How to Self-Study the SAT: A Complete Guide - Talentnook (2023)

Before we begin, remember choosing between taking the SAT and the ACT for your college applications is an important decision. If you are not sure about taking the SAT over the ACT, then take a look at our detailed comparison of the tests and guide on deciding whether the SAT or the ACT is better for you.

You’re still here! Congratulations on progressing in your college preparatory journey. But what’s the next step?

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, studying for the SAT can feel largely unimportant. With the likelihood of schools and colleges failing to reopen in the fall, the chances of the test dates being postponed or the exam moving online are high. Regardless, studying for the SAT in lockdown might be one of the best uses of your time if you’re a rising high school junior or senior.

Also Read:SAT COVID-19 Updates: What To Do Next

If you need help with how to prepare for or self-study the SAT, this is a comprehensive guide specially designed for you. To begin with, we’ll walk you through the process of effectively self-studying the SAT. Then, we’ll share some resources that students find helpful time and time again.

Self-Study the SAT in 5 Steps

Obviously, self-studying the SAT has more nuances than five steps. However, we want to give you the five main steps that will help you on your way to effectivelyself-studying the SAT.

1) Register for the SAT

Have you registered for the SAT yet? If not, go ahead and register for the SATright now. College Board will prompt you to create an account first if you do not have one already.

(Video) Three secrets to scoring a 1600 on the SAT

Registering for the SAT will give you a deadline. You will have multiple test dates and locations to choose from. Choose a test date that will at least give you three months to prepare for the test as this is the optimal timeframe for self-studying the SAT. Due to lockdown, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare if you choose the August or new September test date. Make sure that your (tentative) choice of test center is nearby to reduce your commute on the day of the test.

2) Acquaint Yourself with the SAT exam pattern

Before you start self-studying the SAT, familiarize yourself with the structure and content of the SAT. Here’s a quick summary:

  • The SAT has two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math
  • Both sections are equally weighted or in other words, each section is worth 800 points.
  • There are two subsections in each section. EBRW has the Reading and Writing sections while Math has the No-Calculator and the Calculator section.
  • The lowest score one can receive in a section is 200. This means your total score can range anywhere from 400 to 1600 points.
  • The SAT comes with an optional essay section that is scored separately out of 24 points. While this section is optional, most universities recommend taking the SAT with Essay regardless of your intended major.
  • The order of the sections, timings, and number of questions follow in the chart below:

How to Self-Study the SAT: A Complete Guide - Talentnook (1)

  • The SAT is all multiple-choice with four options except in the math sections which have “grid-ins” or student-produced responses where you must grid in your calculated answer. There is no penalty for incorrect answers.

3) Craft the Perfect Study Plan

To self-study the SAT, you must employ a method of discipline to ensure the utmost effectiveness. To do this, you need to plan out your studies. How should you go about crafting your self-study plan? The brief version includes taking a diagnostic test early in your study plan to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses regarding the SAT syllabus. You should also make time to learn the specific strategies of the SAT. Decide on a target score that you would like to reach.

Be realistic. Will you really commit the entirety of your weekend to self-studying the SAT when the days of the week no longer seem to have meaning? In lockdown, there are, unfortunately, many more interesting activities that may be calling your name (*cough* Netflix *cough*). It might be more feasible to spend an hour a day, two days a week. Remember, study smart not hard!

However, we want to be completely honest with you. There is no set formula to creating the perfect study plan. The perfect study plan can only be effective if you design it with yourself in mind. We can, on the other hand, give you tips to create an effective quarantine SAT study plan.

Check out Khan Academy’s sample study plans to get an idea of what sort of plan you would like to create.

(Video) Homeschooling 101: To Homeschool or not?

4) Build SAT Stamina

How to Self-Study the SAT: A Complete Guide - Talentnook (2)

There are two ways to practice for the SAT. The first way to self-study the SAT is to focus on specific topics and question types in particular sections. This is a great method to hone your problem-solving skills and strategies as well as ensure that you have experience with solving each type of question on the SAT. By employing this method, you can practice areas in which you need improvement. You can also maintain your strengths using this method of self-studying.

