Millions of students take the SAT each year as a step on their way to college. If you’re about to graduate from high school, you’re probably very excited about getting a perfect SAT score and enrolling at the college of your dreams.
But how to get a perfect score on the SAT? Start your preparation for the test beforehand! In our guide, you’ll find the best tips, study methods, and helpful resources to prepare for the test day. But first, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about the SAT. Let’s get started!
What does the SAT stand for?
The SAT, as well as ACT, is a standard entrance test for high school students who want to enroll at college after graduation. The test is focused on what you’re learning in high schools and what you need to know to be ready for college. The SAT is administered by the College Board, a nonprofit organization.
When students first started taking the SAT in 1926, the abbreviation meant Scholastic Aptitude Test. Since that time, the test had several official names, which were changed because of sharp social criticism. Today, the SAT abbreviation stands for nothing at all.
Applying to an academic opportunity in an English-speaking country? You’ll be interested to read How to Write a CV in English: A Guide for Non-Native Speakers
Who can take the SAT?
The SAT can be taken by everyone who applies to a college or university undergraduate program as well as scholarship or other programs that require SAT scores as part of their application process.
Note that the test is paid. Here are the main registration fees:
- SAT costs $49.50
- SAT with essay costs $64.50
There are also some additional payments for extra services such as late registration, waitlist, change of test center or test date, etc. All non-US test-takers also make additional international registration payments which depend on their region. For instance, if you’re from Europe, you need to pay $49.50 for the SAT and $47 as a regional fee.
How long does the SAT take?
Before we get to our SAT study guide, let’s have a quick overview of timing and see how many questions are on the SAT. Knowing what to expect will give you more confidence on the test day.
|Test||Time||Number of questions|
|Writing and Languages||35 minutes||44|
20 (no calculator)
|Essay (optional)||50||Read one passage and write an essay analyzing how the author built their argument.|
|Total||3 hours, 50 minutes||154 + 1 essay|
Note that the SAT Math test is divided into two sections. The first one comes with the more complex calculations, so, in this case, calculators are permitted. It’ll be up to you to decide whether to use it or not. During the second section, you can’t use a calculator, as you have to show your fluency on specific math topics and concepts.
What subjects are on the SAT?
The SAT literally tests reading, writing and languages, and math. But what topics are covered within each section? Let’s have a look!
|Reading Test consists of multiple-choice questions based on passages you need to read and analyze.|
*Some passages may include tables, graphs, or charts.
|Writing and Language section consists of multiple-choice questions based on passages you need to read, edit, and proofread.|
*Some passages may include tables, graphs, or charts.
|Math Test is designed to align with the math you’re learning in school.|
|Essay Test looks like a typical writing assignment — you need to read a passage, explain how the author built their persuasive arguments, and support your explanation with evidence from this passage.|
*Required skills: reading, writing, analysis.
What is a good SAT score?
The SAT exam is divided into two big parts — Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. For both parts, you can earn one point for each correct answer. Each of the two sections is scored from 200 to 800, making the total score for both sections range between 400-1600. This means that 1600 is the highest SAT score you can get.
If you decide to write the SAT Essay, you will get three scores ranging from 2-8 (max score 24). Note that the score you earn for this section won’t affect your total score for two previous parts.
How to check SAT scores?
Once the learners take the test, the College Board’s team scans the answers sheets and reports the scores to students. If you register for the SAT online or register by mail but create a personal account on the College Board, you’ll get an email with detailed information on how you can go to your online score report once scores are available.
Students who don’t have online accounts will receive paper score reports. If you want, you can even get your SAT scores by phone, but it’ll cost you an extra fee.
Your score report consists of your total score and a detailed breakdown of your scores for each section. Also, you’ll see how your scores compare to the scores of other test-takers — the higher your score, the better results you achieved compared to others.
But how well you passed the test compared with other students isn’t the most significant thing for you. You have to identify what the SAT highest score is for you personally based on your top-pick college. If you want to find out whether your score will help you enroll at your preferred school, use BigFuture’s College Search to see how their freshmen scored.
How many times can you take the SAT?
Can you retake the SAT? Yes, you can take it as many times as you like. The College Board provides no restrictions on how often you can take the SAT — they’re happy to let you do so.
Preparing for the college admission process in advance is crucial for reducing the level of stress. If you’re wondering how to improve SAT scores, the early prep process is your key to success. Besides, if you start preparing beforehand, you’ll have more time to retake the test. According to the College Board, students who take the SAT more than once usually improve their results.
