Plan For College

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to Improve SAT Scores and Get Into Your Dream School

Pretty soon school will be winding down for the year, and you won't have the pressure of homework, exams, papers, and projects. Without these deadlines, summer is an excellent opportunity to focus on the SAT exam and get the score that will help you get into your dream school.

If you've already taken the SAT, you have a benchmark for where you stand and what areas you may need to improve. Aim for the top 25 percentile range for the schools to which you will be applying. If you haven't taken the SAT yet....
... take a practice test and use that score as your benchmark to see where you fall in the range of students previously accepted to that college or university.

How do you know the range of SAT scores your school typically accepts? Check out this complete listing of college profiles and click on the schools to which you will apply. If you aren't sure what schools you will apply to yet, there's no need to worry. The summer is still a great chance to prepare for the SAT so that you can get a high score and get into your school when you decide where to apply.

Once school ends, take some time to relax and rest. Hopefully you worked hard this year and got the marks you wanted. After a week or two, when you are ready to get back into it, follow these steps to propel yourself into the top 25 percentile of scores for your dream school.

Step 1: Take a practice SAT exam.

Even if you've already taken the SAT, practice exams are beneficial for a few reasons. They allow you to see how you may have already improved from your first test, and some of the questions you practice will likely be on your actual test. Thus when you go in to take a real exam, the more practice tests you've taken, the more answers you will already know.

Step 2: Evaluate your practice exam based upon the following criteria:
  • What scores did you get on each individual section? (Critical reading, math, and writing)
  • Which section needs most improvement? 
  • What kind of mistakes did you make? Were they careless mistakes, or did you really not know the right answer? 

Step 3: Create a study plan that hones in on the areas you need to improve the most. 

If your critical reading score is weak, consider including these components in your study plan
  • Read SAT passages from previous exams and answer practice questions using this link
  • Subscribe to online publications with elevated reading levels like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. (This will also help with the writing section.) 
  • Learn 1,000 words this summer, or about 100 per week. I like this list with short, simple definitions. Study one list per week and then have a friend/parent quiz you. The key to retaining these words is to review them, not just learn them once. 
  • Read articles about test taking tips, such as the one here: "How I Improved My SAT Critical Reading Score by 150 points."

If your math score is weak, focus on these elements in your study plan

If your writing score is weak, include these in your study plan: 
  • Keep a journal for the summer. Writing regularly helps prevent "writers block" and enables quick, fluid writing that will help you in your 25 minute essay section. 
  • Read publications like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times. Doing so frequently will help you on the SAT portions where you have to identify sentence errors, improve sentences, and improve paragraphs.
  • Practice writing topics from previous exams. Limit yourself to 25 minutes and create an outline to organize your thoughts. After you complete a few, ask a tutor or your English teacher if he/she can review them and let you know how you can improve. Take his/her suggestions and continue to practice. 

Make sure you are preparing yourself for college this summer. Check out this timeline if you are a rising sophomore, junior, or senior.


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