How to Study for the SAT

Getting a good score on the SAT will help you get into the college of your dreams and potentially help you earn scholarship money. Learn how to study for the SAT in our guide below.

We will walk you through various SAT study tips to achieve a top score on this exam.

You can use the steps below to help prepare for the SAT. Feel free to tweak the steps based on your individual needs and study style.

Summary: Use the steps below when studying for the SAT. If you want some additional help, use our reviews of the best SAT prep courses to find a course that is right for you.

How to Study for the SAT

It can be very stressful when studying for the SAT. Use the steps below as a guide when studying.

1. Register for the SAT

You will need to register for the exam first. Registering should be your first step as it will allow you to know your timeline when studying.

If you have a longer timeline, you can spread your studies out versus someone who has a shorter timeline. You can view SAT test dates to find more information on when to take the exam.

To register for the exam, visit the official SAT site.

2. Determine What Score You Want

Having a goal score in mind is very important. This will give you something to work towards while studying.

Read our guide on what is a good SAT score for more information what you should be aiming for.

3. Calculate How Much Time You Can Spend Studying

Once you have your test date, you will be able to calculate how much time you can dedicate to studying. We recommend allocating a certain number of hours per week, but some students may prefer to:

  • Allocate a certain time slot each day to studying
  • Allocate a certain number of hours per day
  • Allocate a certain number of hours per weekend
  • Allocate a certain number of hours per month

There is no right or wrong way to determine how much time you can spend studying. The most important thing is to come up with a rough estimate on the number of hours you can spend studying and stick to your plan.

4. Pick Your Study Resources

You will be choosing your study resources in this step. Some students may prefer to self-study, while other students may choose to use a prep course or tutor.

Some example resources could include:

We recommend a combination of the above resources. You can use free practice exams paired with a prep book if you want to self-study.

You can use a prep course if you want to be guided the whole way through your studies.

However you decide to prepare for the SAT is up to you. Everyone has different preferences and there is no right or wrong way.

5. Use a Practice Exam to Get a Baseline

One of the best ways to study for the SAT is by taking a practice exam to get a baseline. A baseline will help you:

  • Get an idea of what score you are starting with (before studying)
  • Get an idea of which subjects you struggle with
  • Get more familiar with the exam and types of questions you will be asked

Do not be afraid of scoring poorly on the first exam you take. This will be very beneficial in the long-run and help you track your progress throughout preparing for the SAT.

6. Evaluate Where Your Struggled

After taking the diagnostic exam, pinpoint which section you struggled with the most. This should be easy – look at your score report at the end of the exam and see which subject had the lowest score.

By knowing which subject you struggled with the most, you will be able to focus on this subject and study for the SAT more efficiently.

7. Focus on Specific Subject You Struggled With

Take the subject you struggled with the most (step 6 above) and dive into that subject. You can use the resources you gathered in step 3 to study.

You should study the different topics, concepts, and problem types that appear on the subject you are studying. 

Depending on the resources you are studying with, this could include watching lecture videos, reading chapters, using flashcards, or answering specific questions.

Keep studying until you feel like you have a good grasp on the subject.

8. Take a Practice Exam Only on the Subject Your Just Studied

After studying the subject you struggled with, take a practice exam only on that subject. This will help you focus on the specific subject and see how you do.

Compare your score at the end of this exam to the original score you got from the diagnostic exam you took (step 5).

If your score improved and you are happy with it, you can move on to the next step. If you are not happy with your score, continue studying this subject.

9. Complete Another Full-Length Exam

You should take another full-length SAT practice exam. This will allow you to see how you do when taking the full exam.

Compare your results to the original exam you took the first time. Is there another subject you are struggling with? Did you reach your goal score?

If you reached your goal score on this step, you may be good to complete your studies and take the actual exam.

If you still did not reach your goal score, move on to step 10.

10. Repeat Steps 7-9

If you still need to study and improve your score, repeat steps 7 through 9 with a different subject.

This is a proven method to do well on the SAT. It can be repetitive but will help you reach your goal score.

Consistency is key when studying for the SAT. Use the 10 SAT study tips above to reach your goal score.

How to Prepare for the SAT FAQs

Everyone is different, but it is generally recommended that you spend between 10 and 20 hours studying for your first SAT.

10-20 hours is a good amount of time to help you get a good baseline of knowledge. You can take the exam and see how you do – you may reach your goal score and not have to take the exam again.

We recommend studying for the SAT about 1 month out. This will allow you to space your study time out and not have to cram everything in. All your knowledge will also be fresh if you study the month leading up to your test.

One of the best ways to study for the SAT is by using practice exams. These exams will give you a good idea of where you stand. You can determine which subjects you need the most help with and can study more efficiently.

Adam Groden
Adam is our ACT and SAT expert. He has 30+ years of experience and runs his own test prep company.