I don’t know you, but I kinda know you. I know that, generally speaking, you’re a motivated kid. That’s why you’re sitting here reading a blog about the SAT. You know what you want and you’re trying to figure out how to get it. And you know that between you and your goal, there’s this test. Whether you consider it a stupid hoop you’re forced to jump through like a trained dog, or another interesting challenge in your young academic career doesn’t matter much. Either way, you want to do your best.

I also know that the SAT probably isn’t the first big challenge you’ve ever faced. You might be an athlete, or a musician. You might compete Quiz Bowl, or speech and debate. You might just be able to do this gross thing. And if you’re any good, it’s taken work to get that way. You might have been able to coast by on innate ability when you were a bit younger, but if you play a varsity sport, or compete on a regional or state level in any of those other activities, you and the people you compete with practice constantly.

You’re competing on a national level when you take the SAT. People from all over the country will contribute to your eventual percentile ranking. And then some of those same people will apply to the same schools as you. And I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that even if your friends are not doing so, many of those kids you’re competing against are taking the SAT very seriously.

You needn’t panic. But you should make it a point not to take days off. Even if you only have 10 minutes to study some vocab words, make sure you do a tiny bit of SAT work every single day. In the long run, those short practice sessions add up to serious practice time. Here are some little things you can do in under 30 minutes that, in the long run, might pay off big for you:

  • Learn 10 vocabulary words.
  • Read something written for adults, like a NY Times op ed, and discuss it with an adult. Focus on the writer’s argument, and how she makes it. For example, does she begin by telling you what the people she disagrees with think, or does she get right into her own beliefs? What rhetorical strategies does she employ to make her point?
  • Read the wikipedia page for a book you read a while back, or a historical event you’ve learned about in the past, and brush up on the details so that it might be a useful piece of evidence to cite on your essay.
  • Write a practice essay, and ask a teacher, parent, or friend to critique it for you. The 4 prompts from the most recent test administration can be found here.
  • Do one whole section of a practice test, and correct it. Note that the value of a practice section is realized in going over it later, so if all you have time for today is taking a section, make it a priority to go over that section in agonizing detail tomorrow.
  • Read a few posts on this one awesome SAT blog you know.
  • Try one of my diagnostic drills. They’re meant to help you identify weak areas and refer you to the concepts and techniques you should study to turn them into strengths!

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