Practicing SAT questions in a certain section is generally done in short bursts of time—similar to a 100-meter dash. We often compare the SAT to a marathon. It takes extensive, paced training to run a marathon and you need to slowly build the stamina to complete your race. This exact concept applies to the SAT. While you may be able to solve those math questions easily, you may find those same questions difficult under the time constraint of the SAT as well as after taking the EBRW section of the test. As a result, you must also employ the second way with the first one to effectively self-study the SAT. This means you should take a lot of official practice tests to build stamina for the test. Khan Academy has online versions of College Board’s Official SAT practice tests.

5) Relax Before Test Day!

How to Self-Study the SAT: A Complete Guide - Talentnook (3)

Finally, make sure to stop studying the day before the test. Engage in good test-taking practices. Do not try to cram the day before. For your self-studying to be effective, you need not think about the SAT at all. Relax! Read a new book or listen to some of your favorite tracks. Continue to practice social distancing to keep yourself healthy and safe. Pack up all your pencils, calculator, and admission ticket. Have a good night’s sleep—at least 8 to 10 hours.

On the day of test, wake up early enough to have a large, balanced breakfast. Grab your supplies, take a deep breath, and go to your exam center. Calm down, you have done your studying! Go reap the fruits of your labor!

Resources for Self-Studying the SAT

To help you with studying, we have created a collection of resources that students have found helpful in recent years. Here are our recommended resources for self-studying the SAT.

(Video) What extracurriculars should high school students be doing during Corona?

Practice Questions and Tests

We have already stressed how important practice questions and tests are to your self-studying the SAT. The following are essential:

The Best SAT Prep Books

To be honest, there is no best SAT prep book for a student to study from. The SAT prep books on this list have their individual strengths and weaknesses. In other words, certain books will work better for certain students over others.

As we explain in this guide, the best use of this list is to create an effective combination of two or more of the books. Read through our thorough analyses of the best SAT prep books and create the most effective combination for you.It’ll be a breeze!

Strategy Guides

There are a lot of strategy guides out there but few guides truly capture the formula of the SAT. Check out these guides below:

Optimize Your Score

If you have been studying for the SAT for a while now but cannot seem to increase your score further, don’t worry! It is actually very common for students to hit a point block after achieving a certain score. If you are scoring 600+ or 700+ in a particular section, you are probably missing the same type of question each time. You can solve this by learning the nuances of that question type.

To learn those nuances, you’ll need an expert guide that will teach you how to ace the SAT.Here are the tips and strategies to follow to ace your SAT preparation.

For some section-specific strategies to optimize your score, try these:

(Video) Walkthrough Varsity Tutors Dashboard PLUS Why I like Varsity Tutors

Score Higher in the Reading Section
  • Here are six ways to increase your raw score in the Evidence-Based Reading section. Seriously, getting one extra question right in this section equals a 20-point increase in your composite score.
Score Higher in the Writing Section
  • This particular section has fewer questions but the questions are objectively easier and worth more. You cannot afford to lose any points in this section if you’re hoping for a high score.

Score Higher in the Math Section

  • In this guide, we go through eight methodologies to get that perfect score on the SAT math calculator and no-calculator section. If you’re stuck at a point threshold in the math section, have no fear! This helpful guide is here.

Other Free Resources

SAT Self-Study Program

If you’re like many students who have been forced to self-study the SAT due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might need some extra motivation and guidance to get your studying done. That’s okay. Admitting where you need help is an important step in achieving your goals.

A specially-designed self-study program is available for students who may need expert guidance to reach or exceed their score goals. Here are some of the main details:

  • Curated by top SAT scorers
  • 200+ score increase guaranteed
  • Student-customized lesson plans
  • 80 hours of learning with 12 high-quality mocks

If this is something that could benefit you, we suggest you check out the 12-week, online self-study program here.

What Now?

Ready to start self-studying the SAT? Let us know what works for you when it comes to self-studying the SAT!

We hope you stay positive during these trying times. At Talentnook, we are working towards ensuring that the learning does not stop. You can also take a break from this stressful period by learning something new and creative like playing an instrument, painting, creative writing, and more! Check out some free trial lessonswith Talentnook.