So, make every effort to prepare, but if your first SAT score isn’t what you expected to get, you can try to improve it.
SAT Tips and tricks: How to prepare for the test
Now that you know what the SAT is and you’re familiar with the overall structure of the test. Let’s get to a step-by-step guide that helps you prepare for the test day.
Register for the SAT early on
To take the test, students should register for the SAT through the College Board website. Three types of registration are available:
- online registration;
- registration by mail, also known as paper registration (has some restrictions);
- registration by phone (costs additional fees and can be done only if you’ve registered before).
Before registration, pick the test center that will oversee you on testing day. Try to choose the nearest location, since you’ll have to drive there early in the morning.
When picking a date, make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare. If possible, try to select a test date at least three months in advance.
Figure out your strengths and weaknesses
Take the SAT practice test online to recognize which areas you need to work on. On Khan Academy, you’ll find eight full-length tests to take created in partnership with College Board. Your answers will be automatically scored at the end of the test. Additionally, you’ll get personalized practice recommendations based on your results.
Taking the practice test doesn’t just help you practice SAT questions and find out what skills you need to enhance. It also shows you how to get comfortable with sitting still and focusing on tests for over three hours as well as finding the right answers as quickly as possible. When you get through the SAT prep questions, you’ll get familiar with the order of the test sections and learn more about specific instructions for each one.
Want to take a paper practice test? All you need for it is a printer, pencil, calculator and a timer so that you can simulate time limits just like the actual SAT. You can download the paper SAT practice tests on College Board for free.
Before taking a practice test, read more about how to take a practice SAT to make your environment as test-like as possible. Be sure to find a quiet spot, such as a library, and bring a lot of scratch paper. If you’re going to write the SAT essay, you should make it a part of your practice test as well.
Set your score goal
Once you take your first practice test and find out your total score, set your goal score! Keep it feasible based on the time frame you have for SAT prep.
A 100-point improvement from your total score in a month is absolutely achievable, while 300-point growth during the same time frame is less likely. Note that the more you want to increase your score, the more time you’ll need to devote to practicing.
Make a study plan and stick to your schedule
Develop a realistic study schedule based on your strengths and weaknesses, goal score, and time frames you have. Try to spend a consistent amount of time every day studying until the test day. Having short study sessions each day for a month or two is more effective than cramming the same information a week before the test.
Make sure to take at least two full-length practice tests — at the beginning and the end of your SAT study process. Taking at least one paper practice test will also help you get comfortable with the format and give you a real sense of how long the test is.
Effective SAT preparation is all about forming a habit — setting aside a scheduled study routine. For instance, you can take your online calendar, such as Google Calendar, or daily planner, to outline the type of section you’re going to study each day. Maybe, you’re going to learn for an hour after school. Or it’ll be more convenient for you to have a 30-minute SAT test practice in the morning and at night.
Get inspired by time management suggestions from several high school students who successfully passed the SAT.
And remember that habits which help you succeed in high school will help you get ready for the test day. So take charge of your education — do your homework, ask and answer a lot of questions, prepare for tests, and don’t be afraid to take challenging courses.
Expand your SAT vocabulary
As you probably know, the SAT was redesigned in 2016. From that time, the test became more relevant for high school students. Even so, it requires a strong knowledge of specific SAT vocabulary words.
SAT vocabulary consists of medium-difficulty, multi-meaning words. To learn needed vocabulary, you can use Quizlet’s College Board Top 100 SAT/ACT Vocabulary Words or 100+ SAT Words to Study on the Go from Magoosh.
But don’t get scared of a long list of words — memorizing vocabulary should be just a small part of your SAT writing and reading preparation. The more significant skill to improve will be your ability to define the meaning of the words in context.
To practice this skill, you can do three things — reading challenging articles, picking out the unknown words, and defining them. By reading nonfiction, you’ll learn words that are more likely to appear on the upgraded SAT, rather than ultra-specific vocabulary the SAT no longer tests.
One of the main SAT reading tips is to read from different fields. As mentioned above, the SAT includes passages from the US and world literature, science, history, and social studies. You don’t need to read articles about history every day, as you’ll quickly overload yourself with similar vocabulary. Instead, keep your reading routine as balanced as possible.
Make the most of the practice resources
Today, there are tons of resources, both online and printed, and tools for you to practice for the SAT. Of course, the best way to get used to SAT questions is by actually doing them.
