It happens with almost every student, they are dissatisfied after they have given their first attempt of SAT. The test anxiety, combined with a different atmosphere of the test venue is one of the reason why your exam score is generally lower than what you got in your practice tests. Since there is no limit on the number of attempts for the exam, you can and definitely should give another shot at it and retake the exam. How to improve your score is the challenge, but you can definitely overcome it with a strategised approach.
It’s important to know that SAT is designed in a way that you get the similar score in your next attempt if you don’t work on your weak areas. The distribution of questions among topics is such that each specific concept is covered similar number of times across test papers.
Dividing your time for prep focus: First, see your section wise scores. If one section has significantly lower score than others, you should start by focussing on it. You would probably have at least 3 months before your next attempt, so divide your time accordingly between sections. This time division shouldn’t belike, 1 month for reading, 1 month for maths…, it should be like 1 week reading, 1 maths, 1 week writing… This ensures that when the test date is close, you are quite prepared with all the sections.
How to practice each section:
This is different for each section. For maths, you should solve each of the topics, such as trigonometry, algebra etc chapter wise and analyse which are your weak chapters. Accordingly see solved questions of those chapters and then solve at least a few hundred questions of each chapter. The method I usually suggest to students is to solve one question, look at its solution and then move on to another question. This way, you won’t be repeating the same mistake again. Also, if a question which requires understanding of a specific topic, your understanding of that topic will get reinforced.
For reading and writing, my suggestion if to watch tutorials from sites like Khan Academy, or a tutoring service. There is no other way for these sections, than to practice more and more questions, while correcting your mistakes.
How to tackle the essay:
The essay is one of the areas where your expertise in other sections doesn’t help. Ideally, you should search on google for sample essays, read them and try to get an idea of how the essay progresses from one argument to other. After reading multiple essays, try to come up with your own template for writing. A template would ideally tell you which types of arguments to write in each paragraph. Trust me, on the day of the test, every student is unable to come up with great ideas, so they go ahead and write whatever comes to their mind first.
The ideal approach for the essay should be to have a template already in your mind, and follow it throughout the essay. This will save your time as well as allow you to complete the whole sections with ease.
To summarise, you should:
- find out your weak sections as per your scores
- get books and practice each sections’ questions (at least a few hundred of each) and look at the solution of each question after solving
- divide your time in weeks and allot each week to a specific sections, say maths or write/reading
- make a template for the essay after reading multiple sample essays
This article was based on my experience of taking the SAT. I welcome suggestions from others to help guide the students in their journey. Use the comments section to share your experiences and suggestions.