I’ve been tutoring students all over the world on the SAT for the past 10 years. That works out to be about 5,000 tutoring hours. These are the SAT strategies, tips, and techniques that I use with my students over and over again. (And the reasons they achieve such high SAT scores!)

Table of Contents

## Use authentic materials

There are 8 Official SAT Practice Tests you can download for free from the College Board, or buy in book form from Amazon.

It’s critically important that you work on authentic materials published by the College Board. Other companies create materials that *look* like SAT materials but they aren’t – and the quality ranges from bad to completely awful. It’s like practicing tennis and expecting to excel at racquetball – after all, they use balls and courts, and really what’s the difference?

There is a HUGE difference on working on things that look like SAT materials vs. materials that are actually SAT materials. I know that parents and students can’t tell the difference but expert tutors can tell the difference at 50 paces.

So either buy the book or print out the tests from the College Board and use those materials exclusively.

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## Print out the tests and work on pencil and paper

What about taking the test online at the Khan Academy? Nope.

Since the test is given in a pencil and paper format, that’s also how you should be practicing. It is not the same to read it on the screen and then fill in your bubble sheet. You need to be able to mark up the reading and writing sections and to solve out the math problems on the page right next to the actual question.

One of my students increased her score by 70 points just by switching to work on a printed copy.

It makes a difference. So PRINT out the tests and work off the hard copy. …

## Mark up your tests

Since you now have the hard copy in front of you, mark up that test. Write all your your test (but not at all on your bubble sheet.) In fact, this is one of the secret strategies for the math sections – if you can quickly sketch a picture to visualize the problem you are 90% of the way toward the solution!

Bad things happen in my students’ heads: 3+2=6 and any answer choice looks reasonable. You simply must get out of your head and write EVERYTHING down.

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## Sign up for at least two test dates

This takes the pressure off of having to have one shot at getting a great score. Also, stuff happens – kids get sick, homecoming is the night before, or the test occurs at the end of midterms. Giving yourself another potential test date makes it easier all around.

The SAT is given 7 times during the school year. Find two dates that work for you and sign up.

## Obsessively track your mistakes

Obsessively track your mistakes to isolate your problems, fix them, and then take another practice test.

This is the magic secret to how to increase your score: Figure out WHAT questions you are missing and WHY you are missing them.

For example, often students miss a question, not because they didn’t know the math concept, but because they didn’t re-read the question and realize they asked for x+1, not x. So in this case, the fix would be to RE-READ the question before you choose your answer.…

## Slow down

It’s better to work deliberately through the questions and not have time to answer a few at the end, then to rush through the section missing many more questions. It will usually also net you a higher score. So slow down and work slowly through the test.…

## Math: Be like a caveman and draw a picture

If I could get one thing tattooed across my forehead it would be this: draw a picture. Often, once kids draw a picture, they are 90% of the way to solving the problem.

A cousin to drawing a picture is making a chart. Same goes here – once kids can SEE the information in front of them, solving the problem becomes very easy.…

## The QUESTIONS are tricky (not the actual math part)

Often kids blow through the questions not paying attention to the details. I guess they are waiting for the calculus equations to show up and then they’ll pay attention? (Hint: There aren’t any calculus questions on the SAT.)

The MATH isn’t that hard on the SAT. The MATH QUESTIONS, however, can kill you.The hard part is wrestling with the question. Once you understand what the question is asking, you are half-way to the solution.

Also, the SAT only gives points for correct answers to THEIR questions. My kids never give me wrong answers – they give me correct answers to the question they THOUGHT was asked. Alas, the test will only give you points for correctly answering THEIR question.

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## Reading: Answers are in the PASSAGE, not the answer choices

My students think that there is some magic in looking at the answer choices in the reading section. That if they just stare hard enough and long enough at those answer choices, one will start sparkling and they’ll suddenly know what the right answer is.

Here’s the thing – the answer choices are practically irrelevant. The magic – and the answers – are found in the PASSAGE, not the answer choices.

Read the question, go directly to the passage and find the answer, and then go back and look at the answer choices to see which one matches what you are looking for. (I call this choosing your cupcake ahead of time since all cupcakes look delicious.) …

## Reading: Only half-right is ALL WRONG

Apparently in school, if you get even remotely close to the answer, the teacher will give you full marks. But that’s not how it works on the SAT.

My students fall for half-right answers all the time. But there is only one correct answer and three answers that aren’t correct.

Look for the best answer, not a sort-of-possibly-possible-somewhat-relevant answer. Right answers are all-the-way right, not just half-right.

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