SAT (originally Scholastic Aptitude Test)

SAT Study Tips: Share study materials, and focus on your weaknesses!

by michelledimino on 6/13/2014 9:19 PM

Two of the most important things I learned while preparing for the SAT were that your score and your wallet can benefit from studying with friends, and that even though it's not always the most fun, turning weaknesses into strengths is something you won't regret when test day rolls around.

I know that when I was starting to look into SAT prep materials, I was shocked by how expensive they could be. I bought one review book and was very happy with some sections of it but less so with others, and one of my best friends bought a book from another publisher and had the same experience. Once we figured this out, we looped in a third friend who was using an altogether different review book and pooled our resources. By opting to not write in the books and to rotate them around on a set schedule, we were able to get insight into the test from three different angles... and have over ten practice exams available to each of us. Each of us saved money, and sometimes we even took practice exams together so we could discipline each other to sit through them and spend the full allotted time on each section.

Focusing on my weaknesses was by far the least fun part of prepping for the SAT. I'm a perfectionist, and I admit that I would prefer to take practice questions I knew I'd have a better shot at getting right (for me, the verbal sections) than those I wasn't as confident with (math has never been my strong suit). As I graded my own practice tests, though, I realized this wasn't actually helping me at all—I was wasting my own time without raising my score in the areas in which I needed to. I can't say I enjoyed it at the time, but I know recognize that changing my study plan to focus on the math sections that I was weakest at is the factor that helped me to get the score I wanted on the SAT.

A huge part of this was actually reading all the math content review sections: although I decently remembered algebra skills and didn't necessarily feel like reading over definitions of integers and basic operations, the refresher could only help. When I got a problem wrong, my gut instinct was often to turn the page and not look at it again—but likewise, that wasn't helping me at all. So when I got math questions wrong, I started pushing myself to thoroughly read the explanation the book offered for that problem, often reading it out loud to myself or trying to explain it in my own words to others. Since going back over the problem only minutes after I'd first solved it didn't always give the best way to know if I'd actually come to understand it, I would then mark those problems to review them a couple days later and see how I did then. If a type of problem gave me particular difficulty, I would keep isolating those questions in all my review materials and work through as many of those problems as possible, until I began to become comfortable with them.

Though focusing on your weaknesses isn't something we're often inclined to do, it is a major part of improving your score on tests like the SAT, and helping yourself to become more well-rounded across the portions of the test. Don't think of it as focusing on your weaknesses—think about it as turning as many parts of the test as possible into your strengths. You'll feel much more confident going into the exam knowing that you have a reason to believe that you can succeed in questions both within and outside of your natural comfort zones.

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michelledimino's Test Prep Summary
Took the test in 2009.
Studied 50 hours and thought it was the right amount.
Was very satisfied with their score.
Studied using Kaplan SAT Strategies, Practice, and Review with Practice Tests from Kaplan Test Prep and rated 3 stars out of 5
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