The first two parts take years or even a lifetime to build, the third part represents just a few hours of a Saturday morning. And did you know that since March 2009, College Board's new policy allowed students to pick which scores a college sees, giving you even more control over how your scores are perceived?
Some say that preparation doesn't really make a major difference and recommends students take the SAT only once or twice. But many people still believe there are strategies you can use to outsmart the SAT, particularly with the new score reporting policy. Here are the four tips these people cite most often:
Make a calendar and start early
The PSAT can be taken as early as freshman year. Students can start taking the SAT as early as sophomore year. Map out a plan by looking at the College Board's test dates, and then check your academic calendar and extracurricular schedule. Don't take the SAT the same week as your midterms. Next, plot out a week-by-week schedule where you review a lesson on a specific topic each week and do targeted practice in Math, Reading and Writing.
Practice, practice, practice
Use real SAT questions to practice your weaker topics.
Stage a dress rehearsal and keep taking the SAT
Lee Academia suggests taking a monthly practice test in realistic, timed conditions on a Saturday morning. Don't take the practice test in a quiet room at home—go to somewhere where there is ambient noise so that you'll practice with distractions. This way, when you go to the real test center, it will seem more familiar.
Students raise their scores by an average of only 40 points on the second test. But if you have a very large sample—say, 10 tests —there is a good likelihood that one of those tests will be an outlier—that a particular test will fall on the high end of the test range. The test is an approximation, affected by many factors: whether the students happen to get more questions on topics they handle better, whether they guess better, whether they are more seasoned test takers, whether they got enough sleep and food, and the general testing conditions.
Apply only to schools that let you select which SAT scores you report
Under the new policy, some colleges may still require applicants to submit all test-taking attempts. If you take the SAT 15 times (which you shouldn't do), apply just to schools that let you hide your scores. If students band together in applying only to schools that let them hide their scores, that will put pressure on schools to give in to the score-choice policy.