Is it possible to self-study for the SAT? ›

Self-guided SAT prep is a great way to begin studying for the test; it's the most flexible and least expensive type of test preparation. Even if you do end up taking a class or hiring a tutor, you will have knowledge and skills from your self-study that will make guided SAT prep easier and more productive.

What is the best way to self-study for the SAT? ›

Planning your SAT practice
  1. Diagnose your skills early on. ...
  2. Take at least two full practice tests. ...
  3. Familiarize yourself with the instructions for each test section. ...
  4. Study outside the box. ...
  5. Take a break the night before the test. ...
  6. Set yourself up for success on Test Day.

Is 2 weeks enough to 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. But if you only have 30 days, here's how you can get it done.

Is 2 months enough to study for SAT? ›

Two to three months of studying will put you right in the sweet spot for being well-prepared. You have just enough time to become an expert on the test and not let your grades suffer (especially if you're on summer break). But with this amount of time, it can be tough to stay focused.

Is a 1400 SAT without studying good? ›

Yes; 1400 is a good score. In your academic or professional life, there are no plus points or applause for “without studying at all.” This may be a brag point with your friends, but it means absolutely nothing to an admissions officer, to an employer, or to a graduate school later on.

What is the average SAT score without studying? ›

Although it's possible that you will earn a higher score without studying, even if you are a strong student, you will likely score slightly below the average SAT score of 1051. The SAT was designed to create a bell curve where the average score falls around 1000-1050 each year.

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.

Is 3 months enough to study for SAT? ›

Three months is a great amount of time to prep for the SAT. You can spread out your studying and you'll have ample time to master the concepts tested on the SAT. It can be difficult to know where to start your SAT prep. The key is finding the right resources, staying organized, and sticking to your plan.

How many hours a day should I study for SAT? ›

So, how many hours do you really need per day to study for the SAT? Ideally, you should spend about 5 hours of studying per week. Whether you study for 1 hour every day during school days or you spend long hours on weekends, as long as you cover 5 hours per week, you're good.

Can I get into Harvard with a 1400 SAT? ›

While a 1400 makes you eligible to apply to places such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, it won't make you a competitive candidate.

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.

How long does it take to self study for the SAT? ›

Total hours per week: 2; 5-6 on weeks with full practice tests. If you're a first-time test taker, with only three months before test day, you'll likely need more time each week. Plan to spend at least an hour on general content review and then at least two hours on practice sessions and homework.

Does the SAT get harder every month? ›

While you might have heard that taking the SAT during certain months can yield better results curve-wise, the truth is that this exam is equally difficult at all times of the year.

Which month is easy for SAT? ›

If you don't want to take the SAT immediately before your AP exams, then March may be the better testing month – but if you need more time to prepare, then May is likely a better testing month.

What best prepares you for the SAT? ›

10 Best SAT Prep Methods
  1. Start Reading. ...
  2. Create a Balanced Study Regimen. ...
  3. Take Practice Tests and Seek Pro Help. ...
  4. Study Vocab with Real World Media. ...
  5. Don't Show Your Work. ...
  6. Critical Reading – The Devils in the Details. ...
  7. Get Proper Diet, Exercise and Rest on Test Week. ...
  8. It's Gametime – Do Test Day Right.

What was the lowest SAT score ever? ›

The highest SAT score you can possibly earn is 1600. The lowest SAT score is 400.

Can you get a 1600 on the SAT without getting everything right? ›

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.

Is it OK to not study for the SAT? ›

Students may choose not to prepare due to the mindset that these exams are just like any other standardized test. Very rarely, a student earns a good score on the SAT/ACT without preparation. However, it is an unlikely reality for the vast majority of high school students.

What is the highest SAT score without essay? ›

The scores from each required section can range from 200 to 800, so the best possible total score without the essay is 1600.

Has anyone ever gotten a 0 on the SAT? ›

On the Redesigned SAT, however, leaving the test blank and taking a nap will result in the lowest possible score, since you would get a raw score of 0.

Do colleges look at lowest SAT scores? ›

More selective schools will expect higher scores, while many public universities and small liberal arts schools will accept scores on the lower end of the scale. In short, there are tons of colleges that accept low SAT scores! Based on your scores, you should select safety, match, and reach schools to apply to.

Has the SAT gotten harder over time? ›

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.

