The Bare Minimum of SAT Preparation

The Bare Minimum of SAT Preparation

Panic! The SAT is coming, and you’ve done nothing to prepare! All’s lost!


This post is about the worst case scenario—your test is tomorrow and you haven’t studied at all. What do you do?

Well, the first thing is to not freak out. Right, right, easier said than done… But really, nobody is in control of it except you. So take a deep breath. Sit back and relax your shoulders. One of the best things you can do for your SAT score, and therefore for you college applications, is to be as healthy and happy as possible tomorrow, and that means not stressing.

Now, with that in mind, if you’re going to do nothing else for before your SAT, do this:

1) Learn the types of questions

The SAT always has the same types of questions in the same sections. If you get familiar with the instructions that you’ll see, you’ll save time. It’d be pretty absurd to actually read through all those instructions before starting to answer your questions on test day, because that’s time that you could spend getting right answers. You should at least know the rules ahead of time if you haven’t already been answering questions in SAT format.

This is particularly true of the rules for open-ended math questions, which take up a whole page. Should you start writing the number from the left or end it on the right? Should you write a decimal or a fraction? What if it’s a repeating decimal? What it it’s a mixed number? Similarly, the essay question always has the same basic instructions, and if you don’t follow them, you’re liable to get a score much lower than what you deserve.

If you have to reference those directions at all during the test, you’re wasting time—learn exactly what to expect now. Perusing a free practice test helps!

2) Plan your morning

First, the big one: there should be no chance of you being late to the test tomorrow, because if you are, you might not be allowed to take your SAT at all.

Besides that, keep in mind that there are only a few specific things you’ll be allowed to use during the test: plain number 2 pencils (not mechanical), a calculator (not a phone), and an eraser. But there are a two other things you’re allowed to take out during the short breaks: food and a drink. Make sure you have a small snack and something to drink in your bag, because there isn’t going to be enough time during those breaks to go get anything. Knowing exactly what to bring to the SAT will help keep you confident and calm, and again, that’s crucial for scoring as high as you can.

3) Don’t Cram

That’s right: there’s almost nothing you can actually study in just a day or two before the test that will improve your score reliably. The SAT is a big test. There are thousands and thousands of vocabulary words you could learn to bring up your verbal score, hundreds of math concepts that would help you in the math section, and dozens of grammar rules that’ll be tested in the writing multiple choice. Cramming causes more stress than it’s worth and will ultimately hurt your score, not help it.

This post was written by Lucas Fink, resident SAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in SAT Prep. You can learn more about Magoosh on our SAT blog, and you can get $50 off 1 month of prep here!