How can I improve my SAT scores?
I’ve made a 1770 in the middle of my Sophomore year. Now, as a rising junior, what can I do to improve my scores? I made a 640 in math, 610 in reading, 520 in writing, and a 6 on my essay. I am aiming for 2100 and higher.
Students who seriously study the test patterns can improve their scores significantly. I improved my own score by 220 points in just two months (and I was already scoring over 2000) and have since improved it over 300 points. It does take dedicated study and practice though.
The Writing section is the easiest section to improve, followed by Math and finally Reading.
The best way to study is different for each student. Some self-directed learners do well just using The Official SAT Study Guide (aka The Blue Book) and taking practice tests on their own. Others need an additional, more detailed book that breaks down the test patterns for them which helps them as they work through the practice tests in the blue book. Still others need a more structured environment in a classroom, where test experts guide them through the patterns and the tests in the blue book. Only you can determine which method is best for you.
Whatever you chose, be sure to include the blue book in your plans. It’s the only book with real test questions and it’s important to practice with these.
The Writing grammar questions typically test about 20 common errors. Learn these errors and learn how to spot them. For example, if you see “I” or “me” underlined in an Identifying Sentence Error question, there is a good chance that this is the error. The SAT almost always tests which one should be used in a sentence. Once you learn the errors, take practice sections and see which questions you are missing or guessing on. Study these; what caused you to miss the question? Once you see your mistake, you’ll be sure not to make it again. The free flash cards here will help you learn to spot common errors: http://www.powerscore.com/sat/help/content_flashcards_writing.cfm.
To improve in Math, also study the questions that you are missing or guessing on. What is causing you to miss these questions? The wording of the question? Or a calculation error? Work through the question until you understand how to come up with the correct answer. The SAT likes patterns and you may see a question like this again. And if you don’t, it will still help you start to unlock the way the test writers think. If there is content you do not understand, review it using a good internet site. The flash cards here will help you memorize the necessary formulas for the test: http://www.powerscore.com/sat/help/content_flashcards_math.cfm.
To improve in reading, you need to practice vocabulary and reading long, boring passages. I highly recommend studying the first 4 decks in our free Repeat Offender Vocabulary Words Flash Card series (http://www.powerscore.com/sat/help/content_flashcards_vocab.cfm). The most popular words in these decks (like aesthetic, undermine, and ambiguous), appear on up to 50% of SATs, so you are sure to see them throughout your studies.
I’d also start practicing reading now. This is the hardest area in which to improve, but the most impressive high score you can submit. You need to become comfortable with dry, boring passages, and learn how to maintain focus while reading them. The website (http://www.powerscore.com/sat/help/reading_comp_practice.cfm) will direct you to some magazines that have passages like this. Read one a day and try to find the main idea and author’s attitude.
And adjust your attitude as you read. Instead of hating the task at hand, pretend you love it and that the article is the most interesting thing you have ever read. This seems like a silly suggestion but it really will change how much you retain as you read.
Finally, analyze the reading questions that you miss and guess on. What made you miss them? The wording of the question? The wording of the answers? Or not understanding the passage? One word will often make an answer choice wrong; learning to spot these tricks will prevent you from missing similar questions in the future.
If you are using the Blue Book and need practice with a specific area, use our databases (http://www.powerscore.com/sat/help/content_bluebook.cfm) to locate the question types that are giving you difficulties.
If you want some in-depth techniques, check out the three free chapters from our books: http://www.powerscore.com/sat/help/content_chapters.cfm.