5 Helpful Hints For The SAT

For juniors and seniors, even sophomores, the SAT is like a thunderstorm looming overhead.  After attending the SAT Boot Camp only a few weekends ago, I learned some valuable lessons to help guide you through the storm. We cannot stop the rain, but we can definitely bring an umbrella. 

1.    Read carefully.

No matter which section of the SAT you take, the writers of the test are always trying to trick you. One word can change the whole meaning of the sentence, and that word will just pass you by.

For Math: Look out for words or phrases like different numbers, or 3 other numbers (suggesting 4)

For Reading Comprehension: Look out for specific words or phrases, and whether or not they apply to a more general question, or vice versa.

2.    Long sentences filled with massive vocabulary do not always imply the right answer or the highest score.

JSW = Just Sounds Weird: Just because something sounds weird doesn’t mean it’s the right answer. Complex answers don’t mean they are the best answers.

3.    The Essay

For the class of 2017 and on, this section does not pertain to you as much. Starting next year, the essay has become an option for the SAT, not a requirement. So while my fellow juniors and I go and complain and cry, sophomores do not have to fear the essay. But if you have to write it, or choose to do so, a few helpful hints include:

i.     Keep your essay to the point. You don’t have much time to write, and your ideas should be concise and clear.

ii.     Don’t flood your essay with impressive SAT vocabulary words if they aren’t complementary to your writing. Throw in                                                        a few here and there to prove you know your stuff, and then move on.

iii.     Have background knowledge. The SAT essay questions are very general, philosophical questions. Therefore, tying in                                                          real-life applications prove you can apply your knowledge to your work and impress your grader with your                                                                             knowledge. Think of some historical figures, literary works, and historical events before the test, preferably ones that                                                       apply to some greater meaning.

4.    50/50

When I first took the PSAT, I answered every question. I had no clue what the answer was to about half of them, but just took my best guess. I found out the following day that if you don’t answer the question, you lose 0 points. If you answer one incorrectly, you lose a quarter of a point.

The best choice to make is cut down your options to two, and then make your best educated guess. If you can’t cut it down to two, then skip that one, answer the ones you really believe you can get right, and if there is time, go back to it.

For the math open-ended, always answer them. If you get it wrong, you don’t lose points, so always put something in the box. It can’t hurt you; it can only help you.

 5.    Do not become stressed.

Time is of the essence. If you spend half the test wiping the sweat off your forehead, you’re only making things harder for yourself.

In order to be better prepared, know this when walking into your test:

The first part of the SAT is the essay. It always has been, and always will be (at least until the new test is administered).

The last section of the test will be grammar. Do not be caught off guard, but be prepared to tackle any grammar questions that come your way.


With all of these tips in mind, you may start to feel more confident before walking into that exam room. Best of luck!