My sincerest hope is that when you loaded the page at College Board’s site that contained your May SAT scores, you were elated. If, however, the numbers on the screen left you dismayed, you shouldn’t waste time sulking. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start plotting your revenge. Here, I’ll help:
- Is the June test an option? If your May test scores fell far below the practice tests you’d been taking, then you might have simply fallen victim to test day jitters. In such cases, it’s best to get right back on the horse if you can. You don’t want to internalize those lower scores and start considering them your new baseline, and the summer is a long time to have to wait if you feel that you’re already at peak test taking condition. The June test is one week from today, but you might still be able to take it on standby even if you haven’t signed up yet. A lot of kids will be thinking the same thing, though, and fewer schools give the SAT in June than do so in May, so you might have to do a bit of traveling, and you might have to sweat it out a bit on the morning of the test.
- Order the Question and Answer Service (QAS). For the May test, you can actually order a test booklet and a report of all your responses. That’s a great way to drill down into the areas of the test that caused you the most trouble, and will be a valuable tool this summer as you get lean and mean. If you ordered when you registered, you could have ordered online, but you can also order after the test by mail.
- Don’t wait for the QAS to arrive to start working on weak areas. If you prepped heavily for the May test, you probably already have a good idea of what areas are still soft for you, so start seeking out drills that focus heavily on them. If you struggle with circle questions, do every circle question you can get your hands on. If you don’t already know what your weak areas are, try my free diagnostic drills. The answer keys contain links to additional practice questions similar to the ones you missed.
- Prep smart, and you won’t have to prep as hard. Too many kids just take practice test after practice test and then get exasperated when the big improvements don’t come. It is important to take some full length practice tests on your journey, but you don’t need to do that every time. When a runner prepares for a marathon, she rarely runs marathon distances. Most of the training consists of shorter, focused workouts. So it is with the SAT. As you discover weaknesses, spend a few short sessions focusing on them until they’re strengths. You might find that you see big results with 20-30 minutes of prep per day.
- A large improvement comes in increments. You can improve 100 points on your overall score simply by improving your performance on each multiple choice section by one question. Seriously. Do that a couple times over the summer, and the SAT won’t know what hit it when you take it again in the fall.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re not taking a course or working with a tutor, that doesn’t mean you have to go it completely alone. There are plenty of people on the internet willing to help. As you probably know, I’ve got my own Tumblr Q&A service where you can submit questions.
- Don’t put it off. With the weather getting nicer by the day and school ending, it’s easy to say you’ll start studying for the SAT later. If you want to avoid the feeling you had this morning checking your scores, you’ll resist that urge and find a few minutes every day to study.