Last-minute studying for the SAT isn’t ideal, but that doesn’t mean you need to panic if you feel unprepared the day before the test. Whether you haven’t studied at all or you’re just looking to cram in a few final review sessions, with the right strategies it’s possible to do some effective last-minute SAT prep. Here are five tips and tricks that can help any student study for the SAT with time running out.
1. Take a Practice Test (or Two)
The single best strategy for last-minute SAT prep is to take a full-length, timed practice test. The SAT is a highly formulaic test with a strict, unique structure, so familiarizing yourself with this structure can boost your confidence and reduce the time you spend reading through instructions on test day. The less time you spend reading, the more time you have to answer as many questions as possible. On the topic of time, it’s crucial that you time yourself when taking practice tests so you get used to the pressure of a ticking clock.
2. Score Yourself and Review Missed Questions
After you take a practice test, be sure to score yourself and highlight any questions that you answered wrong. Once you finish scoring, you can use your remaining cram time to review missed questions so you know exactly why you got each question wrong and why the correct answer is correct. The benefit of this strategy is that it allows you to focus your limited study time on the topics you’re least comfortable with. When time is running out, the worst thing you can do is review for topics that you’re going to ace anyway.
3. Practice Pacing Yourself
The SAT is a timed test with no penalty for wrong answers, which is why many seasoned tutors will tell students to fill in as many answers as possible. When you take a timed practice test, mark down how long it took you to finish each section and how many questions you left unfilled to get a sense of your overall pacing. Time management is one of the most crucial skills for SAT test-takers. Spending ten minutes on one particularly tough question is an almost surefire way to lower your score, as is spending half the test time on the section you’re least comfortable with. Taking timed practice tests will help train you to fill in more answers and move on from questions that leave you feeling lost.
4. Do Some Last-Second Vocab Review
Improving your vocabulary won’t just help you with the SAT’s infamous vocab questions, but will also prepare you to handle unfamiliar words in the reading comprehension section. There are several good strategies for last-second vocabulary review. One is to search online lists of popular past SAT vocab words and make flash cards to prepare yourself for the tricky words you’re most likely to encounter. If you’ve had time to take multiple practice tests, you can also check to see if any words appeared on both and then make flash cards for any words you didn’t know. In addition, there are many vocabulary-improving smartphone apps that can help you prepare even if they aren’t specifically made for SAT prep.
5. Don’t Exhaust Yourself!
Probably the most common mistake students make is to stay up late cramming the night before the test. Research shows that studying done late at night when tired is less efficient and less effective, and being exhausted on test day is likely to slow you down and make you feel more anxious. Even if you feel like you need those last few hours of study time, make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the SAT.