Does the SAT get harder every year? ›

A: Yes, the SAT is getting harder.

As the years have passed, students worldwide have improved on the SAT, as the number of real practice tests has grown, and knowledge about the exam has spread.

How much can you realistically raise your SAT score? ›

Keeping in mind that the official statistics by ETS, the test publishers, "show" that the average combined improvement is 60 to 70 points, a 150-point improvement is quite respectable, 200 to 300 points is excellent, and 400 points is phenomenal.

Why shouldn't you take the SAT more than 3 times? ›

In general, it is better to limit the number of times you take the SAT and spend more energy on resources to thoroughly prepare for each test date. From our experience, we would recommend students taking it no more than three times or so.

Does it matter if you take the SAT more than 3 times? ›

Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. We recommend that they take it at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year. Most students get a higher score the second time, and most colleges consider a student's highest SAT score when making admission decisions.

How many hours a day should you study? ›

Most people recommend studying for 3 to 4 hours every day on a set schedule that allows your brain to work at its full capacity. What is this? You should avoid studying for more than five or six hours as this can lead to burnout and cause you to lose the information that you have learned.

What is the average time to finish the SAT? ›

Students who take the test without the optional essay portion will typically finish between about 12:15 to 12:45. The test itself takes three hours, plus 15 minutes of breaks, for a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Can I improve my SAT score by 100 points? ›

You can improve your SAT score by 100 points by getting 5 more questions right on your retake. A 100 point improvement is very significant, and can mean all of the difference in college admissions and scholarship opportunities.

How long should I practice for the SAT? ›

We recommend you spend 6–20 hours preparing for your first SAT. Make sure you reserve enough time to take at least one full-length practice test (about 4 hours if you practice the essay as well), and give yourself time to review the concepts you're struggling with.

What is the lowest GPA Harvard has accepted? ›

You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.

Is a 4.7 GPA good for Harvard? ›

Average GPA: 4.18

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.

What is the lowest SAT at Harvard? ›

In other words, a 1460 places you below average, while a 1580 will move you up to above average. 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.

What is the oldest age to take SAT? ›

What is the age limit for the SAT examination? There is no minimum or maximum age criteria for College SAT. Students in the age group of 17 to 19 years usually appear for the examination for admission in various SAT-accepted colleges and universities in countries like the USA, Australia, Germany, and Canada.

Should I take the SAT junior or senior year? ›

It's generally best to take the SAT in the fall or spring of your junior year and then again in the fall of your senior year. The specific month you choose depends on your outside commitments and how much time you want to prepare for the exam.

How many times can you retake the SAT? ›

How Many Times Can You Take the SAT? You can retake the SAT as many times as you want. The College Board, which administers the SAT, recommends taking the SAT at least twice: once in the spring of your junior year and once in the fall of your senior year.

What are the hardest SAT practice tests? ›

In online forums, students also tend to identify Test #3 as the hardest of the official practice tests, so there truly seems to be a clear consensus. It's important to remember though that a hard practice test can actually be a great resource!

How many practice tests before SAT? ›

How Many Practice Tests Should I Take? If you complete your registration at least 5 weeks prior to the test date, which is recommended, that gives you a full 5 weeks to prepare for the test. Experts recommend that you should do about 3 – 5 practice tests during that time.

What type of math is on the SAT? ›

The SAT Math questions draw from four areas of math: number and operations; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; and data analysis, statistics, and probability. Below you can find more detailed information about the specific skills these questions test.

Which month of SAT is the hardest? ›

And, being ready should include being well-rested, well-hydrated, well-feed, and in a good state of mind. It's not definite but usually, May SAT is the easiest, and March SAT is the hardest.

Which section of the SAT is the hardest? ›

Is the SAT Reading or Math section harder? It generally depends on a person and their subject skills, but most people find the SAT Math — No Calculator section more challenging.

How many times does the average student take the SAT? ›

Most people end up taking the SAT two or three times. Some people take it a fourth time, but generally, twice or three times works.

What is the most common answer choice for the SAT? ›

Every answer choice on the SAT will have a statistically even distribution of 1 in 4 for each answer choice letter, A, B, C, or D. In other words? There is no most common answer on the SAT. Ultimately, guessing C (or any letter!) will give you the correct answer only a statistical 25% of the time.