Luckily, it’s easy to find free practice tests online. Here are some of them:
- Online and printed SAT practice tests from the College Board;
- Sample questions for each section;
- Free SAT preparation program from Khan Academy;
- Practice SAT on Majortests.com.
Want to study right from your device? Opt for useful apps and tools, such as:
- Daily Practice for the SAT from College Board;
- Khan Academy application for iOS and Android;
- SAT Exam Prep & Practice from Magoosh;
- UWorld SAT & ACT.
As you can see, there are tons of resources for SAT prep that you can use to stay on track every day.
Practice regularly, even during “dead time”
Want to prepare for the SAT as effective as possible? We all have that time when we’re just waiting for a friend or commuting to school. So why not make the most of every free minute of your day!
Apart from scheduled study sessions of mastering your skills, use the following ideas:
- review SAT flashcards on your phone to memorize vocabulary;
- read a chapter of free SAT Study Guide during lunch;
- look through motivation stories from students who got a perfect score on the SAT.
The SAT preparation doesn’t have to be boring — it could be an enjoyable process if you study without haste and make some helpful study tools a part of your daily routine.
Be ready for the test day
So, the test day is rapidly approaching. Are you prepared for it? First of all, you should know what to expect — what kind of questions you’ll see and how to deal with them. Besides, be sure you have everything you need, including:
- your admission ticket;
- photo ID;
- an approved calculator;
- at least two No.2 pencils with erasers;
- a drink or snack for your break.
Find out more about what to bring and what not to bring to the SAT on the College Board website.
On the test day, try to have a balanced breakfast (e.g., oats, yogurt, nuts, seeds, eggs, fruits, and vegetables) and stay hydrated. All test centers open at 7:45 AM (doors close at 8 AM), so don’t be late. You’ll be assigned a seat and get strict SAT requirements on when to start and stop working on each section of the test. There will be only two short breaks during the test.
Note that the sections order in your test book might differ from the one in the test book of the students sitting next to you. This may happen, so don’t be surprised.
Take a break the night before the SAT
Why would you waste any study time right before the test? Of course, you can review SAT grammar rules or solve math problems all night before the test. But would it help you improve your chances of success? Likely not. Instead, being rested and relaxed when you wake up for the SAT is what’s really needed. Here is how you can achieve this:
- Relax. To do its best, your brain needs to rest. Instead of stressful late-night studying before the test, meditate, read a book or spend time with your friends.
- Organize your bag. The night before the SAT is the right time to make sure you take everything you really need to bring on test day (see step 8).
- Have a good sleep. Reducing screen time before going to bed will help you fall asleep fast and have a good night’s sleep.
- Know your way to the testing center. Make sure you have a plan on how to get to the desired location and how much time it will take.
Studying at the last minute can increase your stress level and, as a result, reduce your confidence. So take your mind off the SAT and surround yourself with a calm atmosphere.
Try not to get too stressed out!
Always remember that with regular practice, you can achieve your goal on the test day! But even if your score won’t be as good as you’d want, it’s not the end of the world. The SAT doesn’t show how smart you’re — it only tells how good you are at some school skills.
This test is not the only thing that colleges take into account when considering your application. Besides, if you start preparing in advance, you’ll have time to retake the test and improve your results.
How to study for the SAT
There are a few popular methods that students use to prepare for the SAT:
- Self-preparation. Because of a great variety of prep books, mobile apps, and online resources, more and more students opt for preparing for the test on their own. It’s a convenient way, as you can control what and when to study. This is also the cheapest option, as there are a lot of free prep resources.
However, for some learners, it may be hard to stay motivated and stick to their study plan. Also, they can face challenges when self-diagnosing their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, guidance is helpful sometimes.
- Online program. A reliable online program can be an excellent investment, especially if it’s customized to your needs. But it’s a relatively new way of preparing for the SAT, so finding a good one can be a challenge. Make sure you know what you’ll get for your money!
- Preparation course. It’s an effective method to stay on track if you have problems with motivation. On the other hand, a prep course isn’t personalized enough and is too expensive.
- Private tutor. A professional SAT tutor is invaluable. They can help you create a personalized study schedule based on your current skills and score goals. Also, your tutor will help you stay motivated.
Private tutoring could be expensive. But on platforms like Preply, you can find an expert up to your budget and hire them for 1-on-1 lessons which last as many hours as you want. You will be able to study online from any location and take lessons through video chat.
