The SAT is a difficult test even for American students - so first of all, congratulations for taking on the challenge. Taking the SAT can increase your chances of being admitted into universities and getting financial aid. While the SAT is difficult, the good news is that you don’t have to be a genius or even a native English speaker to get a good score - here we’re sharing our top 9 tips on how to ace the test.
When applying to colleges and preparing for the SAT, it’s important to keep in mind the important deadlines. It is advised to start applying to colleges one year before you plan to enroll. Since it takes about 3- 4 weeks for your SAT to be scored and for the scores to be sent to colleges, you should make sure that you take the test at least 3-4 weeks before your college application deadlines. The SAT is offered internationally in most countries up to six times each year — in October, November, December, January, May, and June. The registration deadline for the SAT is about one month before the test date. Information on international registration and test dates can be found on the Official SAT website, collegeboard.com.
2. Know where the closest SAT test center is
In countries outside the U.S., SAT testing is only offered in select centers. Make sure you research which testing center is closest to you, and make arrangements to arrive there on time on test day. To find the closest testing center to you, search your city in the Find Test Centers section of collegeboard.com.
The #1 way to prepare for the SAT is to practice as much as possible. Especially for non-native English speakers, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the wording and format of the SAT so you don’t get slowed down on test day. We recommend that you leave 4-6 months of preparation time before taking the SAT, and take at least three practice tests before test day.
4. Review your mistakes
When you do practice problems and take practice tests, the most important thing to do is to go back and check the problems you got wrong. It can be discouraging to look back on your mistakes, but finding out what areas you’re weak in and strengthening those areas is the key strategy to improving your score.
5. Get familar with the directions ahead of time
This might sound obvious, but taking time to become familiar with the directions will make it so that you can merely skim them on test day, saving you time on the test. You can find the compiled directions for each section of the SAT in College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide.
The SAT tests students on reading comprehension and writing, and so having a solid level of English will help you to get a higher score in the Reading and Writing sections, as well as Math. While the minimum TOEFL score for most colleges is 71, it is recommended that you have a score of 90 before taking the SAT.
This tip is recommended even for native English speakers, as reading will equip you with better comprehension and analytical skills that are needed for the SAT. Reading short stories, articles, and nonfiction pieces in English starting at least 4-6 months before the test date will help you improve your reading comprehension skills and get a better grasp on English grammar. It is also good preparation to boost your TOEFL score, which is also a criterion for admission and financial aid.
The Essay portion of the SAT is optional. If one of the colleges you will be applying to requires the essay, then of course you should take the essay. If not, then you will have to make an informed decision on whether or not you want to take the essay. The essay can be tricky for non-native English speakers, because you will be deducted points on grammar and spelling mistakes. However, if you follow step #4 and #5 and boost your English level, preparing for writing the essay itself will only be a matter of practice.
9. Know which questions to guess on
The SAT isn’t as difficult for its content as much as for the time constraints. As such, it’s important to focus your time on the questions you are more likely to get correct. Luckily, the SAT has been redesigned so that you will not get points off for wrong answers, so you should fill out an answer for every question - even if it’s a guess. Since the questions in each section of the SAT go from easiest to hardest, it’s better to focus on the earlier questions that you’re more likely to get right, and guess on the last 3-6 questions in each section.