SAT Tip of the Week: The Best and the Worst of Online SAT Study Tools

SAT Tip of the Week - FullFree web resources can be useful supplements to your SAT study, but only when used correctly. Practice questions, essay hints, and sample passages vary widely in their correctness and helpfulness. At best, web resources can provide free information and explanations to aid your understanding of concepts. At worst, they can mislead and confuse students about the SATs expectations, format, and scoring system. Here are a few tips about making the most of what Google has to offer.

1. Check out the CollegeBoard website—both the student and the professional version. These sites are full of useful information about scoring, format, subjects covered, and average performance. They even include practice questions, essay prompts, scored sample essays, and test day advice. Many times while perusing the site, I’ve found interesting and useful answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had.

2. Don’t trust unofficial practice tests and questions. Many of these contain errors and most aren’t representative of real SAT tests. For example, some strategies that are effective on official tests don’t work on unofficial ones, and some unofficial questions reference concepts that don’t appear on official tests.

3. Khan Academy, Grammar Girl, dictionaries, and other reputable online sources for explanations of concepts are almost always useful. Even after two years of teaching classes on misplaced modifiers and semicolon use, I still refer to Grammarbook and the Purdue Online Writing Lab whenever I encounter a grammatical ambiguity. I also refer some of my students to various Dummies and freemathhelp.com pages for explanations of math concepts, since alternative forms of explanation help many students to better understand ideas.

4. Forums are generally unreliable. Though they occasionally contain useful information, more often they contain overgeneralizations, opinions, and guesses about how the SAT works. Unless you’re looking for reviews of test prep resources or a way to connect to other test-takers, avoid relying on these for facts.

5. Libraries, schools, and counselors are extraordinarily underrated sources of test prep help. Counselors can clarify the logistical and financial aspects of the SAT, as well as offer personalized advice about when to take the test and how to submit scores to colleges. Teachers can explain concepts that appear on the SAT and look over your practice SAT essays. Libraries contain plenty of different books that explain SAT concepts in different ways, and some libraries even offer tutoring services, practice tests, and test prep guides.

The Internet can be useful but we may miss out on resources right in front of us. Once you know how to identify what will truly help to support you in your studies (and pair it with a Veritas Prep course) you’ll be ready to handle the SAT come test day.

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Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.