10 Common SAT Strategies

Ginger Abbot

Jun 20, 2022
SAT cover

We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.

Taking the SAT can be nerve-wracking for many students. Although, there are some ways to reduce test anxiety. Here are 10 SAT strategies to help you ace your exam. 

1. Read the Directions Ahead of Time

Before entering the exam room, you want to understand the layout of the test. Review the directions for each section of the test. For example, most math questions will be multiple-choice, but some may ask you to come up with an answer. The section is also divided into two parts-calculator and non-calculator. 

Also, take practice tests to become familiar with the basic layout. Plus, you may even encounter similar questions on the day of your test. There are multiple online resources and SAT prep books, such as Kaplan’s SAT prep Plus. Understanding the expectations for each component will save you time on exam day. 

2. Start With Familiar Questions

When going through the questions, look for ones you know. Answering these first is one of the common SAT strategies and saves you time. Consider marking the ones you aren’t sure of and coming back later. If you feel stuck, move on so you aren’t spending too much time on that question. In fact, you have an average of one minute and 30 seconds per question. 

As you’re working through each question, eliminate any wrong answers first. These are often easier to spot. Once you have narrowed down your choices, then you can make an educated guess. 

3. Write Neatly

Even though you may be in a rush, you still need your handwriting to be neat. Sloppy writing can make it harder for those scoring the test to identify your answer. Writing neatly is especially important for your essay section. If your handwriting undermines the reader’s understanding, it can reduce your score. 

You also want to have legible handwriting for the student response math sections. To write neater, try slowing down or changing your grip. 

4. Take Advantage of Your Test Booklet 

Use your test booklet to mark off wrong answers and do scratch work. It can help you get to the correct answer faster. It can also prevent careless mistakes by visually representing complex problems. For the reading section, looking at the questions first is one of the best SAT strategies. Then you can underline relevant parts of the passage as you read. 

5. Stay Inside the Bubbles 

Remember, a machine scores your answer sheet, so avoid any stray marks. The computer might accidentally identify them as a wrong answer. If you change your mind, be sure to erase the marking completely. 

6. Go With Your Gut 

Often your first answer is the right one. With the stress of the exam, you may find yourself second-guessing and your selections. So, only switch your choice if you strongly feel you made a mistake. Also, keep in mind there is only one correct answer, even though the test may try to trick you. 

7. Answer All Questions

In the current versions, you are not penalized for guessing. So, go with your best guess. Just remember to eliminate a few answers first. For the reading section, determine which responses support evidence from the passage. For the writing part, shorter answers are usually more correct. In terms of the math portion, try plugging in all the choices and carefully reviewing any visuals. 

8. Stay Focused 

Since the test is longer, it’s easy to get tired and careless. Make sure you’re correctly placing your answers in the right spot on the scantron. If you’re not paying attention, you may accidentally fill in the wrong bubble. 

As you go through each question, ensure you fully understand the expectations. Even if a question is familiar from a practice test, it could still be asking something different. 

9. Pace Yourself

You must keep track of time through the test. You don’t want to spend too much time on any one question. If you notice yourself overanalyzing a response, skip it and come back later. For the reading portion, take notes on the passage to save you time. Also, bring a watch, in case the clock at the center isn’t accurate. 

Also, take lots of practice exams, to become familiar with the questions. Make sure to only give yourself 180 minutes, which is the total length of the SAT. 

10. Memorize Certain Formulas

The math section will provide you with a list of formulas. However, this is one of the most useful time-saving SAT strategies. It can then allow you to focus on solving the problem. 

Here are a few formulas you might want to memorize: 

  • Average
  • Probability
  • Quadratic formula
  • Distance
  • Slope 

The Top Sat Strategies You Need to Know 

Taking the SAT is an essential step in preparing for college. While it may feel a little intimidating, you can find ways to make it easier. Review these common SAT strategies before your next test day. 

Written By