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SAT Exam Hacks II: How to prepare for the SAT

by Mary Adalbert | Oct 02, 2015 | 5 min read

Are you ready for the SAT exam?

Now that you know some study tips that you can use to prepare for the SAT exam, we wanted to give more hacks dedicated to each section of the test. As you practice, keep these things in mind and you will breeze through the SAT and see improvements in your scores.

Ways to Prepare for the SAT:


1. Familiarize yourself with the types of questions. Generally, the SAT exam uses word problems, real life situations, and logic puzzles. They always ask a question or two about reading graphs or tables, and also introduce new mathematical concepts to see how you cope. Don’t get too stressed about this, just take time to practice.
2. Realize that the questions are arranged from easiest to hardest. The first few questions in each math section are going to be easy. Unbelievably easy. So easy, in fact, that many students begin to doubt their answers and waste time trying to find the trick or hidden meaning behind what is, essentially, an elementary math problem. Don’t worry if the first two or three questions have answers that came easily to you. However, if question 20 came easily to you, you probably made a mistake or misunderstood the question.
3. Know the tricks. The College Board knows what mistakes students will commonly make on math problems, so even if the answer you get is a choice, realize that that doesn’t mean you’ve gotten it right. Especially on problems involving a lot of arithmetic and calculator use, take your time and be cautious.
• Note- A correct answer on an easy question is worth the same amount as a correct answer on the hardest question on the test. Don’t spend all your time answering one difficult question when you could be answering five or ten easier questions.

Critical Reading:

1. Stay focused. One of the hardest aspects of this section, for me, was staying focused while trying to read what I believe to be the most boring pieces of writing ever conceived by man. It’s difficult, but staying focused helps to get the full picture of the assignment so you can more easily answer the questions.
2. Learn vocabulary words. Every critical reading section starts out with 6-8 questions that tests your vocabulary. That’s about 20 questions per test. Since all they test is how well you know the English language, vocabulary is the easiest way to improve your critical reading score. I learned my vocab by making flash cards. And I had a friend who input all the vocab words we learned into a flash card app on his phone to quiz himself in his spare moments throughout the day. We all learn things differently. Just make sure that you try to learn vocab, no matter what quirky method you must use.
3. Timed reading sessions. After vocab questions, every other question is about reading comprehension. My only suggestion here would be to time your reading sessions, write down the main idea of each paragraph as you read (to save you time rereading things), and underline/circle things in the text to remind yourself what the passage is saying when you’re answering the questions.


1. Review grammar. The writing section ONLY tests grammar. Isn’t that lovely? Just remember, grammar is the easiest thing in the world to study, because you’ve been learning grammar every day since you were born. By talking to people, listening, reading, and writing, you are improving your grammar skills.
2. Practice. The College Board loves to test us on dangling modifiers, parallelism, pronoun usage, and verb agreement. Learn about those four things and you will be set to answer almost every single SAT writing question.
3. Read! One of the best ways to help visualize grammar is to read. Books, signs, newspapers, anything. Reading is a great thing you can do to improve grammar and vocabulary to build your SAT skill set.

The Essay:

1. Choose a side. The SAT graders only give good scores to essays that either agree or disagree with the opinion stated in the prompt. So you need to choose! Essays that point out the benefits and detriments of both sides of the argument, while harder to write and in my opinion more respectable, will not receive as high a score as more extreme viewpoints.
2. Don’t use personal experience as an example. The essay prompt will always say to use examples from history, reading, and personal experience, but the people reading your essay will always look for the first two. Why? People can lie about personal experience. You could very easily invent a person or story that perfectly supports your argument, or you could have actually experienced something that supports your argument. Either way, the reader is going to view the information as unreliable, because there is the possibility of it being a lie.
3. Indicate 2-3 examples that support your argument. This may seem difficult, but it’s actually really easy to prepare for the SAT beforehand. What I did was prepare a few books and historical events beforehand that could be applied to almost every prompt the SAT could throw at me. Here are some good books that are almost always useful in an SAT essay: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. As far as historical events, the civil rights movement, the trial of Galileo, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution/Gilded Age, and the Colombian Exchange have always come in handy.
4. Remember that your essay will be read by humans. This is important to remember, because those people reading your essay might have very different views than you do. For this reason it’s best to avoid using current events as examples, and expressing extreme values that a lot of people disagree with. Try to stick with historical and literary examples that everyone tends to agrees on, rather than writing an emotionally charged essay that your readers might strongly disagree with or find offensive.

One final piece of advice, find a group of friends to study with you. This can be hard, I know, but having people to study with makes the act of studying feel a lot less like work and a lot more like hanging out with friends. Of course, if these friends are distracting you from your work, then it’s better to study alone, but if you can manage to find a group of motivated students such as yourself, who are willing and happy to take a few practice tests with you, or quiz you on vocab, or explain math concepts to you, that is amazing.

Overall, if you take timed practice tests to prepare for the SAT exam and learn from your mistakes, you should be on the way towards an SAT score you can be proud of. And if you need more help studying, check out Bridgeway’s SAT Prep Learning Lab!

Still have more questions or want more tips on how to prepare for the SAT exam? Contact us at 800-863-1474.

Guest Post by, Audrey Farrell ~”Audrey, one of Bridgeway’s Compass Learning students, aspires for success in all her schoolwork and hopes to get a degree in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics. As she studied for the SAT she learned many tips and tricks to share with other students to help them succeed. Enjoy these SAT hacks!

Mary Adalbert
Hello! I’m Mary Adalbert, Marketing Project Manager for Bridgeway Academy. As a result of being homeschooled during my middle school and high school years, I am passionate about families finding a perfect fit for each of their children. After high school, I went on to study music and business at college where I found a love for helping kids use their creativity in music. I still enjoy teaching music to students and integrate their learning style as we work through lessons at their own pace. In my free time I love playing sports with my husband, spending time with our family, and playing music. And most of all, I love seeing how God works through each and every situation.
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