Preparing for the SAT is a lot like working out. In order to maximize results, it’s best to put in a little bit of work everyday. If you are trying to bench-press 300 pounds, you won’t get there in one work out (if you do, you probably have a career in professional weightlifting ahead of you). Similarly, if you are trying to score at the highest level on the SAT, it’s best to prepare with at least a little work each day. Here is a sample five day, thirty minute a day, brain work out plan that will leave you ready for brain swimsuit season (OK, that’s not a thing, but it will leave you ready to attack the SAT).
Monday should be a big vocabulary day. Start by familiarizing yourself with ten to twenty vocabulary words (depending on how soon you will be taking the SAT). Simply look at the words and definitions and repeat each one seven times. A study showed that repeating something seven times is more or less the “magic” number to help something stick in your mind. Quickly test yourself on the word and move on. After learning five words, quiz yourself on the words you’ve learned. Write any words you didn’t get right on a piece of paper. Repeat the previous steps, reviewing each of the five words, until you have familiarized yourself with all the vocabulary.
Look at your sheet of paper and go through the words you missed in your first review. When you have successfully recalled all the definitions, go through all the words one more time and write the words you miss on your sheet of paper. Review those missed words one more time and you are done! With even twenty words, this process shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes. With the remaining ten minutes, pick one strategy from the SAT 2400 book that applies to a section you do not feel as strong in and practice using this strategy for five or six problems.
That’s it! You have learned some vocabulary and done some practice problems. Drink some water and let your brain rest!
Tuesday should be all about practice problems. Take 5 minutes to review your vocabulary then get straight to work. Pick a section you do not feel is your strongest and do the middle ten questions (if you have trouble with many medium questions) or the final ten questions (if you mainly struggle with the hard questions) and apply the strategies from the SAT 2400 book. Try to figure out what type of problem you are dealing with (Is it a math problem where you have to deal with undefined variables that would be easier with real numbers? Or is it a question with an idiomatic preposition error?).
Start categorizing these questions so you know how to attack them when you see them. This should take up the remaining twenty five minutes.
Take ten full minutes on Wednesday to review vocabulary from this week and previous weeks. Put all the words you don’t know onto a sheet of paper and then review this list. For the next twenty minutes take your second strongest section and time yourself to see if you can complete the final fifteen questions in a section in twenty minutes (If the section is writing, try to do ten improving sentences questions, ten identifying sentence error questions, and all of the improving paragraph problems. If the section is reading, do all the completing sentences questions and a short and a long paragraph with all of the related comprehension questions). Take the final five minutes to check work and see what type of problems you missed. Review any SAT 2400 strategies that apply.
Do five minutes of vocabulary review followed by a five minute look at some strategies you are not familiar with for your strongest section. Then try to do the final half of the section in ten minutes. Finally, take ten minutes to outline an essay with a complete intro paragraph and topic sentences. Take the final time to check work and look at more strategies.
Test yourself on all vocabulary for about five minutes, then do a complete timed section of the SAT. This should rotate every week so you are practicing a different timed section every Friday. With any remaining time check your answers and review strategies that apply. This may take you over your thirty minutes, but you have the whole weekend to rest, so it might not be the worst idea to take a few extra minutes to check everything over.
Voila! There you have it: a prototype for thirty minutes a day of work that will leave you feeling exhausted, but pumped up and ready to take the SAT. This is only an example of what a student could do if he or she had a lot of preparation time. If you have less time (a month or less) it will require more time per day to adequately prepare.
The best option would likely be to seek out some private tutoring help or to make a very regimented schedule of a few hours a day. The only caveat to all of this is that it is a VERY good idea to augment daily preparation with a full practice SAT every couple of weeks. My recommendation is if you have two months to prepare, try to take an SAT practice test every month. I would also augment the vocabulary with any new vocabulary words you encounter on the reading sections. This will help to expand your vocabulary knowledge as you encounter words on the test. Good luck, and let’s get SAT ready!
David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.