If you’re taking the SAT next weekend and you haven’t really started studying yet, you should know right now that you’ve not set yourself up for overwhelming success (or even regular-whelming success). Still, you’re not alone in your predicament, and Goonies never say “die.” I’m not going to say anything profound here, but I figured I’d write up a last-minute study (cram) plan to try to maximize your score in as short a time as possible. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, then use this as a starting off point for your more assiduous preparation schedule with the May or June in mind.
- MONDAY: When you get home from school, take a full SAT, strictly timed. If you have the Blue Book, use one in there (preferably one of the first 3). If you don’t, you can get a free test from the College Board, but you’re going to have to print it (I don’t recommend taking it online—the real test won’t be on a computer screen). Assuming you don’t have extra time accommodations, this should take you just under 4 hours. Correct it and score it. Scoring instructions are included at the end of the test—make sure you’re scoring it correctly. Go to sleep.
- TUESDAY: Set aside 2 hours (or more) to review all your errors in the READING section (Reading comes first because I don’t want you to forget what the passages were about). Review means understanding why every single wrong answer was wrong, and why each right answer was right. Disabuse yourself of the notion that questions on the SAT are subjective. Each right answer is right, and each wrong answer is wrong. Note line references that reveal or discredit answers. You should be able to explain any question to a complete stranger. You should also take note of any vocabulary words you don’t know, although honestly you’re unlikely to increase your vocabulary much in a week.
- WEDNESDAY: Again, set aside 2 hours (or more) to review the MATH sections of that test. If you took one of the first 3 Blue Book tests, use my technique guides (Test 1 | Test 2 | Test 3) to help you understand your mistakes and refine your approach to those question types. See if I (or one of my friends) has posted longer solutions to any questions that stump you. If we haven’t, ask me! Again, you should be able to explain each question on the test to a stranger before you call it a night.
As I said, there’s nothing sagacious in this advice. It’s a brute force solution, not an elegant one. But if you can carve out time to do this, you’ll be in a much better position on test day than you otherwise would have been. Make the best of this week, take the test with as much swagger as you can muster, and if Saturday doesn’t go as you’d hoped, use your work this week as the baseline for your prep moving forward.
- It’s also of paramount importance that, if you don’t already know how the math section is set up and how that should inform your test taking strategy. Read the following:
- THURSDAY: You guessed it: today is WRITING day. You know the drill by now. Set aside a couple hours, and review your mistakes. Pay special attention to the SAT’s favorite errors to test—the ones that sound simple but can be very tricky to spot: Verb errors, Pronoun Errors, Run-on Sentences. Watch out for Dangling Modifiers, too. Don’t worry too much about the essay—it won’t affect your score as much as the multiple choice grammar questions—but read this Dos and Don’ts post to avoid some of the most common errors.
- FRIDAY: Set your stuff out for Saturday: Calculator (with new batteries if possible), pencils, admission ticket. And then chill. Seriously. Just chill. The best thing you can do now is get some rest, so you can wake up on Saturday ready to go. Eat a good meal, watch a movie, and go to bed early. In the morning, you’ll have work to do.
- SATURDAY: Don’t break your usual routine. Eat breakfast if you usually do. Have coffee if you usually do. Try to get to the test center early so you aren’t stressing on the ride over about being late. Breathe.