Best Time to Prepare for the SAT

We all know that kid who started to study for the SAT back in 8th grade. Yea, he or she is probably a nerd, but somewhere deep inside we all wish we’d had the same foresight they did. As an 11th or 12th grader, there’s so much going on between school work, extracurriculars, and friends, that it literally seems impossible to squeeze in a couple hours for SAT prep.

As a College Advisor and SAT Coach, parents often ask me when the best time to start studying for the exam is. My answer is usually very simple. The best time to start is right now. If you’re in 11th grade, well you better get on it. This isn’t a test you can just wing and hope for the best on. And if you’re in 8th, 9th, or 10th grade, well then it’s in your best interest to start now too. Ask any of your seniors, I guarantee you they wish they’d started preparing a little sooner.

This post is an appeal to the 8th-10th grade parents and students. The SAT is not a difficult exam. You don’t have to be a genius to score in the 95th percentile. What you do need, however, is the patience, preparation, and concentration to familiarize yourself with the nooks and crannies of the test.

The test itself is fairly simple. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Read a passage and write an analytical essay about it.
  2. Learn your grammar rules.
  3. Read a passage and understand the authors intent.
  4. Learn your math concepts and formulas.

Yep, that’s it. It’s not rocket science, it just requires work. If you start studying in 9th grade, you can learn one grammar rule per month, and become a Grammar Master by the time you’re in 11th grade. Practice one problem per day for the next two years, and by the time you sit for the exam in 11th grade, you won’t even bat an eyelash at the Writing Section.

If the Critical Reading section makes you quiver in your boots, then break down a single passage per week for the next year or two. You’re not an idiot, I promise you you’ll get the hang of it. Over time you’ll understand the nuances of tone and inference, you just need some time to grapple with it. And eventually, once these things become second nature to you, then you can start working on time management as well. It’s this combination of knowing your concepts and managing your time that will get you your highest score.

The real problem is when 11th or 12th graders come for Test Prep 4 weeks before the exam date and expect to cram there way to a 1450. If that’s something you can do, then kudos to you. But for the vast majority of people, it’s just not going to work out that way. You need TIME.

And anyways, doesn’t it sound 1000x better to practice 15 minutes per day than 6, 7, or 8 hours? The answer is yes. A huge, whopping, resounding YES. Don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to maximise your score because you decided to put it off for too long.

If you’re a student, listen to your parents, start studying now. Take the 15–20 minutes today to sit down and dig into a problem, and save yourself the headache a few years from now. While the other kids are cramming for 10 hours a night, you can be out playing basketball or video games, or whatever it is you like to do.

And if you’re a parent, don’t be afraid that your kid is not old enough or prepared enough to start studying for the exam. They are. Do yourselves and them a favor by sitting them down, without a huge lecture or pressure if you can avoid it, and start preparing a little at a time. A few years from now, you’ll both be grateful for it.