Preparing for the SAT

   The SAT Reasoning Test is perhaps the most daunting of all tests a student will take. Its importance can hardly be overstated. Both college admissions and financial aid are in part determined by how you score on this test. Nearly every college in America accepts the SAT as one of the best indicators of future success as a student, so you must do everything you can to maximize your score. Remember that even a seemly small increase in performance, say 10-15% of your total score, can make the difference between going to your preferred school or settling for your second choice. What you have (or have not) learned in high school will have the biggest impact on your score. However, understanding the test and choosing a solid preparation plan can make a significant difference.

The Basics: The SAT has just undergone some key changes. Here is a quick overview of what to expect on the new test.

The total test time is 3 hours and 45 minutes It is divided into three sections:.

Critical Reading: This is what was called the Verbal section on the Old SAT. The analogy questions are gone. Now this section consists of entirely critical reading questions, that test your skills on readings ranging from sentences to long passages.

Math: Algebra II level questions are now included, which should add to the overall difficulty of this section. The 5-choice multiple choice questions and the student response questions of the old SAT format have not been changed. Calculators are allowed.

Writing: The new Writing section now has an essay component and multiple choice questions covering grammar and usage. Students will have 25 minutes to complete the essay. For the essay, students must take a position on a certain issue, and support their argument with evidence and solid reasoning. Graders will judge the essay on how well the student’s point of view is developed.

Preparation Options:

Now matter how well you have done in high school, do not take the SAT without putting in some serious preparation time. There are many test prep options available. Here are a few that we think you should consider:

If you are on a tight budget, visit the bookstore and purchase a guide. The official guide only costs $20, although you will find others at higher prices. You may try to borrow a prep book free at your local library, but you will likely find that many libraries have not yet stocked the latest editions of prep books that cover the new SAT format.

Next, visit the College Board website (the makers of the SAT) and download the practice SAT as well sample questions. If you prefer working online, consider the College Board’s online prep course. It is $69, but covers all aspects of the test. Peterson’s also offers an online prep course, with an option to add 15 hours of tutoring from a private instructor. These are a few of the cheaper options, but you are not likely to reap the full benefits you should from a thorough preparation plan.

If you can afford it, look for a prep course that offers instruction from a live teacher. Your high school councilor can probably recommend a teacher who does this as a part-time job. Be sure to get references and talk to former students about their experiences if you decide to go this route. You might get the best results by trying one of the many professional services. One of the most respected names in test preparation is Kaplan. They offer both one-on-one and classroom setting options, but the cost can run into the 100s of dollars. Similar prices are charged by the other leaders in SAT prep. It is not uncommon to spend close to $1000 on a quality prep course.

Whatever you decide, be sure to spend some time researching your options. Of course, whatever you spend must fit into your budget, but don’t forget how important it is to bring up those scores. A few hundred dollars spent now, could end up being the best investment of your life.