A Daily Approach for the SAT

Oh man…my SAT is in a month’s time and I haven’t started preparing for it. In addition to my normal school work, extracurricular and the hundred other things I have to do, how am I supposed to even start preparing for perhaps one of the most important tests in my life? Unsurprisingly, with most of the SAT dates during the school term, albeit during a Saturday, many students see the SAT as another enormous challenge placed smack center amidst all the other commitments they already have. Many of these high school students are already barely sleeping 6 hours and are stressed out from trying to achieve high exam scores/class rankings.


Preparing for the SAT thus seems like an additional insurmountable challenge, where you face off thousands of students from all over the country who will contribute to your eventual score and ranking. Sometimes, the seeming difficulty of the SAT causes students to put off preparing for it till much later because “it just seems too hard and tiring to start right now”. Yet, taking a daily approach for the SAT is probably the best thing you can do to prepare for it!

  • Make it a point not to take days off! This is the first most important thing you have to take note of! Even if you only have 10 minutes on the bus or right before you fall asleep, study 10 new vocabulary words everyday and that tiny bit of work every single day will add up to a great deal in the long run.



[Continue reading to find out how to prepare daily for the SAT…]

Here are some other little daily things you can do in less than 20 minutes that can help you seriously prepare for the SAT:

1. Do at least half to a whole of a section on a practice test (this could include just 15 math practice problems). This will help you to learn how to work through sections more quickly and help you to pace yourself better. The additional practices will also give you more experience and expose you to a wider range of questions!

2. Read 3 articles from a major newspaper such as The New York Times or the Washington Post. Take note how the writer succinctly argues a certain viewpoint and how she crafts the news story. Also, carefully note the writer’s tone in the article and when and how she uses adjectives or phrases to add another dimension to the story. Many newspaper articles are also about the same length as SAT passages and reading passages of this length will help you breeze through the SAT passages easily!

3. Go through 10 of your old mistakes in the grammar or math section. To avoid making the same mistakes in following practice tests, try to spot certain patterns in the errors you make. Maybe you always make a mistake when solving trigonometric questions because you mistakenly use the wrong formula such as tan = adjacent/opposite when it should be opposite/adjacent. Make a note about this common habit of yours and the next time you solve a trigonometric question, draw out the triangle to help you visualize which side should be divided by which! Another tip would be grammar mistakes are often repeated in the Writing section, so if you find yourself consistently not being able to spot the same error, make a note of it and refer to this list every time you do another practice test.

4. Browse the net and read up on 2 historical events or people that might be useful to cite in the essay section. Take notes on these events – some important things to note down would include cause and effect relationships, for example what led to the Great Depression, what effect did the Great Depression have on innovation and the economy, etc. Other important things could also include how a person demonstrated a certain character trait. For example, Abraham Lincoln is known as a great man not just because he was President of the United States, but also because he is said to have exhibited qualities such as kindness, compassion, honest and empathy. This is largely attributed to his actions during the Civil War, where he freed the slaves in the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and treated the defeated Confederate soldiers with respect.

5. Read a few short stories to brush up on your reading comprehension skills and vocabulary. During this exercise, practice reading the passage fast once and underlining phrases that you are unclear about. Check to see if you understood the topic of each paragraph. Read through the passage again and make short summary notes beside each paragraph to reaffirm your understanding of the passage. One trick to gain a quick understanding of each paragraph is to read the first and last two sentences of that paragraph. The topic sentence should be within them. Look up the words that you were unfamiliar with in the dictionary as well!

6. Keep a journal and write a short journal entry each day. This exercise should focus on the essay section. While writing the entry, focus it on one of the common themes of SAT essays such as a learning experience about courage. Have your entry follow the format of the SAT essay, with an introduction, body paragraphs and a short conclusion. This would be a great way to practice using clear transitional markers as well as any new vocabulary you have just learnt. This will also help you to write quickly. Here are 9 Core SAT Essay themes to practice:
1. Independent Thinking vs. Conformism
Should we learn for ourselves or learn from others? What is the value of creative thinking?
2. Truthfulness
Is honesty always the best policy? Is truth (or the value of truth) relative?
3. Selfishness/Competition vs. Generosity/Cooperation
Can competition or selfishness be good?
4. Change
How and why do people change? Is change good or necessary?
5. Success vs. Failure
What and how can we learn from our failures? What is success, and how can we achieve it?
6. Learning from Different Perspectives
Are our biases harmful? Can we benefit from the perspectives of others?
7. Responsibility
What are our responsibilities to ourselves and to our society?
8. Evaluating Modern History
What do you think of the world today and how it’s changing?
9. Decision Making
How can we make sound decisions? What guides our decision-making process?

(Referred from Christopher Black &  Mark Anetis, McGraw-Hill Professional)

7. Memorize some useful math tips such as fractions or decimal conversions! Although many of the formulas you need to know are provided for you at the beginning of the math section, there are other formulas that you can easily memorize! This will help you to work through the math problems more quickly. Here are 10 important formulas to memorize:

1) Percentage and Percent Change ( (Part/Whole) and (Difference/Original) x 100)
2) The Circle Proportionality Formula (Slice/Area = Arc/Circumference = Measure of Inner Angle/360)
3) The Formula for a Line (standard y=mx+b format as well as point-slope format: y-y1 = m(x-x1), and the slope equation (y2-y1) / (x2-x1) ).
4) All 3 Quadratic Identities (unfactored to factored form)


5) The Third Side Rule for Triangles (a-b) < c < (a+b) if c represents the “third side” and b and a represent the lengths of the other two sides.
6) Direct and Indirect Proportion ( (a1/b1)=(a2/b2) and (a1a2 = b1b2)
7) Average = (Total / Number of things)
8) Probability = (Desired Possibilities / Total Possibilities).
9) Surface Area of a Cube =6s2
10) Distance = Rate x Time

(10 Essential Math Formulas referred from http://www.mcelroytutoring.com/blog-post.php?id=281)

Remember, daily preparation is key for SAT success! 

About the author: Shimin Ooi is a junior in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs department. She has a strong interest in economic and health policy and has recently returned from a semester of study at Hertford College, Oxford. In high school, her extensive research on standardized tests helped her achieve a near perfect SAT score and perfect scores on each of her SAT Subject tests. Through these blog posts, she hopes to help others achieve test-taking success as well!

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