ATTACKING THE NEW SAT: TWELVE FAQs
8 WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PREPARE FOR THE REDESIGNED SAT?
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Step 1: Make a testing schedule
First, decide when you will take your first SAT. Sit down with your guidance counselor early in your junior year and work out a full testing schedule for the year, taking into account the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP tests, and possible the ACT. Once you have decided on your schedule, commit yourself to beginning your SAT preparation at least 3 months prior to your first SAT. Commit to setting aside 30–40 minutes per night for review work and practice, and to taking at least two or three full-scale practice tests on the weekends.
Step 2: Take a diagnostic SAT or two
When you’re ready to begin your SAT preparation (ideally 3 months before your SAT), you’ll first need to assess your readiness. Chapter 2 contains a full-scale practice SAT. It requires 3 hours (or 3 hours and 50 minutes if you include the essay). Take it on a Saturday morning, if possible, at roughly the time you will start the real SAT (around 8:00 a.m.), and make sure that you have a quiet place, a stopwatch, a calculator, and a few #2 pencils. This will give you a solid idea of what the experience of taking the new SAT is like.
Step 3: Use the lessons in this book
The detailed answer keys after each practice test will give you plenty of feedback about the topics that you may need to review in order to prepare for your SAT. If you set aside about 30 minutes per night to work through the chapters, review the lessons, and complete the exercises in this book, you can make substantial progress and see big SAT score improvements in just a few weeks. But to get the full benefit of this book, you should start at least three months before your SAT.
Step 4: Take practice tests regularly and diagnose your performance
Practice is the key to success. This book includes three full-scale practice SATs. Use them. Take one every week or two to assess your progress as you work through the chapters in this book.
Step 5: Use online tutorials
You can find a lot of SAT advice and review material online, some of it good, most of it mediocre, some of it horrible. For the redesigned SAT, the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to offer online video tutorials on many of the key topics for the SAT.
The best review, of course, comes from actually tackling the test yourself and getting direct feedback on your performance and specific advice on how to improve. Nevertheless, it can still be helpful to watch someone else working through tough problems and explaining strategies in a lecture format. Many of the Khan Academy lessons also include linked discussions where you can ask questions about the lectures.
Throughout this book, we will provide you with links to some of the more helpful Khan Academy videos that may help you to boost your preparation, as well as links to other online resources from McGraw-Hill.
Step 6: Read as often as you can from the College Hill Coaching Power Reading List
Engaging big ideas and honing your analytical reading skills are keys to success in college and on the SAT. Make a point of working your way though these books and checking these periodicals regularly.
The New York Times (Op-Ed, Science Times, Front Page)
BBC News (Views, Analysis, Background)
The Atlantic (Feature Articles)
Slate (Voices, Innovation)
Scientific American (Feature Articles)
The Economist (Debate, Science & Technology)
TED Talks (Innovation, Culture, Politics, Inspiration)
The New Yorker (Talk of the Town, Feature Articles)
ProPublica (Feature Articles)
Radiolab (Weekly Podcast)
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The American Language, H. L. Mencken
Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
The Stranger, Albert Camus
Night, Elie Wiesel
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker
The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen J. Gould
The Republic, Plato
A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
Step 7: Take strong math courses
Challenge yourself with strong math courses that introduce you to the ideas, skills, and methods or advanced mathematics, such as trigonometry, analysis of polynomials, statistical reasoning, plane geometry, and even complex numbers. These advanced topics have become a greater focus for both the SAT and ACT.
Step 8: Take strong writing courses
Take courses from teachers who emphasize strong writing skills, particularly by giving challenging writing assignments and providing timely and detailed feedback. Reading and writing skills are at the core of both the SAT and the ACT, so working with strong reading and writing teachers is invaluable.