you’re certain you’ve made an error.
  • There is only one correct answer.
    Only select one answer for each question — as there is only one correct answer. Sometimes it may seem there is more than one answer. Select the best answer for each question.
  • Don’t skip answers–guess.
    On older versions of the SAT, you were penalized for guessing. But not anymore. If you don’t have any idea what the answer then guess. You’re aren’t penalized for guessing. However, before guessing, always try and eliminate at least one incorrect answer choice.
  • Pay attention.
    Make sure you’re placing your answers in the correct number space and section on your answer sheet. It’s easy to place your answer in the wrong place if you’re not paying close attention.
  • Budget your time.
    Pace yourself! This test is timed. Only spend a few moments on the easy questions and no more than a minute or two on the harder questions. Don’t forget that the SAT consists of several small, timed, tests. Its easy to loose track of time so make sure to pay attention to how much time is allotted for each test and how much time is remaining as you proceed through each section. Pacing yourself requires practice so practice, practice, practice.
  • Easy questions first.
    A rule of thumb is that easy questions on the SAT typically precede harder questions.
  • Make sure you understand the question.
    Make sure that you fully understand each question before you answer it. If you’ve taken a lot of practice tests you’ll be tempted to answer questions you recall from practice tests. Make sure to answer the questions being asked and not those from practice tests.
  • Bring a watch or timer.
    Don’t forget to bring your own stopwatch to the testing center. There isn’t always an accurate clock at the testing center.
  • Know what to expect on the test.
    You need to know the types of questions to expect on the SAT. There 52 Reading questions (65 minutes), 44 Writing & Language questions (35 minutes), 58 Math questions (80 minutes) and one Essay (50 minutes).

In addition to the above tips for in-the-moment skills, we suggest making sure that you get a good night’s sleep before the test (at least 7 hours is ideal) and eat a protein-rich breakfast. If you can, get to the test center 30 minutes early. That way, you’ll have a chance to get settled in before the test itself starts. Make sure you have at least 3 sharpened No.2 pencils with good erasers as well.

Good luck!

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