How to Take the SAT
Hi, welcome to your first episode of the SAT Prep Course. I'm Eva and I will be your instructor in the process. I've been doing test prep since high school when I got a perfect score on the SAT and decided I wanted to help other people get there or at least a little closer than they would otherwise be. I, like I said started in high school and after graduating from Harvard, I went back to doing this full time, and I've been doing this for the better part of the decade now and I look forward to sharing with you some of my techniques, strategies and just general insights into the SAT, and to make the whole experience more comfortable for you and more successful.
So to start out with, let me tell you a little about the SAT and what you're up against. First off, it's going to be required by most colleges and if not the SAT the ACT could serve as a substitute but we're going to be focusing on the SAT here. In addition, you should know that the SAT is tricky and you may have heard this from older siblings or friends who've gone through this already. But actually the fact that the SAT is tricky really works to your advantage. What it means is that the vast majority of students are going into the test with no clue what's going on and they're not going to really succeed.
So if you take the time to prepare and really understand how the test works, and what it takes to do well, you can distinguish yourself. If the test were easy then everybody would do equally well, but because it's hard, you can put in the time to make yourself basically special. And lastly SAT Prep has a really big payoff, colleges give about the same amount of weight to your SAT performance as they do to your academic performance. And I'm sure you've put in a lot of time over the course of what? Four years of high school to getting good grades. And if you put even a fraction of that amount of time into your SAT Prep, you can really increase your score and really transform your application, opening up a whole bunch of new doors to colleges that might not otherwise have been open to you.
So it's a great opportunity to put in a good chunk of time and open up tons of new opportunities for your future, cheezy that what may sound. Let's talk a little more about what you'll be seeing on the SAT and what else you need to know about the SAT in general.
So when you go in on that Saturday to take the SAT, you're going to have three hours and 45 minutes of testing. Although FYI you're going to be there a little longer because they read you instructions and you have to wait for people to settle in and you have to bubble your name. So it'll take more time than that. When you do take the test, you're going to see four different kinds of sections.
Critical reading, which there'll be three. Math of which they will also be three and writing of which there will also be three and finally an experimental section. The experimental section could actually be any of those other three, critical reading, math or writing and it's the SAT test writer's way of trying out new questions that don't count towards your score, but giving you an experimental section let's them pick out which questions should be used on future tests.
It's also good to know about the scoring of the SAT. Each section, the critical reading, the math and the writing is a minimum of 200 points and a maximum of 800 points and an average of 500. So overall, you can get a minimum of 600 on the entire test, a maximum of 2400 or an average of about 1500. Now a lot of people ask what a good score is, and honestly it depends a lot on where you're looking to apply. Some students go into SAT Prep without realizing that the practice SAT results they've gotten already qualify them very well for their dream school. On the flip side, some students look at their dream school and realize that the SAT scores they have, they're going to need to improve a lot in order to be a strong candidate to apply.
So if you're interested in knowing what a good score is for you and for your purposes. I strongly recommend checking out the website for the schools you're looking at or college guides and look up the schools you're looking at. And find out what most candidates applying have as their scores. That'll give you an idea where you fall in the pool and whether you're already in a strong position or you have a lot of work to do. Because what a good score is, totally depends on where you're looking to go.
And finally you should know that thanks to score choice which has been recently re-implemented, you can decide which scores get shown to colleges and which get hidden. Now you can't hide individual scores like hide this critical reading from this date but release this critical reading from this date. But what you can do is say "I want my May scores to be released so colleges will see the critical reading Math and writing from May, but I don't want my June scores released," so colleges won't even see you took the test in June.
It's really reassuring 'cause it means you can take the test as often as you feel like without worrying that colleges will see scores that you aren't super happy about. Let's check out the timeline for the SAT. First off the SAT is offered seven times per year starting in October and ending in June. So it's not offered during the summer actually. Now you should sign up in advance because advance registration is required. It's actually a little more than four weeks in advance of the test day that you should sign up, and the sooner you sign up the better, because sometimes if you sign up right before the deadline, your ideal test center is already full and you'll have to go one town over, or two towns over. And at 7:00 whatever in the morning you do not need to be driving any farther than you already are and getting up any earlier than you already are.
When you do take the test, you can take it as often as you'd like. Like I said, score choice let's you take it a lot and hide any scores you're not happy with. So that's very liberating. Now although you can take the test as often as you'd like, a good plan is probably to take it twice during your junior year. Maybe once in the early to middle part of junior year, as early as October and in to the spring and take it a second time possibly if you want to try it again in May or June. Then at that point, you can reassess where you stand, you have the option of studying over the summer and then senior fall if you want, you have the option of retaking it and hopefully nailing it.
You probably don't want to retake it or plan on retaking it more than once during your senior fall 'cause you'll have plenty going on already with college applications. So let's summarize what we covered about the SAT.
So bottom line, the SAT is required as part of admission by most colleges and it covers three sections, critical reading, Math and writing. Each of which we'll be covering in lots of detail during the various episodes as part of this prep course. And the overall scores range from 600 on the low end to 2400 on the high end and the average is around 1500 points. Luckily, the whole process does not have to be stressful, you have unlimited retakes and score choice so you can hide any scores you're not happy with. And finally one benefit of the SAT is that although it's tricky, that means that the more you prepare and the more comfortable with the test you are, the better you can do and the more you can distinguish yourself when you go to apply to college.
And that's the intro to the SAT.