The SAT Score can be a huge part of determining what college a high-achieving student goes to, as well as how much financial aid they receive for that college. Often, these students are clever, but the SAT can push them to new lengths. So how do the highest-achieving students get a higher SAT score?
1. Read Regularly
In over ten years of SAT tutoring, Christian Heath has found that the students who read for fun scored much higher than those who simply did the required readings. This seems obvious enough, but also students who picked up reading for fun during tutoring would also see a significant boost in their SAT reading score. A few pages a night over time could lead to a several-hundred point jump in non-reading students. Reading for fun builds many of the skills needed for the reading SAT; speed, understanding, and analysis.
The key is that these students are reading books they want to read, and will be self-motivated to put in the work without it even feeling like work. In an engaging novel, you read faster because you want to find out what happens next. Focus and understanding improve as you get absorbed in the world of the novel. Your text analysis improves as you try to make sense of the events in the story.
The books read for this exercise don’t have to be high literature, but they do have to be in English and fun to read to get the full benefits.
2. Make Their Physical Needs a Priority
When your schedule is packed tight, it can be tempting to try and borrow time from “less important” things like sleep or regular exercise. This is maybe the worst thing you can do to your scores. Your brain is a part of your body, and if you neglect your body, your mind will suffer. Sleep deficits (less than 7 hours a night) are linked to huge drops in performance and mood. The loss in efficiency and motivation the next day can lead to losses far greater than the few hours gained by staying up late. Two days of decent studying will lead to more gains than having one great day and one terrible day.
High-performing students know that they have to take care of their own well-being as well as study. A dedicated student doesn’t have to bow over to every physical need, but they do need to realize that their physical needs will need to be met eventually.
3. Be Familiar With the SAT Test
Practice with the SAT materials! Take a practice SAT! As proficient as a student might be in reading, grammar, or math, practicing the SAT’s reading, grammar, and math is invaluable. Practicing the test materials themselves help a student find potentially overlooked weak spots as well as boost their testing speed and accuracy. Becoming familiar with the SAT’s tricks and wording can help earn a student a higher score.
4. Study Smart
A student could buy the official SAT study guide, and methodically do every practice test inside, and only see a slight increase in their SAT score. Take the time to find your weak points, and practice mindfully. Digest every piece of feedback you get and fuel for your growth.
Often, students falsely equate suffering to progress, and think “oh, this sucks, so it has to be working!” That is not the case at all. Whether something is easier or harder doesn’t actually contribute to how helpful it is for your score, and sometimes more brutal methods can actually undermine your results.
At LoveTheSAT, we have books specializing in teaching the ins-and-outs of the Grammar SAT and the Math SAT to streamline your studying process. Each book breaks down their respective SAT sections into easily understood categories and provide detailed examples and practice problems to ensure the reader understands each
5. Study Consistently
On the other hand, a student can know exactly what they need to work on and how, but never put the time in to make improvement. At the end of the day, every student has to sit down, and put the hours in. However, we recommend that you spread that time out rather than try and get everything done at once. Start early and study consistently. Studying for one hour four times a week will sink in better than one four-hour cram session on Sunday. Making a habit of studying makes students more likely to study consistently and get a higher SAT score.
Having trouble studying? Check out some of our tips to stay focused.
6. Cultivate a Growth Mindset
It doesn’t help students to think of themselves as “smart” or “dumb.” They’re a person, who can get better if they work. Some students make the mistake of getting too tied up in the idea that a score or grade reveals something deep within themselves, that cannot be changed.
If a student gets tied up in seeing themselves as “dumb” or “stupid,” they get demoralized, and give up on studying before they make important breakthroughs. If a student really sees themselves as inherently “smart,” studying can also be demoralizing, as they wonder why they have to study if they’re “smart” already, and a lower score (even if it’s a fluke) can be a horrible blow to their self-image as they wonder if they were “dumb” all along.
Acting like the SAT score determines some inherent truth within its takers doesn’t help students. What an SAT score does is judge if a student can perform certain academic skills in a certain environment. It’s not a test of intelligence, it’s a test of academic suitability, and academic suitability can be trained and improved.
The highest SAT scores come from the work a student puts in. A grade can be a reflection of where a student was then, but not of where a student will be. There’s always room for growth.
7. Keep Calm
The SAT is important, but panic often works against a student trying to succeed. Remember to breathe, and keep the whole picture in perspective. Channel nervous energy into the nailing down the steps you can take, and find healthy ways of releasing the rest. I believe in you.
That’s all! Now go out and get that higher SAT Score! If you want more SAT and ACT prep advice sure to join our mailing list for a free 27-item checklist and 30-day free SAT email course.