SAT PREPARATION- Testing Strategies, Vocabulary Improvement, and Language Mastery

Here is an overview of my 5 BEST TIPS for realizing your highest potential on the SAT:
  1. Read and Write Daily- Do not read just fluffy stuff from internet sites or think that your emails constitute all the daily writing you need (join a writer's group and keep a journal).  Most importantly, read thoughtful, intelligent articles from reputable sources (like the Wall Street Journal) on a daily basis on topics that stimulate your thinking and challenge your vocabulary.  This is the best approach for long-term improvement in reading and writing.
  2. Study High-Frequency SAT Vocabulary Lists- There are many of these word lists obtainable on the Internet. The problem is that you may not retain the words using a crash-course study approach.  This won't be helpful for long term unless you pace your study of the words and see words in their context.  I recommend a 7 day study approach.  Study 30-50 words each day for two days in a row using flash cards, review the list of words studied on the 3rd day, (repeat this cycle the next 3 days and then rest on the 7th day of study).  You will improve your capacity and potential for memory retention if you do this.  Again, the first tip is the best approach for long-term retention.
  3. Study Word Origins, Roots, Suffixes, and Prefixes, Synonyms and Antonyms- You can quickly multiply the number of words you know by adding these to the flash cards of the words you are studying.  You will learn families of words by knowing Latin origins in particular. This can be an incredible boost to your knowledge. However, learning words in context (seeing how they are properly used in writing and sample sentences) is the most effective way to truly learn a word.
  4. Finish the Test Within the Time Limit and DO NOT LEAVE ANY BLANK!- Unless you run across the unusually challenging question where you can not eliminate a single incorrect choice among the answers, then you should guess to improve your statistical odds of getting the question right from a guess. The -.25 point score from an incorrect answer is statistically less likely to occur if you can eliminate the answer choices you know to be wrong. Your potential gain (and test score) and your chance of getting an answer correct by guessing is greatly increased through the elimination of answers you know to be wrong (However, you must eliminate at least 1 wrong choice to improve the odds of your guess and make it worth the -.25 point risk factor).
  5. Finally, Read the Questions First (but, not the answer choices) for the reading selection passages BEFORE you read the passage.  This way you will be keen to pay attention in particular to what you will need to extract from the passage before you read it. If you read all the answer options as well as the questions first, you are likely to get bogged down by spending too much time on a question, and perhaps become confused.  After reading the questions ONLY, then move on to the reading selection always asking yourself the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, AND WHY information from the passage. Read the questions again after reading (using the line references if needed) and try to anticipate the answer to the question prior to reading the answer choices.  If you see the answer you anticipated among the choices, then the odds are it is the correct choice!  Trust yourself, your intuition and what grammatically "sounds right."


Stacey S.

Stanford Educated Tutor with 20 years Professional Experience

300+ hours
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