How To Ace Your SAT In The Least Time Possible

By Lu


A lot of students stressed out when it comes to SAT.

This happens to most Malaysian students because well, it is outside of our comfort zone. We are not used to the US education system and suddenly have to take this exam to study in the US. If this doesn’t apply to you, well, lucky you.

When I first started out, it was the grind method for me. I can’t help it. There was so much to familiarize myself with that I can’t help but just plow through everything. All I did was just to read up and do as much similar SAT questions as possible.

It is important to get familiarize to the question type and the limited time to take the exam.

About two months into my preparation and almost as much time left till I take the SAT, I read upon Xiggi’s method to preparing for SAT on College Confidential.

It is good advice, something that I would try from the beginning. I measured my progress during my study session and almost came come up with similar study method as Xiggi. It allows the fastest progression in least time possible.

Here’s an extremely condensed version written by the original author. The only difference is that during Xiggi’s time, College Board published a red book known as 10 Real SAT that contain 10 past SAT exams. During my time, the format of the SAT changed and College Board released the blue book instead. There is also a new writing component to the SAT, where you need to write an essay.

Xiggi’s method

  1. Take 1-2 tests without time limit and with open books. Take your time to read the questions, answer it, and CHECK the answers, as you take the test. The idea is to make sure to understand all the terms. The score is far from relevant.
  2. Take the following 2-3 tests without time limit but close the books. Now, you are on your own. After taking the test, check the answers and make sure to check ALL your answers, including the correct ones.
  3. Take the next 2-3 tests, within the allotted time.
  4. Take the last tests and try to shave a few minutes. Look for patterns, shortcuts. Soon enough, you’ll recognize problems in a few seconds. However, make sure you READ all the questions. Trying to save 5 seconds in that part is NOT wise. Remember that you do NOT have to finish all the problems. As soon as you can determine the BEST answer with certainty, you are DONE. Managing your time wisely is the key to a great score. This comes from practice.
  5. I would also recommend working one section at a time. Spend about one hour on each section. Marathon sessions will not be as productive as repeated shorter ones.

Here is my take on the SAT. It is an exam not to test on your knowledge, but rather a test of skill. Once you get used to the pattern and able to conquer those types of questions, you will be able to take the test comfortably.

Lu’s Modification

College Board is no longer selling the 10 Real SAT, so we have to contend ourselves with the Blue Book instead. This in not a collection of past tests, but they are still from the company that produce SAT, so the questions are comparable.

Use the practice questions inside the book as in the Xiggi method. Then for the answers, College Board actually have explanations for each question in the Blue Book available online. I found them really helpful in analyzing the questions and understanding why such and such is the answer.

The downside to this is that it cost money to have access to the answer. Use them to help out with your practice. (You should realize trend by now that CB earns a lot from you) Pool with your friends to buy an access code or look for other methods online to access it.

Get the Blue Book (Official SAT Study Guide) here.

Get the Official SAT Online Course here for more practice questions from College Board.

Memorizing Strange Words

If you have started on your SAT preparation, you’ll sure to come across words that you have never heard before. I read a lot, have a couple big size dictionary at home, yet I also have a problem understanding certain words when I come upon them cause I never encounter these words before.

Look them out and write out their definitions when you come upon them. Some words are used more than others in the practice questions, so you will be more familiar with them. Other than that, try to learn a few new words a day and incorporate them into your daily speech so that you will learn them faster.

What I did actually was to rely on a book, WordSmart from Princeton Review. Inside was a list of words and their definition. It’s easier for me to refer to this than to look them up in the dictionary.

My cousin actually recommended the book to me, saying that it’s useful. She scored 1600 (max score in the old SAT) so I tend to trust her suggestions.

Get the WordSmart book here.

Essay Portion

Now, here’s what I would add to the method mentioned above. There’s a new writing component in the SAT, where you have to write an essay in just 25 minutes.I can’t believe that I’m saying this but the best way to handle this is to resort to your UPSR or PMR essay writing skills. Straight to the point and not too many use of flowery words.

This probably won’t give you the best score but with just 25 minutes, it is a safe route to get a good score. Develop your own style of writing to a point where it almost seem automatic to you.

Start with a thesis statement and expand it. Continue on with three paragraphs of content. One main point for each paragraph and 2-3 sentences for support. End the whole thing with a conclusion. Be logical and have a flow when you are writing.

It’s better to prevent your points from being cut due to grammar mistakes than to be too adventurous with your writing. The time constraint makes to hard to review and edit your essay. Also, I found that longer essays typically correlates with higher score.

Last Word

That should be all that you need to prepare for your SAT. Though I would also recommend getting a review book. I prefer the Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT, or if you prefer more challenge, get the Barron’s SAT. Get plenty of practice, but approach the practice the smart way. I also have some past SAT tests, which I did add to my practice pile.

Before the test day, get plenty of sleep. The SAT test is a marathon and is quite taxing on your ability to focus.

Also, I understand that SAT books can be quite expensive (blame it on Malaysia’s low purchasing power). So, before you decide to buy a book, head to your nearest bookstore (MPH or Kinokuniya) to look at the price there. Then, go online to look at the prices there. Sometimes, the books that you want can be cheaper if purchased online inclusive of shipping cost though you must wait for the books to arrive. Decide whether the tradeoff is worth it or not.

Good luck, and go ACE that SAT.