How To Prep For The SAT At Home:
Doing some thrifty SAT prep at home is kind of like an art project! You want to use whatever time you have available to study SAT at home (or at school). And you can really do some amazing things with limited resources, just working from the kitchen table!
This article features a ton of tips for studying without an SAT tutor. Most ideas can be done at home, and all are designed to be FREE or INEXPENSIVE ways for kids to study the SAT test from home.
Settle in, because our SAT tutors have filled this monster article to the brim with REALLY useful information that you can start on today - at home, at school, and best of all, 99% of the ideas are free or low-cost to fit into your education budget.
We hope you find some great SAT prep tips in this article that you can try from home and that this easy list motivates you to take action starting today.. because…
Starting SAT Prep at Home Early Is Key
It’s really never too soon to start SAT prep! Now, that doesn’t always mean 100% test-prep discipline all the time - for younger students, it can simply take the form of extra, fun free-reading projects.
Older students can bulk up on vocabulary or review old math concepts. And no matter what level students are currently at, they can do a lot of practice from home on their own.. it just takes TIME!
In Junior and Senior year, TIME and ENERGY are in very short supply. That’s why it’s so darn important to start SAT prep at home as early as possible, and this article should give you some specific ideas on what to use your time for.
If you finish your SAT prep early, you can use the extra time to apply for scholarships and strategize your financial aid plan. You will definitely thank yourself later when you have smaller student loans to pay back.
How Parents Can Help Kids Study SAT From Home:
Students probably won’t just randomly start studying SAT from home, so it’s going to take a little prompting and “structure” from parents to get things rolling. But that’s ok, because it’s the long-term goals that count! So let’s think about how parents can contribute.
1. First of all, parents can definitely help create a realistic timeline for getting SAT prep done. We might call this the “executive planning” side of things - and 9 out of 10 high school students can use a lot of help.
2. Second, parents can set up a Punishment/Reward Study System at home (or just “reward,” if you prefer.) This system should be based around what the student wants and likes - if they study more, they get more of what they like. But fail to study, and they will lose the things they like. Picture cell phones, driving privileges, allowance money… more about this in a moment.
3. Finally, we should always make sure to remain sympathetic to our students. They are going through a lot, and we ask a great deal of them. Stacking on SAT prep to everything they already do can be exhausting, so it needs to be handled with sensitivity.
This parental kindness and consideration does wonders for kids’ confidence and willingness to try. We know it can be a balancing act, so let us know if you need any advice on this!
Set Up A Punishment/Reward Study System At Home:
Now, it would be great if kids were always willing to see the long-term picture and study really hard for the sake of their own education. However, sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.
In some cases (and by the way, I was like this as a teenager), it’s very hard to force kids to study. Instead, they should punished if they fail, and rewarded if they succeed. It’s such a simple system, as old as time, and just requires a little parental planning and participation.
The essential thing is that parents and kids agree on clear, simple rules for your SAT home-study reward system. It only will work if both parties agree that it is fair. Make sure to be a little lenient and understanding when necessary but know that the rules are being made to be followed, not bent.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for sources of Punishment/Reward ideas to motivate SAT study at home:
- Social Media Time
- TV Time
- Cell Phone Privileges
- Video and Computer Games
- Regular Allowance
- Bonus Allowance
- Driving Privileges
- Gas Money
- Snack Money
- Chore Time
- Time With Friends
- Girlfriend/Boyfriend Time
- Student’s Choice
Any of these (and many more) can be used as highly effective motivation to study. Kids feel good when they work hard, and bad when they are lazy. And that’s the way it works best, in my humble opinion!
Make A Home-Study SAT Prep Calendar:
Let’s be honest, parents are often better long-term planners than teenagers. That’s why parents should generally step in and help create the initial SAT home-study plan and calendar.
While most of the burden of SAT prep home-study will (and should) be on the shoulders of the student, it can still be highly effective to get some structure and guidance from mom and dad.
5 hours per week on SAT prep is an appropriate amount of work for most students. That includes classes, tutoring, and home-study. Parents can help divide that time up, and also create some kind of record-keeping system, like a family calendar, to record daily SAT progress for the sake of accountability.
It’s a classic maxim in education and motivation that “What we measure, we improve” so keep track and measure what kids are doing daily to get ready for the SAT at home and in no time, they’ll be more confident and getting higher scores.
The Best SAT Prep Books For Home Study:
There’s almost no way to do effective SAT prep without a small home library of study books. Every family needs at least some guidance and a source of information and practice problems - so if you don’t hire a professional SAT tutor, make sure you at least have a few SAT prep books at home.
Now, if you only have one book at home for SAT prep, it’s an easy choice - make sure it’s the Official SAT Study Guide, which you can order in our Amazon store by following that link.
