Takeaway: The date and administration of the next SAT are uncertain, but the next steps students should take are certain — and will result in higher scores, lower anxiety.


Along with almost everything else, the timing and nature of the next SAT has become uncertain.  As of April 30th, here’s an edited version of what’s posted on the website of the administrator of the SAT, the College Board:

If it’s safe from a public health standpoint, we’ll provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August. This includes a new administration on September 26 as well as on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5…  Students can register for these administrations starting in May… For each administration, we’re preparing to significantly expand our capacity for students to take the SAT once schools reopen.

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Four months — 120 days — is  time to become  familiar with the unique format of the test, to learn math skills that show up on every test,  even enough time to greatly improve reading speed and vocabulary breadth — foundational skills that take time and lead to significant score increases. 

Even though it’s uncertain when the next SAT will be held, or how it will be administered, you can still prepare.  To help get going, think about the next step you can do and put aside all the things you cannot change or cannot do.  Here are three simple next steps:

1. Organize your test prep. Get the tools you need on hand, so it’s easy to create a daily routine.   Two simple steps:  First, you will need practice tests, and the best practice questions are from actual SATS.   Buy or borrow “The Official SAT Study Guide,” which contains eight actual SATs, including answer sheets.  Those same tests are available on the College Board website, but unless you can print for “free,” the book is cheaper and more compact.    Do your actual test practice on paper, since the College Board is still (mostly) committed to traditional pencil and paper testing.  You’ll also retain more and improve faster by practicing with pencil and paper.  Second, sign up for help and daily progress!  Get a College Board account, the CB app, and a Khan Academy account at  www.collegeboard.org.   You will stay up to date, get a daily practice and vocabulary,  and have access to Khan Academy’s library of questions.  You  can scan your test practice  sheets and get it scored through your phone.  Sign up for other accounts (vocabulary/dictionary/test prep companies) as well if you are willing to share your email addresses  .

2. Read!  Build reading into your schedule.  Reading makes you better at reading!  You can become remarkably familiar with the format of the SAT by August, and one predictable aspect of the test is the length, variety, and arrangement of the Reading section.  It’s always five passages, each 500-750 words long, total of 3250 words, with one literature, one social science passage, one history and two science passages.  Fifteen minutes a day of reading newspaper or magazine articles (which often fit the word count and difficulty level of the SAT) will sharpen your reading speed and comprehension and help you on all four parts of the test.  To get to an even higher score, get a composition notebook or create a tab in your looseleaf notebook to write down any unfamiliar words you encounter in your reading, then look up their definitions.  Learning four words a day will add 400 new words to your vocabulary by August!

3. Take a diagnostic1  practice test.  This will take three hours, a table and chair, and relative quiet.  Do the best you can with what you’ve got!  Wear headphones/earbuds if you need to (even though you can’t wear them on the test).   If you can’t carve out a three-hour block of time, do a section at a time — 65 minutes for Reading, 35 minutes for Writing and Language, 20 minutes for Math No Calculator, 55 minutes for Math with Calculator.  The three hours will guide what you do next and make your subsequent2 practice time much more efficient.  If you score it through the app, you will get a list of the questions you missed and the topics tested by those questions.

It’s important to distinguish between content and strategy.  The Khan Academy tutorials on the College Board site are good for learning content, but poor for learning useful test taking strategies — for strategies, you’ll need a SAT specific test prep book or a tutor.  The content and the format are 100% predictable, but how  the SAT asks what it asks makes each test different.   The postponement of the SAT means you have time to learn content and strategy.  The earlier you learn content, the earlier you can shift your practice focus to strategy — getting remarkably familiar with the unique format of the SAT and how you should best approach taking each section.

These three “next steps”— putting your tools at your fingertips, daily reading, and taking a practice test — will start you on a path to being very well prepared, no matter when or where the SAT is held next.  Get started today — your future self will thank you!

Questions?  Contact me at yourcollegestrategies@gmail.com

More information at yourcollegestrategies.com

Here’s a fun speed reading link-- https://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/technology-research-centers/ereaders/speed-reader/

1-Diagnosis-- investigation or analysis of the cause or nature of a condition

2-Subsequent—following in time or order

It doesn’t take long to learn new words!