The founder of Facebook scored the perfect 1600 on the SAT and attended Harvard University. There's no surprise there on the score or prestigious university!
- Start Preparing Early. You should start studying and preparing for the SAT at least three months before your test. ...
- Use Official SAT Study Materials. ...
- Practice the Pacing. ...
- Target Your Mistakes and Revisit New Material.
- Diagnose your skills early on. ...
- Take at least two full practice tests. ...
- Familiarize yourself with the instructions for each test section. ...
- Study outside the box. ...
- Take a break the night before the test. ...
- Set yourself up for success on Test Day.
The founder of Facebook scored the perfect 1600 on the SAT and attended Harvard University. There's no surprise there on the score or prestigious university!
Elon Musk reacts to GPT-4 scoring 93% on SAT exams.How rare is a 1600 SAT? ›
A 1600 is only achieved by around 300 test takers per year and makes you eligible and highly competitive for admission at every college.How rare is a 1500 SAT? ›
A 1500 puts you in nearly the 95th percentile of all 1.7 million test takers.What is the top 1% SAT score? ›
|Composite Score (Out of 1600)||Percentile Rank|
While it's impossible for you to get a zero on the test (everyone who takes the SAT will receive at least a 400), you have almost similar odds of doing very well on the test without studying.Can you miss questions on the SAT and still get a 1600? ›
As you can see with the above SAT scoring chart, it's possible to get some questions wrong and still earn the max SAT score. Generally speaking, you can miss 1-2 questions on each section and still get a perfect 1600.
In many ways, the new SAT is much easier than the older version. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't study and be prepared! While the format may be better for some students, the questions are still designed to test your ability and skills in each particular subject.What is a good SAT score for Ivy League? ›
For the Ivy League, competitive scores range between 1500-1550. For other highly competitive schools, it's above 1400. 1300 and above will make you a competitive applicant for most other public universities and private universities.How many hours should I study for SAT? ›
Studying for the SAT in a month is possible, though it's recommended that you spend 10 to 20 hours per week over the course of two or three months prepping for the SAT.How can I finish my SAT fast? ›
- Use a dull pencil. ...
- Cross out incorrect answers. ...
- Circle answers first, then bubble in your scantron one test page at a time. ...
- Skip the hard stuff on a first pass. ...
- Locate line-specific questions before reading the passage. ...
- Practice, and time yourself by individual passages.
- Build Up Your Vocabulary. Getting high scores on the SAT is important. ...
- Read, Read, Read! ...
- Take Advantage of Study Materials. ...
- Take Multiple Practice Tests. ...
- Understand and Memorize Formulas. ...
- Don't Cram the Night Before the Test. ...
- Write out and Show Your Work. ...
- Blanking on a Math Question?
A 1400 SAT score puts you at the 95th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 95% of all test takers.How rare is a 2400 SAT score? ›
For example, obtaining a perfect score on the old SAT (2400) puts you in the 99th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 99% of all other test takers. An 800, the lowest possible score on the 2400 scale, would be in the 1st percentile, meaning you scored higher than 1% of the other test takers.What was Bill Gates ACT score? ›
Key Points To Remember
Too often the media shines its light on a celebrity's popularity and success, without looking at the hard work and education that happened before fame arrived. At a glance, it should be little surprise that Microsoft founder Bill Gates scored a 35* (equivalent ACT score).
A score of 1450 on the SAT is considered a very good score, placing the test-taker in the 97th percentile of all students who took the SAT. This means that out of the 2.13 million test-takers, only 61064 scored the same or higher than a score of 1450.Is 2400 a good SAT score? ›
A perfect score on the SAT is 2400; and for the ACT, it is 36. The national average score for the SAT is 1540 (combining the math, reading, and writing sections of the test).