A home library for SAT prep should contain some more specialized books from the very best SAT prep tutors, so here’s our list of the VERY best SAT prep books AND courses if we had to choose:
- For SAT Math: PWN the SAT Math Guide
- For Critical Reading: Erica Meltzer’s SAT Critical Reader
- For Vocab: Conquer SAT Vocabulary
- For Writing: Erica Meltzer’s Ultimate SAT Grammar
- For the Essay: Top 30 Examples for the SAT Essay
- For Time Management: Ultimate Time Management for Teens and High School Students
To see all our favorite books to do serious SAT prep from home, check out our Amazon store of the best SAT prep books as well as our own courses and books. We’ve built up a great list of favorites over the years of tutoring!
Use The Library
Don’t forget the public library or high-school school library, although most of the best books probably won’t be either current or available, and you can’t write in library books or keep your notes in them.
That being said, if you’re trying to save every cent, you can probably find some slightly out-of-date SAT prep books at the local library. Personally, I’d prefer to order new books, not because I like spending more money, but mainly because I learn best when I write all over my books while I study, and I find other people’s notes distracting.
Now, here’s a really good way to make use of the library: make your reading lists, then borrow the books from the library one at a time. That’s better than trying to find clean, up-to-date SAT prep textbooks in stock at the local or school library.
SAT Prep Homework Assignments:
Once you’ve ordered some SAT prep books or online courses for your home library, it gets a lot easier to set up homework assignments and practice sections.
We recommend trying SAT practice sections in a variety of ways:
- One section at a time.
- Multiple sections in a row.
- With a timer.
- Without a timer.
- As fast as you can.
Get creative and practice the SAT in a variety of ways. It will pay off on test day when you’re ready for anything.
Don’t forget to check and correct your work. This phase of practice is the most important - students must go over their mistakes and figure out what happened. Without this step, no learning takes place. It can also be the most frustrating and time-consuming step.
Parents should make sure that kids double-check their answers and learn from their mistakes - it’s absolutely essential for progress.
Practice SAT Testing (For Free) At Home:
Moms and dads often ask how many practice SAT tests their kids should take, and the honest answer is - “as many practice tests as possible!”
The good news is, you can do this easily from home. Schedule a Saturday or Sunday morning ahead of time, from about 8 am to noon. Then take a complete SAT, with a timer, and score it. Testing rules are in the books, so you should be able to figure this out from home - it’s simply a matter of setting aside the time and making sure it gets done.
You’ll also need a supply of practice tests. Many of our recommended SAT books will offer tons of sources of practice SATs, so that’s another great reason to add some to your home library.
Our favorite books for practice testing at home are:
- The Official SAT Study Guide (of course!)
- The Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT with 5 Practice Tests
These offer a huge amount of practice, which is really what you need to make massive score improvements.
You can also get free SAT practice tests in a few places online - just print them out at home. Not all are quality, but here are a few good options:
- The College Board’s Official Free Practice SAT online (start here)
- Free practice SAT at ProProfs (decent quality for a free test)
If you keep digging, you’ll be able to find more sources of free practice SAT tests. Just try to make sure to get “official”-seeming ones, because you don’t want your kids practicing from bad knock-off versions of the test, which will waste their time or worse, teach them inaccurate strategies and info.
Reading Lists That Boost SAT Reading Scores:
Hopefully this doesn’t come as a surprise, but in my professional experience as a tutor, the students with the highest SAT reading scores are the students who read the most books.
Crazy, right? The kids who read the most… get the best reading scores.
The secret lies in finding books that each individual kid enjoys. I swear, these days it’s like the schools are trying to make kids hate reading. So you have to help them find books they like, but also books that challenge them to become better readers.
How to push kids to become better readers? Pick books that:
- Use challenging vocabulary.
- Are a little longer than usual.
- Are common cultural references.
- Are relevant to each individual kid reading them.
Once you find one great book, you’ll naturally want to read more. The key is to make reading a daily habit, and then I promise, SAT reading scores will go up without fail… it just takes time.
Make Time To Study SAT Vocabulary At Home:
For studying SAT at home, almost nothing beats hardcore SAT vocab study.
Flashcards, vocab books, word lists… anything and everything parents and students do for vocabulary will be a very good use of time. The main thing is getting the right lists that are targeted directly to the SAT (since there are so many words you could study at home, and no time to waste).
We already linked our a favorite SAT-targeted vocab book, Insider’s Essential Guide to SAT Vocabulary, but we’ve got even more great suggestions for vocab that we commonly use (especially if you can finish that first book at home!)
- For a guide to SAT vocabulary: Our Conquer SAT Vocabulary Online Course
- For more core vocabulary: Direct Hits SAT Core Vocabulary Vol. 1
- For supplementary vocab: Princeton Review’s Essential SAT Vocabulary Flashcards
- For additional advanced SAT vocab: Direct Hits Toughest SAT Vocabulary Vol. 2
Basically, studying SAT vocabulary is like eating your spinach. It’s SO good for you, and I only wish more students were willing to do it consistently. Order those books and courses and set up a timeline, study schedule and punishment/reward system for your kids, for maximum effect.
Be sure to check out our Conquer SAT Vocabulary online course if this is something you want to work on and get better at from home!
Take SAT prep classes at school if they are offered.
Some high schools are offering SAT prep classes in school, which just goes to show how important SAT prep has become these days.
