Many of the kids with whom we work through the college process come to us right around the time of the SAT in their sophomore or junior years. We take systematic preparation for this test seriously because it is a critical variable in most admissions’ committees decisions about your candidacy. For an overview of our thoughts on the college process in general, please visit the college coaching page of this site. Below, you’ll find a summary of the SAT process specifically, which can help you gain some familiarity with it, as you set your sights on vanquishing this important test. Remember that we are available to you to help situate the SAT within the college process and to craft the right SAT process for you. Feel free to contact us about any question, no matter how big or small.
Determine when you need to take the test and plan your preparation schedule
The SAT is administered several times annually and most students take the exam during the spring of their junior year or in the fall of their senior year. We advise our clients to get a jump on this test and start studying in the summer before their junior years; many of our students aim for an SAT date in the fall or winter of their junior years, thereby freeing themselves to concentrate on academics in the all-important final spring semester of junior year. Achieving your best score on the SAT takes time and it's nice to have the test out of the way by the time your college application process is in full swing. In addition, while the vast majority of our students are satisfied with their scores after taking the test for the first time, it is good to give yourself another opportunity in case you are unhappy with your first score.
Accordingly, starting your preparation earlier is obviously better. The SAT is highly coachable, patterned, and predictable. It is a well-known fact that familiarity through repetition leads to dramatically superior outcomes on the SAT. We recommend a minimum of 16 sessions to cover the entirety of the test. Most of our students space these sessions out over the course of two to four months during a Comprehensive Package. Students who have more time or feel that they would benefit from additional preparation often choose the Planning Ahead Package which includes 20 sessions. The Planning Ahead Package allows for additional focus one or two sections of the SAT, and more extended coaching on practice exams.
Familiarize yourself with the format of the exam
The College Board provides this summary of the SAT format. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the content and timing requirements, we recommend that you complete the sample questions provided on the SAT website.
Establish a baseline on a previously administered test
Establishing a baseline score is an important first step in the process of studying for the SAT. We highly recommend taking a full-length official practice exam as your diagnostic. We usually advise students to take Test 1 out of the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide because we can input the results into our software to understand where you are starting.
Take your diagnostic exam under timed conditions and complete it in one sitting. Sustained focus over a long stretch of time can be one of the primary challenges associated with the SAT. Give yourself about three hours and forty-five minutes to complete the test, including two 10-minute breaks. Follow the scoring instructions to see how you did. For the essay, share it with your tutor and your tutor will grade it for you, which will give you a complete diagnostic score on the writing section.
Your score on this diagnostic exam is not particularly important. Your correct and incorrect answers serve as a starting point for you and your tutor, allowing us to build an initial game plan aimed at addressing your weaknesses.
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Once you have a score from your diagnostic exam, we can advise you on what kind of preparation program makes sense. The more information you provide the better. If possible, please summarize your performance on each section of the exam, your goals, your schedule, and any specific concerns you have about your preparation. One of our tutors would be happy to discuss a preparation schedule and budget that suits your needs.
Tutoring & Practice Testing
Once we’ve matched you with tutor, the real work begins! You’ll meet with your tutor regularly (ideally at least once/week), complete homework in between sessions, and take practice tests. Practice tests are the best way to measure how well you’re applying the methods you’re learning in tutoring sessions, and to gauge the progress of your score. Based on the results of your practice tests, your tutor will adjust his or her approach, and make sure you are getting as much out of the process as possible!