So you’re going to be taking your first SAT test soon. What do you need to know going in?


1. Reading Regularly Makes the Biggest Difference on the Reading Section

If you read casually, you have a big advantage over your peers. It’s an advantage that can be honed, sure, but familiarity and ease with reading is the number one thing that will help you steamroll through the reading section. The SAT is testing you on deep reading and understanding, so do not skim through the passages. Read them thoroughly, or you’ll be lost when it comes to the questions.


2. Don’t Rush Yourself on Your First SAT Test

Pushing yourself to rush on your first SAT test burns through your mental resources while increasing the likelihood of freezing up, which costs you more time. You don’t want to sprint through the test, you want to power walk. Ideally, you’re moving through, eliminating what you can, making educated guesses when you can, and moving on, confident enough not to dwell on past problems. If you’re really stumped, don’t be afraid to put a star next to a problem to come back to it. There will be more problems further along that might be easier than the one you’re on, and freezing up on a problem can cost you more than more points than shrugging and moving on. Pushing yourself to the limit will just mean that you have less energy for the later tests.


3. You Need to Study

Even if you are totally confident in your test-taking abilities, you should look over some practice questions. Getting familiar with how the SAT’s wording will help you get that much closer to the score you want.


4. Most of the Math on Your First SAT Test Is Algebra

Some of it will be the first half of Algebra II, a lot of it will be basic algebra. Geometry will be speckled in here and there, but algebra makes up the most of the test. You shouldn’t find anything too exotic here, just past concepts worded in different ways. If you have the basics down, you should be in a good starting place. If you realize a concept is out of your depth, put a star by it and come back if you have time. Questions get trickier as the test goes on, but you might end up knowing the math further along better than whatever stumped you.

If you really want to understand the SAT Math Section, try our SAT Math Mastery book series.


5. Be Aware of Time

On an SAT test, you’ve got 65 minutes on the SAT Reading Section, 35 for the Writing and Language Section, 25 for the Math No-Calculator Section and 55 minutes for the Math Calculator section. With two breaks, it takes at least three hours. Like we discussed before, you’ll have to move somewhat quickly, but avoid rushing. Three hours is a lot of time to spend on anything, and you can get worn out. Pack snacks, pace yourself, and remind yourself that it’s only a short amount of time until the next break.


6. It’s Going To Be Okay

This is your first SAT test. Maybe you’ll luck out and get a great score, but you’re just setting the bar for yourself to improve on. You can take the test again and again, and some colleges will even take your best section scores of each time you took it. You’re just scouting out the lay of the land. And if you happen to get a good score? Nice.

It’s three hours, but you’ll live through those three hours. I believe in you.



That’s all! Now go get ready for the SAT! 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.

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