What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and which study methods are worth paying for?


Our counselors answered:

What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and which study methods are worth paying for?

Betsy Morgan
Founder College Matters LLC

There is no such thing as testing osmosis...

Know thyself! That is the key to finding the best test prep for you. If you are amazingly self-motivated, you may be fine with a free online study guide such as number2.com and the College Board question of the day. A social learner? A prep class with others is probably the way to go. Nervous Nellie? I suggest one-on-one tutoring. But remember, the best way to prepare for standardized testing is by doing sample problems – many, many sample problems. If you are counting on osmosis to do the trick, save your money!

Nitin Sawhney
Director of Tutoring Services Marks Education

Read and practice!...

The SAT has three parts: Critical Reading, Math and Writing.  If you're trying to strengthen the Reading and Writing parts, the best work you can do this summer is to read difficult 19th and very early 20th century British and American literature. You should also be working on vocabulary.  Marks Education's online vocabulary games and quizzes, free for anyone, are the best in the business. Marks Education's free online vocabulary quizzes and games are located here: http://markseducation.com/onlineresources/index.asp. Finally, if you haven't already done so, purchase the College Board's "The Official SAT Study Guide".  This book has 10 actual practice tests that are the closest thing you'll find to the real test.  

Pamela Ellis
President Compass Education Strategies LLC

Know for thyself before paying for SAT course...

Before investing in any expensive SAT program, students may want to consider a self-study program first. One on-line program that I recommend is ineedapencil.com. The practice questions offered through this site can provide students with an understanding of what the SAT is testing and which questions require more of their attention. If students try this method first and find that they are unable to commit to a regular practice schedule, then it’s time to find a local class that offers a small class size and individual attention on test-taking tips and content sections where more support is needed.

Nancy Griesemer
Founder College Explorations LLC

Boost test scores by reading...

If you don’t do anything else this summer to prepare for standardized tests, make time to READ!  And I don’t mean Teen Cosmo or Sports Illustrated.  Get reading lists from key classes like AP History, Literature, or Language.  Even if you’re not taking AP’s, find out what books you’ll be required to read next year.  Ask friends who’ve completed the classes or possibly contact your school to borrow some texts.  Regardless, reading eases transitions and boosts those scores.  But if great works of literature don’t work for the beach, try magazines.  Look for journals or read popular culture articles in The New Yorker. 

Jim McCorkell
CEO Admission Possible

Retakes in June of junior year unless English language is an issue...

We recommend that students take their college entrance exam in April of their junior year. If you decide you want to take the test a second time to improve your score, we have found that the greatest gains have occurred by taking the test again in June when the test experience is still fresh in your mind. The one exception is for students with English language barriers who tend to do better retaking the test later (October of their senior year, ideally). This gives you the benefit of several extra months of speaking, reading and writing in English. 

Jeannie Borin
Founder & President College Connections

Choosing Test Prep help...

The best way to prepare for the SAT is to get some strategic advice, obtain individualized guidance and take practice tests. Many students take test prep courses which are good for learning about the test, the timing, various sections, and how it is graded. Individualized tutoring help can be most effective because the student’s errors are carefully analyzed so that similar mistakes are not made on the actual test. Online practice tests are the most cost effective and in some cases provide excellent guidance.  The E-prep Program is unique in that a video screen appears that explains a student’s mistakes and clarifies the questions. Information and discounted rates are here: http://college-connections.com/online-test-preparation.html

Marjorie Goode
Founder Start Early: College & Career Planning Service

Prepare within your budget and you can still find success...

Frugal, yet effective methods I tell my counselees to pursue during the summer are test taking time management strategies, a review of their responses on the PSAT, and read more. Learning how to pace oneself for the exam can eliminate the error of spending too much time on questions that should be skipped; but instead, having sufficient time for questions that are comprehensible. Reasonably priced SAT manuals can be used to take a practice test with self-monitoring. If necessary, ask someone to control the clock for you. Review your PSAT answer summary and correct your incorrect responses. Evaluate obvious problem areas; for example, omitted questions at the end of sections indicate you ran out of time.

Rachelle Wolosoff
Founder CollegeSearchExpert.com

Don't just sit around! Be proactive in preparing for the SAT!...

For a start, check out Collegeboard.com and join the site. Look for Question of the Day at http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day. Take full practice exams…as many as you can take. Remember: Practice does make perfect. You will see some of the same questions repeat themselves. READ! READ whatever you like and I promise you, your vocabulary and comprehension will grow. If you are a visual learner, a great site to access, to learn vocabulary in a fun and exciting way, is to go to www.vocabvideos.com. As they say, they bring vocabulary to life. My students love this inexpensive tool.

Robin Groelle
Founder CollegeCounselling.com

No one does their best without some practice...

Understanding the testing format and having a personal strategy in place before testing are essential.  The College Board has developed an extensive tool in Quick Start which personalizes the practice plan based on your pattern of answers on your PSAT. Skills Insight requires the student to be self-motivated.  For a structured approach, I recommend using a tutor who can tailor the practice to your specific needs.  If this is too costly, then take an online course. Decide what’s best for you and remember to take both the ACT and SAT.  Colleges will accept either and some will even superscore – using the best sections from different test dates.

Gael Casner
Founder CollegeFindEdu.com

Let your learning style determine the best SAT Prep...

If you are a senior and haven’t taken the SAT yet, don’t despair; you have three chances in the fall: October, November and December.   Disciplined, independent learners will want to buy The Official SAT Study Guide from the makers of the SAT or sign up for The Official SAT Online Course, an interactive approach to studying. Both are excellent value for the money. Another terrific SAT prep site that’s absolutely free is www.number2.com.  If, on the other hand, you tend to procrastinate or need a little push, then working with a tutor during August and September makes the most sense.