5. Test Prep Companies: There is nothing wrong with test prep companies per se, but know that this test is very unlike the kinds of tests you do in school. The SAT is not a content-based test, so you do not really need someone to explain content to you. It is a strategy-based test, and the strategies are NOT rocket science! The only problem with a student taking test prep through a company is that he may assume that is all the prep he needs to do. That would be a mistake. Students must practice independently as well in order to master this test. I would also recommend that if you take test prep, work on it a bit on your own first. Most test prep companies will ‘guarantee’ 150 points improvement. So, don’t start off green behind the ears; make them work for that 150 point improvement.
6. Read, Read, Read! A strong independent reading habit is the best way to prepare for the Critical Reading part of the SAT. It builds vocabulary and naturally builds reading comprehension skills. There are several great resources in novels that are written using the most frequently used SAT vocabulary words; the common vocabulary words are in bold with the definitions at the bottom of the page.
7. Your essay does not have to win prizes to score well: Some of the biggest criticisms of the SAT are about the Essay portion. The essay is a 25-minute “persuasive writing” sample. No one expects it to be perfect and you will mostly be graded on the content, i.e., good relevant examples to prove your point. For more detailed advice on preparing to write a great SAT essay go here: http://bit.ly/1d67Z8E
8. You cannot sprint 50 meters a day to prepare for a 1600-meter race! One of the biggest mistakes that students make is that the first time that they really take the SAT is on the official day. They do not take an actual full length test before, following all of the instructions and individual timings, in the order that the test is given. I get my students to do eight to ten full length tests in a testing environment. If you do this, by test day you will not only be a testing superman/woman, but you will also have a very specific understanding of your Target Range. If you average out your scores across all of the tests that you took, that average would be the low end of your Target Range. The best score that you received in any given section in any given test would be the upper end of your Target Range.