- Tip: Skim the passage and underline key points.
- Tip: Answer questions while you’re reading; you can complete each question as soon as you get to it, rather than waiting until the end to answer all the questions.
- Tip: Problems are arranged in order of difficulty, so plan on later questions taking longer to answer. Skip questions that are tripping you up, and return to them at the end.
- 5 minutes to read the passage and underline key points
- 5 minutes to construct an outline
- Spend the rest of the time writing your 5-paragraph essay.
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5 Study Tips to Improve Your SAT Weaknesses
You’re a pro at one section of the SAT, but you just can’t seem to nudge your score up in the other. How can you develop skills to master weak areas? Read on for five tips for improving your SAT weaknesses.
Study Tip #1: Know Your Starting Point
You can’t measure improvement or hone weak areas if you don’t know where you’re starting. Take a diagnostic test to find out where you are. CollegeVine’s diagnostic test identifies specific strengths and weaknesses within each skill set and area the test measures.
The PSAT can also give you an early indication of where you should focus your efforts. When you receive your score report, you’ll not only be able to view your overall scores for each section, but you’ll also see sub-scores for individual skills: Command of Evidence, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math.
That way, you’ll be able to know if, say, problem solving was the specific weakness that contributed to a lower score in the Math section, and recognize that that’s where you should focus your attention. To better understand your PSAT scores, read What Does My PSAT Score Mean?.
Remember that the PSAT doesn’t necessarily correlate to your future performance on the SAT. You’ll take more classes and expand your breadth of knowledge before you take the SAT; the PSAT can serve as an indication of what you should aim to improve before the actual test.
Study Tip #2: Start Preparing Early
Taking a diagnostic test early gives you time to prepare and retake the test if you need to. As you take more practice tests, you’ll become more familiar with the layout of the test. If you start preparing later, some of the aspects and feature of the test might trip you up, since you won’t be as used to them.
Starting early means you’ll gain the ability to work within time constraints, understand the structure, and become familiar with the skills you need to master to conquer individual sections. For instance, the Reading section requires strong critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and ability to use context clues to determine the meaning of a passage. As you read more passages on practice tests, you’ll become adept at knowing how to deconstruct the text and pulling out important information.
You’ll also gain insight into your own habits and the mistakes you routinely make. When practicing and scoring, pay attention to the types of questions you routinely get wrong. For instance, perhaps you’re not reading word problems on the Math section carefully enough. Missing key words because you’re rushing can mean the difference between a correct and incorrect answer. After enough practice, you’ll know what mistakes to be on the lookout for as you check your work.
Study Tip #3: Develop Creative Ways to Practice
Once you know your weak areas, develop creative ways to hone your skills. For example, using apps are a great way to practice, and you can focus on specific types of questions. Khan Academy, Daily Practice from College Board, and The Official SAT Question of the Day are some great apps to use.
Are you having trouble with particular math problems and wasting time flipping back and forth to the formulas page? Institute a “formula of the day” policy, focusing on a specific formula to memorize each day. Or, if vocabulary is an issue, have a “word of the day” to memorize.
Study with friends—if you’re each stronger in different areas, you can share strategies to help each other master weaker areas.
For more ideas, check out 4 Test Prep Goals to Help You Ace the SAT.
Study Tip #4: Pace Yourself
Time management is key to doing well on the SAT. Understanding the components of the test and how much time you’re allotted for each part will help you prepare. Components include:
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test
Reading: 52 multiple-choice questions, 65 minutes.
Writing and Language: 44 multiple-choice questions, 25 minutes
Math—No Calculator: 15 multiple-choice questions, 25 minutes
Math—With Calculator section: 55 minutes, 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 grid-in questions
Optional Essay: 50 minutes
Tip: Break down your time as follows
For more tips on planning out how much time to spend on each section on the SAT, check out How to Pace Yourself on Every Section of the SAT.
When studying, simulate this testing environment at least a few times so you can practice working within the time constraints.
Tip # 5: Get a Tutor
Tutors can help you develop competencies in weaker areas. Since they know the test, they know what it’s measuring—and what you need to do to improve. They can also provide resources and materials such as practice tests to help you study.
At CollegeVine, our tutors will work one-on-one with you to monitor your improvement, particularly in weak areas.
Your SAT obstacles are not insurmountable! Knowing where you are and how far you need to go combined with practical strategies, lots of practice, and a coach can help you get to where you need to be.
For more tips on preparing for the SAT, check out: