SAT Study Timeline

If you are taking the SAT this fall, winter or spring (here are the official SAT Registration Dates and deadlines), hopefully you have already started studying. If not, look at this timeline to give yourself the best chance at success.


ASAP: Take a practice test on the College Board TM website. In order to know how and what to study, you need to know how many improvement points you need to reach your goal (READ: “5 Awesome SAT Apps“).

Later Today: Make a list of colleges and universities that you want to apply to and then look up what your minimum score should be. Be careful here because schools like University of California use conversion charts. Make sure that your calculations are correct. Remember, the minimum score is just that. Try to shoot for 100-200 points above the minimum to give yourself a good shot.

Tomorrow: Assess your strengths and weaknesses. If you got a score of 750 in math but a 510 in the verbal sections and your dream school requires a minimum or 600 on both, you will need to focus your time on the Critical Reading and Writing sections. Also, beware of your scores of the Essay portion. Remember, your essay has two graders. So, if your score report states that you received a “6”, this is really a “3” (If you received a “12”, then you actually got a “6”, the highest score). Though the essay is now optional, it’s still a good idea to prepare for it whether or not you plan on doing it. Why? Because many college courses administer essay tests and it will be a good way to see if you’re prepared or not for that (READ: “8 Tips for the Optional SAT Essay“).

Find a Tutor: Be sure to mention the parts that you need to focus on the most. If you are taking the SAT in October, there is no time to waste. At TutorNerds, we pair you with the best Orange County in home SAT tutor based on how you learn. Our tutors have taken the SAT and tutored numerous students. They understand what has changed in the test, and how to best prepare. Don’t wait too late to book your private tutor! (READ: “SAT to drop essay requirement“)

Later this Week: Set aside 4-6 hours in your schedule for SAT study. SAT study includes time with your tutor, practice tests and concept study. Also, pick a day where you can mimic the real test. This will mean setting aside 3 hours and 45 minutes to sit in your room and take the full exam. Ask mom if you can borrow her kitchen timer and give yourself either 25, 20 or 10 minutes for each section according to the directions.

The Week Before the Test: Go over any concepts or test-taking strategies that have been a consistent problem. Schedule an extra session with your tutor if possible and commit yourself to conquering the SAT this fall (READ: “7 Tips to Maximize Your Tutoring Sessions“).

The Night Before the Test: make sure you have everything you need in a bag by the door. You won’t have time in the morning so make sure you have everything such as your ID, any paperwork etc…

Don’t study the night before, you will just stress yourself out. Rather, eat a high protein meal with plenty of fruit and veggies and lots of water (FYI soda does not count as water). Go to bed early so that you get 8-9 hours of sleep (READ: “Coping with Stress as a Teen“).

The Day Of: Get there early and do your best.

Taking the SAT Later than this Fall

If you are planning ahead you might be taking the SAT in June. Save yourself some stress and start your study timeline now.

Today: Take that College Board TM practice test as mentioned above.

Next Week: Make that college list and asses your strengths and weaknesses as mentioned above.

Two Weeks From Now: Arrange for a tutor. In your case, you will have more weeks of study so you will likely get by with 2-3 hours a week of self study assuming you are consistent throughout the year. Keep in mind that most students will not study for standardized tests much in September because those first few weeks of school are tough. Use your winter break wisely!

Throughout the Summer (If you’re taking it next year): Take a practice test every other week until you have reached your top score. If you haven’t reached that top goal yet, talk with your tutor about what is and is not working and she or he can help you focus on those issues.

Whether you are taking the SAT in October or June,  good luck and happy testing!

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