There's no absolute SAT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 1460 to have a chance at being considered.Is 1500 good enough for Ivy League? ›
As you can see, your score of 1500 is an average or slightly below-average score for most Ivy League universities. Your score is slightly above-average at Cornell and Brown. However, admissions experts say that students applying to Ivy League universities should aim for a minimum score of 1470.Should I retake the SAT if I got a 1570? ›
Should I retake SAT if I got 1570? No, there's really no reason to retake the SAT if you've received 1570. As mentioned before, this is a near-perfect score that puts in you in the top 1% of scorers. No matter where you apply, this is going to help you stand out from the crowd.What is an 80% on the SAT? ›
So if you got an 80th percentile score, you scored better than 80% of all other test takers. Remember that your percentile is different from a test score out of 100. A test score represents the number of questions you got right, and a percentile refers to the number of test-takers you performed better than.Is 1150 a bad SAT score? ›
The average national SAT score is between 1050 and 1100 every year (on purpose), putting an 1150 at an above-average 67th percentile — that's a score to be proud of! It means that you scored higher than 67% of all other test takers.What is a 70% on the SAT? ›
So, if you get a percentile score of 70, you've scored better than 70 percent of all the other applicants. Talking about the average SAT score of 1060. The test is intentionally designed to ensure the average score floats around 1000. The average math score is 528, and the average score for EBRW is 533.What's the lowest SAT score someone got into Yale with? ›
Yale has no official cutoff or minimum SAT score that they require from applicants.Did Bill Gates get a perfect SAT score? ›
Bill Gates has an impressive SAT score
Gates scored a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs.
The highest SAT score you can possibly earn is 1600. The lowest SAT score is 400.How long should I study for the SAT perfect score? ›
|Score improvement goal||Hours of study time||Approximate duration|
|0-50||10-15||Less than a month|
Studying for the SAT in a month is possible, though it's recommended that you spend 10 to 20 hours per week over the course of two or three months prepping for the SAT.How many hours does it take to study for the perfect SAT? ›
As a rule of thumb, here is the amount of time students need to improve their SAT scores: 10+ hours of studying to maintain their score. 20+ hours of studying for a score improvement of 10-100 points. 40+ hours of studying for a score improvement of 100-150 points.How hard is it to get a perfect SAT score? ›
The maximum score on the SAT is a 1600. Out of the two million students who take the test every year, only about 500 get the highest possible SAT score. This elusive perfect score catapults you to the top of high school academic achievement and can be a big boost to your college applications.What is the best age to start preparing for the SAT? ›
Junior school: The 11th grade, also known as a junior school, is the best time when a student can start the preparation for the SAT exam. This is an age perfect to comprehend things precisely and learn things at a good pace.Is 2 days enough to study for SAT? ›
If you've only got a week or two to study, the information you learn won't have enough time to sink in. Ultimately, you have to give your brain adequate time to retain new SAT concepts! So try to study, at a minimum, at least two weeks before your test. A month or longer is, of course, even better.Can you study too much for the SAT? ›
Studying too hard and too much can easily lead to burnout and leave your mind frazzled on the test date. You'll want to take breaks away from studying and focus on the rest of your life, fun, and school work. When you create your study calendar, make sure to account for breaks as well as entire days off.Can a perfect SAT score get you into Harvard? ›
As we said, admission to Harvard is extremely competitive. Even with a perfect SAT score of 1600 and a GPA of 4.0, your chances of admission are about 10%. With a perfect ACT score of 36 and a 4.0, your chances are about 13%.What is a good SAT score for Harvard? ›
Harvard University's SAT scores for admitted students range from 1480 - 1580, with an average score of 1530. Although SAT scores are optional, we recommend that students aim for a good SAT score of at least 1530 to be competitive in the admissions process at Harvard University.Which SAT time is easiest? ›
According to our research and a meta-study of analyses: there's no such thing as an 'easy' test date for the SAT or ACT. Though it sounds simplistic, the easiest time to take the SAT test is when you feel most prepared.Is Khan Academy enough for SAT? ›
Is the Khan Academy a Good Way to Study for the SAT? Yes! Khan Academy offers personalized and interactive tools and resources for SAT study and prep. The site gives students a tailored practice plan based on their practice scores or previous scores.
The sweet spot for studying for the SAT & ACT is eight to twelve weeks. Students who give themselves less than 8 weeks to study for the SAT but are expecting to improve by more than 100 points are not giving themselves adequate time to reach their goals.Who is the youngest person to get a perfect SAT score? ›
Apurva Mishra, 17, has his own typical teenage imperfections – including a disheveled room. His chemistry teacher says he's been caught falling asleep in class, but his parents have plenty of room for forgiveness, because how could a teenager be perfect? But Mishra managed to get a perfect score on his SAT exam.What is the average SAT score first try? ›
Average SAT Score.
|SAT Composite Score Range||Percentile Score|
|1500-1550||99 to 99+|
|1450-1500||97 to 99|
|1400-1450||94 to 97|
|1350-1400||91 to 94|