I’ve always told students that “you can’t cram for the SAT.” And I will continue to say exactly that, because the SAT is a huge test of material that you can’t learn in a day or--for that matter--a week. Learning the big skills that the SAT tests—the math, the reading comp, the writing ability—takes years. Hey, this is a test of your general academic ability, right? Of course it’s huge.
Learning how to take the test can be accomplished quickly
BUT learning how to take the test can be far faster. There are only so many question types, which means there’s a pretty limited number of test-taking strategies to learn, too. You can get a pretty good overview of those strategies within just a few days. I don’t recommend it, mind you; if you want to see serious results, you’ll need to spend at least a month prepping. But if test day is drawing near, and you haven’t yet cracked open your copy of the blue book, you can still work to lock down the highest score you can get on test day. So I’ll say it here, even if it pains me to admit it: cramming for the SAT is possible (up to a point), and it’s worth it.
Alright, so I wussed out a bit there with that parenthetical. So be it. The more important part is that some prep is still better than no prep.
Some prep is better than none
First, if you have longer than a week, you might want to actually work on your core skills, not just learning the test format. You can’t easily improve your reading skills in such a short time, but you can boost your vocabulary and learn most of the important rules of grammar. Check out the best free sat vocabulary resources and study some grammar basics as well as learning the test. And hey, you might as well get in some math review while you’re at it. Of course, a lot of that can come from doing practice tests—that way, you can work on everything at once.
On that note, if you are cramming, practice tests are going to be your bread and butter for a few days. But before you start burning through them, learn how to approach the questions. Take the vocab questions, for instance (sentence completions). Reading up to the blank then skipping down to check the answer choices is really tempting, but it’s an amateur move. What you really want to do is to read the whole sentence, predict your own word(s) that could fit, and then look at the answer choices to find the best match. And that’s something you can learn in, well, the time it took to read this paragraph. Of course, actually doing it takes a bit of practice—you’re not going to be a master SAT-taker just after reading a list of top strategies. You’ve got to do it yourself.
Take practice tests and get a good night’s sleep
But even if you only have a couple days, you can do exactly that. Learn the test, take the test, and know what you’re getting into. But a word of caution: don’t cram the night before your test. You need a good night’s sleep to nail the SAT. For that matter, you need to be as happy and healthy as you can be. Confidence is key, and confidence comes from more than just long-term prep. What you do on the day of the test counts for a lot. Know exactly what to bring to the SAT and have it all prepared ahead of time. Show up early, breathe deeply, and act like you own the place.
Even if you do cram, go into the test feeling prepared. Know thy enemy and slay your SAT.