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How to prepare for the SATs?


15 December 2020             

What is the SAT?

SAT, formerly known as the Standardized Aptitude Test is taken by students entering higher education in the United States. It comprises two sections testing students in Math and evidence-based reading and writing.

It also consists of an optional essay writing section. It is developed and published by the college board which intends to assess students' readiness for the college curriculum. Many higher education institutes use the SAT score in addition to high school GPA as of their admission criteria.

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When to take the SAT?

SAT is a worldwide test taken seven times a year, between March and December. One is allowed to take the test in their freshman year, however, most students prefer to take the SAT for the first time in the spring of their junior year and probably plan for their next test date in the fall of their senior year. 

Since a few institutions require SAT subject tests, students must plan their calendars well in advance and schedule their test dates accordingly. Consequently, SAT aspirants must keep a vigil on the last date for registration, which is different for each test date.

The schedule for your SAT test dates should ideally consider the following aspects:

  • College Application Deadline- Ideally you should be applying 8 to 10 months in advance to smoothen out the application process.
  • Scholarships- If you are applying for scholarships based on your SAT scores, then you must keep in mind that scholarships take quite some time to process, thus apply accordingly.
  • There is no limit to the number of times you can appear for the SAT. Further, SAT scores are valid for a period of 5 years. Thus, you can plan your test according to your preferences and requirements.

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How to register for the SATs?

  • Students can register themselves for SAT online on the respective college board website. In the online mode, students need to create their profile on the college board website.
  • Alternatively, one can also mail their application via the form in the Student Registration Booklet. 
  • The registration process includes submitting a recent picture of the student and providing one's basic info. 
  • There is a registration fee for the signup process, which the student has to deposit at the time of the application.
  • It is advisable to wind up the application process with enough time in hand, to avoid late fees and other last-minute glitches.

You can register at the Official Website.

Method of preparation for the SAT

SAT is a source of anxiety for many high schoolers. However, it is not a herculean task to score well. With a few well-planned strategies and some preparation time in hand, you can ensure yourself a place in the institute of your choice. 

  • You must acquaint yourself with the format of the questions. SAT has five sections, namely reading; writing, and language; math with and without a calculator; and last the essay which is optional.
  • You get 3 hours to take the test. 65 minutes for reading, 35 for writing, 25 for non-calculator math, 55 for calculator allowed math, and 50 minutes for the optional essay.
  • Time yourself. If the time limit for non-calculator math is 25 minutes, challenge yourself for finishing it in 20 minutes so that you have 5 minutes in hand to recheck your answers.
  • A key strategy for preparation is thus taking as many sample tests and practice tests as possible. 
  • Timed practice tests and sample tests will give you important insight into your time management. Effective time management is an important key to success in the SAT.

Here are some courses you can take to help you prepare: Princeton Review, Khan Academy

You can find some practice tests here: QS Leap, College Readiness


Smiling girl holding notebooks and standing

Guide to the SAT Reading and Writing section

  • Comprehend the questions with an intent to decipher the purpose of reading.
  • It helps to answer questions aloud( (to yourself) while answering the grammar questions.
  • Look out for the tiny errors. Attention to punctuation, subject-verb agreement, plurals, and parallel structures help.


students writing and studying

Guide to SAT Math section

  • Simplify is the mantra - Math is one skill where you can break a complex problem into steps. Further, sometimes a question might seem tricky only until you realize that you just needed to simplify it. For example, a problem based on percentage is actually a problem with fractions or decimals. 
  • Build a mental model of the problem - Draw figures, charts, or graphs that will help you to understand the problem better.
  • Memorize the time-savers- Memorizing some squares, cubes, and their roots can act as a great time-saving tool. Another time-saving tool will be memorizing the Pythagorean triplets as also some often used formulas.
  • Keep a vigil on silly mistakes we make, when we are stressed for time. For example, sometimes the problem statement is in hours and the solution asked may be in minutes. When in a hurry, we may miss out on these tiny aspects.


Math background

Planning SAT, the Cuemath way

" A dream written down with a date becomes a goal, a goal broken down into steps becomes a plan, a plan backed by action becomes reality."

The SAT tests students on skills that are developed early in life. Reading, Writing, and Math are all skills best developed in children in their formative years. As a premier math learning program, we at Cuemath aim to inculcate Math skills in kids right from the beginning. 

The idea is to develop mathematical thinking in kids by educating them with the 'why' of Math rather than just making them memorize the formulas. Thus, children not only start appreciating Math but also start formulating their own unique solutions to problems.

 Mental math is an important aspect of non-calculator math. Cuemath focuses strongly on mental math, right from the primary school grades. Not only this, but we at Cuemath also follow the active learning approach which helps inculcate a growth mindset in children. 

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The SATs are a highly attempted exam, over 8 million students took the exam in 2019. However, with sheer hard and smart work, accompanied by a proper schedule and guideline, one can really do well. Getting well acquainted with the pattern, the structure and the type of questions is very important.

With this mindset children not only become learners for a lifetime, but they also become explorers. As Albert Einstein said, " Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think." 

About Cuemath

Cuemath, a student-friendly mathematics and coding platform, conducts regular Online Live Classes for academics and skill-development, and their Mental Math App, on both iOS and Android, is a one-stop solution for kids to develop multiple skills. Understand the Cuemath Fee structure and sign up for a free trial.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the SATs

What SAT means?

 SAT stands for “Scholastic Aptitude Test”. The SAT exam was an assessment that was designed to evaluate a student's college-specific skills.

What is the SAT exam used for?

SAT exam analyses the Mathematical, Critical Reading, and Writing skills of the candidates. According to the College Board, they test the skills which students have learned in their schools. They test the skills which are required for the academic success of the students in college.

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Written by Aarti Agarwal, Cuemath Teacher

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