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College 101: What’s the Best Way to Study for the SAT?

Whether you're entering your sophomore year or just registered for the exam, preparing for the SAT is essential. As an entrance exam used by most colleges to make admissions decisions, scoring high on the SAT can give you more options for attending and paying for college. Studying for the SAT can help you develop the skills necessary to understand key concepts and boost your test-taking confidence. So, what's the best way to study for the SAT?

Start Studying Early

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Your junior and senior year are packed with important events like prom and award ceremonies, so it's important to start preparing for the SAT early. Aim to choose a test date toward the middle of your junior year or the beginning of your senior year. It's essential to allow yourself enough time to prepare for the exam and give yourself the opportunity to retake the test if needed before submitting college applications.

The College Board recommends starting to study for the SAT between two and three months in advance. For most students, SAT prep takes place during the summer or toward the beginning of the school year. If you're worried about sacrificing your summer to study for the SAT, don't worry—the online programs at Zinc NYC make it easy for students to enjoy their summer while fitting in meaningful test prep. With one-on-one tutoring and group boot camps to choose from, Zinc NYC offers personalized learning sessions to help students make the SAT study process stress-free and productive.

Starting to prepare early allows you to figure out how much you'll need to study every need and helps you prevent cramming. According to the College Board, students who start studying earlier perform better on the SAT and have more confidence going into the test.

Take Full-Length Practice Exams

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Incorporating full-length SAT practice exams into your study sessions can help you prepare for the SAT. If you're not sure where to find practice exams, the College Board makes free full-length practice exams available online, and official SAT prep books contain practice exams from recent years. In addition, most online SAT prep courses administer full-length practice exams to give students an idea of what to expect on exam day.

If you're studying without the help of a tutor, set aside some to take practice tests that follow the same timing parameters used during the SAT. Try taking each full-length practice test as if you were actually taking the SAT. Start at 8 a.m., follow the timing guidelines for each section, put away your phone, and only take the breaks you're allowed to take on test day. Taking timed practice tests can give you an idea of how you'll score on the actual test, and you'll be able to see what type of questions you need to improve on as you approach the SAT.

Know What to Expect

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Knowing what to expect on test day can significantly influence your performance on the SAT. It can be intimidating to take an important test, especially after dedicating months to preparing and studying. In addition to taking full-length practice exams, make sure to get enough sleep, and give yourself enough time to get ready on the morning of the test. 

Because some SATs are administered at universities, consider visiting the testing center a few days in advance to scope out parking. Taking simple steps like waking up early, eating a good breakfast, and leaving early can help eliminate anxiety and make you feel more confident.

Although studying for the SAT is important, don't cram the day or night before the exam. Although anxiety can be high the night before the exam, take some time to decompress and relax. Pick out your outfit, put together your testing materials, set an alarm for the next morning, and go to bed early. Taking the night off can help you prepare yourself for the exam both physically and mentally.

Studying early, taking full-length practice exams, and knowing what to expect on test day are the best ways to prepare for the SAT. All in all, remember that preparing for the SAT is a marathon, not a sprint—it's essential to prepare purposefully in the months leading up to the exam instead of cramming a few days before.

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