8 Tips & Strategies to Improve Your Score on the SAT (or PSAT)
Juniors are gearing up to study for and take the SAT, and seniors have their last chance to improve their scores before college applications are due. Use these testing strategies in addition to your great study strategies to help maximize your score on the upcoming SAT.
Math problems increase in difficulty, but are worth the same number of points
- Spend more time answering questions at the beginning of the test to maximize your score.
- All questions are worth the exact same amount of points, so always make sure you finish the easier questions before moving on to more difficult ones.
Skip around to maximize your score
- Always circle a question you don’t know how to solve and underline a question you are not sure of. Once you have completed the test, go back and first answer the questions you circled starting from the beginning of the test, and then check your underlined questions with any remaining time.
Guessing on the SAT multiple choice could cost you, but student produced response questions in the math section have no penalties
- Incorrect answers on the SAT will result in some points lost. If you have circled a question but cannot solve it when you return to it, it may be best to skip it entirely. Never do this for student produced responses, however, because you won’t lose additional points if you get it wrong.
- If you can eliminate one answer choice in a multiple choice question, you should usually guess.
- If you can eliminate two answer choices in a multiple choice question, you should ALWAYS guess.
Confusing text is noted by caps, italics, or special notes
- You should pay attention to directions that include caps, italics, or special notes because it gives you a clue to solve the problem.
- Note: You can always assume a figure is drawn to scale unless there is a note that says “FIGURE NOT DRAWN TO SCALE”. If the figure is not drawn to scale ALWAYS re- draw the figure.
Grid your math answers properly
- Student produced response questions never result in a negative answer.
- If you get a repeat number, like .66666, you must use ALL spaces in the grid for the answer to be counted correct. Round your answer so that all spaces are filled in the grid.
- Always grid the most accurate answer.
Keep your answers
- Statistically, once you answer a question and bubble it in, you are more likely to get the answer right than if you go back, second guess yourself, and change your answer. The only time you should re- evaluate your answer choice is if you underlined the question (see #2).
Actively solve problems and practice good time management
- When working through math problems and essays, your pencil should never leave your paper. Show your work, even for the easiest math problems, and annotate essays by underlining, starring important ideas, and summarizing points in the margins. You are more likely to increase your score if you constantly take notes.
Know what questions will be asked on the test
- The SAT is a very predicable test. The same types of problems pop up over and over again- and it’s your job to anticipate exactly the kinds of questions you’ll see on the test. This can only come with extensive planning and practice.
- Know which type of math problems are asked the most frequently to the least frequently, and spend your time mastering problems that show up multiple times on each test before moving on to less common types of problems.
- Know the most common SAT vocabulary words and know which types of questions ask you to analyze a reading passage. Finally, know the types of prompts typical of the SAT’s essays and have practiced multiple responses.
- Your goal as a student is only to complete the SAT problems correctly and efficiently. Taking short cuts and employing good testing strategies in addition to lots of practice and studying is critical to boost your score.
Article written by Shayna L. Pond and Action Potential Learning
Action Potential Learning provides private tutoring in math and science as well as standardized test prep and science and math camps. As math and science specialists, our tutors know and understand difficult math and science concepts and can help you improve your grades and perform on standardized tests.