For the most part, all of the students who do well on the SAT typically have one thing in common: strong study habits.
Most students are not able to score in the 99th percentile on their first try, so they have to spend time learning from their mistakes on the first test and mastering the concepts that will be on the test so that they can improve on their next attempt.
To earn an SAT score that falls in the 99th percentile, students must be willing to set aside hours each week to study.
As a rule of thumb, here is the amount of time students need to improve their SAT scores:
- 10+ hours of studying to maintain their score
- 20+ hours of studying for a score improvement of 10-100 points
- 40+ hours of studying for a score improvement of 100-150 points
- 80+ hours of studying for a score improvement of 150-200 points
- 150+ hours of studying for a score improvement of more than 200 points
While it is helpful to know about how many hours you will need to study to boost your SAT score, it can be daunting to know exactly how to break these hours down effectively.
In order to get an impressive test score, you need to make sure that you develop a specific SAT study schedule to help you manage your time and study more efficiently and effectively.
Developing an SAT study schedule
To determine whether or not a particular study schedule will work for you, there are a few factors you will need to consider:
- Your target score
- Your baseline score
- Your SAT test date
Your target score
Your target score is the SAT score you need to reach to give yourself the best possible chance of getting into your dream college and earning scholarship money.
Do some research on the College Board Big Future website to see the 75th percentile SAT scores for each of the colleges on your list. If the vast majority of accepted applicants at your top schools score within a particular range, you will want to make sure that your target score is at the high end of this range.
Look at scholarship programs and individual scholarships you are eligible for and see if they have any minimum SAT score requirements. If so, adjust your target score accordingly.
Once you have a target score, you will have a goal to aim for and a better idea of how much time you will need to spend studying in order to reach your goal.
Your baseline score
The next step you’ll need to take to determine an ideal SAT study schedule is to find your baseline score and see how far away it is from your target score.
Take a practice SAT test (there are eight official practice SAT tests on the College Board website) and determine your score.
If this baseline score is only 10-20 points away from your target score, then you won’t have to spend more than a couple of weeks studying. However, if your baseline score is over 100 points away from your goal, you may need to budget a couple of months worth of studying to earn your target score.
Your SAT test date
Once you know your SAT test date and roughly how many hours you will need to spend studying in order to improve, you will have a good idea of how frequently you need to study each week to do well on the SAT.
If your test date is 4 months away and you need to put in 150 hours of study time, you should probably spend about 10 hours per week to reach your goal. If your test date is 3 months away and you need to put in 40 hours of study time, you may only need to study for about 4 hours per week.
Remember, there is not a magic number of hours per week that each student needs to study for in order to score within the 99th percentile on the SAT. Ultimately, you will want to craft a study schedule based on your specific needs.
Tips for studying effectively
While it is clear that students who want to do well on the SAT need to devote several hours to studying, it is important to know that the number of hours spent studying means nothing if students aren’t using this time to study effectively.
Spending 150 or even 300 hours going through practice questions without looking at the correct answer or reviewing every mistake won’t lead to a massive score increase, for example. In fact, this would just be a waste of time.
Once you have crafted a study schedule and you know how much time you need to study each week before test day, you need to come up with a plan to make sure you are making the most of these hours.
Here are a few tips to help you study effectively:
Review your mistakes
This is probably the most important tip that you can take away from this article. If you are not reviewing your mistakes when you take practice quizzes or answer practice questions, you are not going to improve on the test.
For each question that you miss when you study, you should do the following:
- Find the correct answer
- Find out why the answer you selected couldn’t possibly be correct
- Find out why the correct answer is the only possible correct answer
This will help you avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future while allowing you to learn how to tackle those questions when you take the actual test.
Don’t forget about your strengths
Many students make the mistake of neglecting to study for areas where they already do well on practice tests.
While it makes sense why students might think it’s not important to study these areas, it is important not to avoid your strong suits when preparing for the SAT. If you don’t at least brush up on these areas before your test, it is likely that you will be a bit rusty and not do as well on these areas as you might have expected.
Get help from experts
For many students, self-study is not enough for them to earn their target score on the SAT. While studying on your own is better than not studying at all, it can be hard for you to know how to study effectively if you do not have much knowledge or experience with the SAT.
This is why many students prepare for the SAT by taking an SAT prep course or working with a private SAT tutor.
With either or both of these options, you will have the opportunity to learn from expert instructors with the experience and expertise necessary to help you make the most of your study time. These experts will help you learn the strategies you need to improve your SAT score, and they will help you strengthen your weaknesses on the test without ignoring the areas where you are already strong.
Visit our website to learn more about how you can improve your SAT score through private tutoring and SAT prep courses at Prep Expert.