How can I study myself for the SAT? ›

How to Self-Study for the SAT in 8 Easy Steps
  1. Start Early–With a Diagnostic. ...
  2. Choose Your Testing Date. ...
  3. Plan to Take the Test Twice. ...
  4. Create a Study Plan. ...
  5. Choose the Right Resources. ...
  6. Set Goals Regularly. ...
  7. Use Those Practice Tests. ...
  8. Start a Study Group.
Oct 22, 2019

How can I study for the SAT alone? ›

Heed these seven tips to make the most of your SAT self-study plan:
  1. Make a schedule.
  2. Start with official materials and resources.
  3. Use only highly rated prep books.
  4. Track your progress with practice tests.
  5. Focus on your weaknesses.
  6. Get help as needed.
  7. Find ways to stay motivated.
Dec 22, 2019

Can you get a 1200 on the SAT without studying? ›

It is very possible. However, I made sure to study for about 4–5 hours daily and I did full length practice tests every other week, helping me increase to this score. You just need to believe in yourself and work really really hard, and then you will get it.

How to get a 1500 on the SAT? ›

To get 1500 SAT, you need to get at least 48 right out of 52 in the Reading section. 41 right out of 44 in the Language section and 55 right out of 58 in the Maths section. It is essential to note that the marks are collectively calculated to derive an SAT score.

Is self reporting SAT enough? ›

Students who are satisfied with their standardized test scores and feel good about submitting a solid score should, by all means, take advantage of self-reporting. This guarantees that their high score is part of the first impression made when admissions evaluates their application.

Is 3 days enough to study for SAT? ›

Tip 4: Try to Study for At Least 2 Weeks in Total

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.

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.

Can you get a 1600 on SAT if you miss a question? ›

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.

How many questions can I miss on the SAT to get a 1100? ›

For Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, you can skip/answer incorrectly on average 9 questions on the writing portion and 12 questions on the reading portion. For Math, you can skip/answer incorrectly on average 17 questions between the calculator and no-calculator sections.

Can I get into MIT with a 1200 SAT? ›

To get admission to top colleges like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, one needs to score at least 1500. But there are more than 430 colleges that accept an SAT score of 1200 or 75th percentile score.

Can I get into Harvard with 1500 SAT? ›

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.

Has the SAT gotten harder? ›

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 the average SAT score without Essay? ›

According to data published in College Board's 2020 SAT Annual Report, among the 2.2 million 2020 high school graduates who took the test, the average SAT composite score was 1051, with the average “Reading & Writing” score being 528 and the average “Mathematics” score is 523.

Do colleges look at self reported SAT scores? ›

Most colleges use the Common App, and most colleges that use the Common App allow students to self-report scores. What SAT and ACT scores do colleges see through the Common App? Only your highest section scores on the SAT and only your highest composite score and highest section scores from any test dates on the ACT.

Is 1090 an ok SAT score? ›

1090 on the SATs Is Average but Not Bad

The higher your SAT score, the more scholarships you'll qualify for to receive a financial award. However, if you're applying to colleges with test-optional or test-blind admissions, the choice to aim for higher results is up to you.


1. Learn from the vedic expert the art of Ancient Math
2. Become a Tutor | Get paid 30hr | Wyzant | Scam or Nah
3. High School Writing tips by English Language Arts Expert
4. Middle & High School Math: How can students and parents prepare for upcoming school year?
5. Episode #395 - Travis Daugherty, Author-Speaker and Founder of CHAMPIONS101 Leadership Program
(The Educational AD Podcast)
6. "Top 5 High-Paying Side Hustles to Make $10,000 Monthly in 2023"


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ray Christiansen

Last Updated: 18/09/2023

Views: 5657

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ray Christiansen

Birthday: 1998-05-04

Address: Apt. 814 34339 Sauer Islands, Hirtheville, GA 02446-8771

Phone: +337636892828

Job: Lead Hospitality Designer

Hobby: Urban exploration, Tai chi, Lockpicking, Fashion, Gunsmithing, Pottery, Geocaching

Introduction: My name is Ray Christiansen, I am a fair, good, cute, gentle, vast, glamorous, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.