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?

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services


Every tutor I have spoken to has stated that the best way to prepare is through practice. Sign up for the free questions of the day. Purchase a prep book. Take as many exams as possible under test-taking conditions. All of these strategies are cost-conscious ways to prepare for the test and they are effective methods but you have to really be self-motivated. If you know that you will not study then considered taking a prep course.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Test Prep: Make the Choice that Works for You

There is no one right way to prepare for standardized tests, but given the reality of the ever competitive application process, it almost imperative that a prospective applicant undertake some form of test preparation. As to which is best, a lot depends upon a student’s learning style. Some need the formal classroom like approach, while for others a computer program might be the best way to go. Meanwhile, one-on- one tutoring might be best for someone else. The approaches, not to mention the costs, vary widely, but if one wants to compete effectively , it is definitely in their best interests to undertake some kind of advance preparation.

Jeana Robbins

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

It's important to take the PSAT. Development of good study habits, time management, organization, and an overall focus in academics will help students to succeed. Tutoring and study groups are often advantageous.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

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

The best ways to prepare for the SAT are to understand the derivations of words (prefixes, suffixes, context clues, synonyms, analogies, etc.) in context through reading and practice (using study guides, etc.). My personal thought regarding paying for SAT Prep courses is up to the person and depends heavily on your learning style, I believe that there are many tools available for a person to study independently or online, but if you need a classroom environment you must choose the best approach for you.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

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

The best way to study is entirely dependent on your learning style. Once that is determined then specific methods are more important and a better use of your mom and dad's money than others. Either way, having a credentialed teacher who is well-versed in differentiating education would be the best choice.

Mike Kent
Founder / Director CollegeMax Counseling

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

One of the best ways to prepare is to be sure you are taking numerous practice tests along the way. Whether you prep on your own, or with a tutor, you want to get yourself into the habit of practice that will be like the real thing. That means setting the timer and taking the equivalent of a full section without interruption. In addition to getting more experience on the problems, you will start to feel more comfortable with the pacing and timing. Remember, you can't train for a marathon (the SAT/ACT) by just doing sprints alone (individual practice problems without ever taking full sections)! Mike Kent CollegeMax Counseling mdkent99@att.net

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

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

Review old exams and either take a group course or get 1 on 1 tutoring.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

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

Paying for a private tutor will often yield a high return on investment. You will be admitted to more schools and earn more merit aid.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

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

A study method worth paying for is one that has proven results. I woud say the top 2 things every student should purchase are the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide and Real ACTs and then depending on whether you prefer private tutoring, a classroom setting, or an online program, opt for something tailored to your needs.

Rebecca Grappo
Founder and president RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC

SAT and ACT Prep – Is it Worth the Time and Money?

Few letters strung together like “SAT” or “ACT” can conjure up as much fear, anxiety, and dread in a student as these! Students hear the hype about college admissions and think that their very future depends on their SAT or ACT score. In some ways, they are right – but in other ways they are very wrong.

When applying to highly or very selective colleges, the SAT or ACT score is one of several critically important factors in the admissions process. If this is the goal, then yes, every point might count. Yet many other highly selective colleges and universities have gone “test optional” and no longer require standardized testing at all. Still other less selective colleges and universities do not require scores that reach the stratosphere, and will look at a student for his/her potential and motivation to learn more than they look at the test score. The standardized test score is just one component of what colleges are looking for.

So when it comes to SAT/ACT preparation, is it worth the time and money? It depends. The Times Union in Albany , New York, had an article this morning about the effective of test prep. In it, they quote the College Board, creator of the SAT, as saying that test preparation will not dramatically raise scores, and the Princeton Review has been pressured by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus to drop the claim that their “Ultimate Classroom” SAT prep class will be able to raise scores by 255 points.

What is a student and parent supposed to think with this kind of information? Does this mean it’s just not worth the time and money to even try to prepare? I personally think that yes, a student should prepare for these standardized tests, and that they should take them, even if they apply to a school that is test optional. They can decide later whether or not to submit the scores. “Better to have it than not” is my motto. But I also think that students and parents need to be reasonable about their expectations (expect improvement but don’t expect miracles), and be wise and strategic in how the student prepares.

I have a variety of SAT and ACT preparation materials on my website under resources – college. Some resources listed are free, and others are fee-based. My advice to students is first of all, know yourself. Are you motivated and disciplined enough that you can study by yourself? If so, there is plenty of free help out there. Do you work well in a group that is led by an instructor with an approach that fits the average student taking the class? Then take a class. But perhaps the most effective method to prepare is to know how you learn, what you need to improve in order to perform better, and how to attack the standardized test strategically. If the family can afford it, I highly recommend private instruction with well-trained and professional SAT/ACT tutors. A true professional really understand the test, how it works, how to strategize to take it, will administer a diagnostic test to assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses, and then customizes instruction to meet the student’s individual needs.

As with everything else in life and college applications, be reasonable. Everything is best in moderation. I advise the students I work with to make a plan, do their best, be informed, but to not let the SAT or ACT rule their life. It does not define who the student is. Instead of investing too much time in test preparation, students should be finding their passions, doing their best in academics, and contributing to their school communities in other positive and meaningful ways. That’s how they will really get the desired college’s attention!