We would definitely recommend taking these classes if they are offered, because all practice helps - just know that the advice you’ll get isn’t always the best, and big group classes aren’t necessarily the best way for students to learn the SAT, even if the info is free.
Possible downsides of SAT prep classes in high schools:
- The SAT prep info might be out of date.
- Anyone can take them, potentially defeating the advantage you get.
- Classes depend on the quality and expertise of the teacher.
- In most schools these are usually big, crowded classes.
- Sometimes these become more of a study hall than time spent learning strategies and tips.
Overall, though, we’d definitely recommend taking free SAT prep classes in school if they are available. Even if they’re not very good, you’ll be getting practice, and staying focused. Just make sure students don’t get burned-out or overworked.
Ask teachers and counselors for SAT help.
Have you tried asking around at your school for SAT prep that doesn’t cost a dime? Your Math and English teachers probably have a ton of advice for students during office hours or after class. Another possible source of SAT info is your college readiness counselor.
After all, high-school teachers are trained professionals, who should be there to help your students prepare for college in every possible way.
Even if busy teachers don’t have a ton of time to sit down and work with your student on his or her specific weak spots, they can still offer good general advice.
Work with peers and friends to beat the SAT at home.
I know it sounds cheesy, but working with a study group of friends to do SAT prep at home can actually be really effective, especially if you combine it with the list of books, videos, and ideas we’ve made here.
Simply being lectured by yet another teacher doesn’t always work, and the beneficial effects of studying SAT with friends can be amazing! When kids ask each other questions, they learn for the long-term.
Everyone should print out a copy of this article and use it as a reference for ideas. Everyone should contribute to the group study sessions if they want to be a part of them.
Set a regular schedule for the SAT prep peer study group. Parents can help a lot with scheduling, planning, and transportation - then sit back and let kids do the work. Don’t be too worried if they get off track periodically - that’s what teenagers do. But do try to step in every now and then to make sure they are working.
Hint - supply the snacks they like, and SAT prep works even better. But only if they stay focused and study!
Free Online SAT Prep Ideas:
Sometimes the best advice is free. If you’re just looking for free SAT prep advice, here are four great sources to use:
- Khan Academy: Free SAT Prep Videos.
- Number2.com: Free SAT and ACT Practice.
- MajorTests.com: Even more free SAT practice problems.
- YouTube.com: Search for SAT Prep Videos.
- Google: Search for SAT Prep Articles.
A motivated student can find a huge amount of free SAT study materials online - it just takes some digging to find the good stuff.
SAT Online Courses to take from home:
Nowadays many of the best SAT tutors are taking advantage of online video to deliver amazing lectures across the world. Since these teachers know their lessons are in-demand from families and parents they charge a set amount for lifetime access to online premium video lessons.
These can be a “secret weapon” in the fight to be ready for the SAT test in every possible way. Videos are often more engaging to students than books. Also, not every family has access to these premium instructor videos so it’s quite possible to discover a secret edge that most students don’t know about.
In combination with some of the great SAT prep books we’ve listed in this article, the following premium SAT video courses have been proven to be popular and effective (note, all of these courses have a *30-day money back guarantee!*)
- For Vocabulary: Conquer SAT Vocabulary
- For the complete SAT: Griffin SAT: A Complete Video Course on Acing the SAT
- Specialized SAT Math: Power 800 SAT Math Video Course
- Specialized SAT Reading: SAT Critical Reading Mastery Video Course
- For Time Management: Ultimate Time Management for Teens and Students
All of these video courses have money-back promises behind them, lifetime access, and great ratings online, so check out our reviews of them and decide if they are right for you or your student.
Although these online courses do cost money, they are also an investment that should pay itself back in points, as long as students do the homework and follow through on each SAT video course.
With the addition of books, self-study and some time set aside, online SAT video courses are a great way to save money on private SAT tutoring, or to review before the test.
I know this has been one giant article about studying SAT from home! We’ve gone through every possible idea to get started on free or low-cost SAT prep from home, or from school.
With so many ideas, it’s hard to make a condensed list, but here’s my attempt at the bullets:
- Bookmark our Test Prep Blog.
- Join Our SAT Mailing List.
- Talk To Teachers.
- Form Peer Study Groups.
- Add Parental Encouragement.
- Set Up a Punishment/Reward Study System.
- Enroll in our targeted Online Courses.
- Order the best SAT Prep Books.
- Take Free SAT Practice Tests From Home.
- Make Use Of Free Online SAT Resources.
- Contact Us for help!
With so many ideas in one article, I really hope I’ve given you at least ONE that you can take action on today so your son or daughter gets into a great college and a great career (and has a really cool life story to tell!)
What To Do Next:
Whew, that’s a lot to think about! So, what are the next steps?
- Join the SAT Mailing List.
- Create your SAT prep home-study timeline and work on your time management.
- Order our online courses and favorite SAT prep books.
- Set up a punishment/reward study system at home.
- Go forward from there! No time to waste!
As always, let us know if you have any questions; don’t forget to join our email list for more great reminders, tips, and SAT prep content; share this article if you like it, and we’ll talk to you later! Tata!