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Raise Your Score by Taking an SAT Practice Test

Raise your SAT or ACT English score

If you are planning on applying to competitive colleges, it’s a good idea to improve your SAT score by taking one or more practice tests.  Over my two decades as an SAT prep teacher, I’ve seen my students improve their scores by 150-250 points – and sometimes more – just by taking practice tests.  If you have the drive to study on your own, you can get these results without spending any money.  If you’d rather have a teacher or tutor for added support and motivation, Test Prep for Success is here to help.


Each time you take a test there are two different ways it helps you improve: content and strategy.  Content means you are improving your skills in reading, writing, and math.  You are learning new comma rules and memorizing the quadratic formula.  Strategy means you are getting better at taking the SAT itself.  You are working faster or slower depending on the time limit for that section, you are using better judgment when you have to guess on a question, and you have a specific plan for how to approach each of the different sections.


Whether you’re working on your own or with a tutor, taking the practice tests is the most important component of SAT prep.  For best results, I recommend that my students take a practice test at least once per month in the three to six months leading up to their official Test Day.  My most ambitious students take practice tests as often as once per week, especially as their official Test Day gets closer.  This article will guide you through the steps of taking a practice SAT, from selecting the best version of the test to analyzing your results.


Step 1: Select the test version

On Your Own

College Board, the maker of the SAT, has done a great job of providing high quality study materials free of charge. They created 10 full-length practice tests (there are only eight tests now, as tests 2 and 4 have been retired) and published the tests, answers, and scoring guides as pdfs on their website.  When you’re ready to take your practice test, visit this website, and select a test that you have never tried before.  Please keep in mind that the popular website, Khan Academy, also uses these tests.  So, if you have used Khan Academy in the past, you may have already seen some of these tests.

Once you select your test version, I strongly recommend printing it out. Normally I’m a huge fan of saving trees, but this is one situation where the printout is significantly better than an on-screen version.  Not only will a printout give you a more authentic Test Day experience, it will also allow you to go back through your work later and analyze your mistakes.  If you plan on taking more than one or two practice tests, you should consider purchasing a copy the Official SAT Study Guide.  This book has all the practice tests pre-printed for you.

With Test Prep for Success

We believe that the College Board’s official practice tests are the highest quality materials available. Our students use either these tests or actual SATs that were administered in the past three years and then released to the public.  Your tutor or teacher can help you keep track of the tests you have already taken and suggest the next version to try.

Step 2: Take the test

On Your Own

Plan in advance to have a successful testing experience. Look at your calendar and select a time where you can work for just over 3 hours.  (It will take 4 hours if you are writing the optional essay.)  Make sure to let your family or roommates know that you shouldn’t be interrupted during this time. Select a location at a desk or table rather than a bed or sofa.

Gather these materials:
  • a printout of the test
  • answer sheet
  • several #2 pencils
  • a calculator
  • something to time yourself with
  • a snack and a drink
Follow this schedule:
  • Section 1 – Reading Comprehension – 65 minutes
  • Break – 5 minutes
  • Section 2 – Writing and Language – 35 minutes
  • Section 3 – Math (no calculator) – 25 minutes
  • Break – 5 minutes
  • Section 4 – Math (with a calculator) – 55 minutes
  • Break – 5 minutes
  • Optional Essay – 50 Minutes

With Test Prep for Success

It takes a lot of discipline to follow the above schedule! Taking the test with a few other students and a friendly teacher can help keep you going the whole way through. We offer weekly tests proctored over zoom to give our students guidance and cheer them on as they work through all the sections.  Take a look at our calendar to see when the next test is offered.

Step 3: Score your test

On your own

Once you’re done with the test, go back to the College Board’s website and download the scoring guide. Make sure to use the correct scoring guide for the test version you just completed because they are all a little different.  The guide will walk you through the steps of calculating your overall SAT score, the Reading and Writing subscore, the Math subscore, and the cross-test scores.  If you wrote the optional essay, ask your English teacher to look at it for you.

With Test Prep for Success

We use a software program called MySATCourse that can produce a full color 11-page score report for each of the SAT and ACT tests. This thorough report will include all the scores and subscores, a list of all the correct answers as compared to your answers, and an analysis of your strong and weak areas.  We’ll also let you know the ACT equivalent to your SAT score.  You can enter your answers on our website or just text us a photo of your answer sheet.  The full report will be emailed to both the parent and student in pdf format.  Here are some tips to get the most out of your report:

  • DO go through the report carefully and try to learn something from every mistake.
  • DO use this information to help you set goals and decide between the SAT and ACT.
  • DO make a big, bold mark next to any questions you want to discuss with your tutor or teacher.
  • DO let us know if you notice a grading error. We are happy to fix it and send you an updated report.
  • DON’T send this score to any colleges. You need to take an official test for that.
  • DON’T get frustrated by your score; get motivated!
  • DO give yourself credit for going the extra mile and taking a practice test.

Visit this site to see a sample report and order one for yourself.

If you wrote the optional essay, we can grade that for you as well.  We use the same rubric as the College Board and provide you with the three subscores.  We also mark up your essay and create a list of suggestions for improving in each of the areas.

Step 4: Review the questions you missed and update your strategies

On your own

Once you’re done scoring your test, you have a great opportunity to learn and improve! Not only should you go through each question you got wrong, you should also consider your overall strategies.  Did you run out of time on any of the sections?  Did you work too quickly and make avoidable errors? Did you misunderstand any of the directions? Make sure to write down your ideas about what you should do differently next time and review that list just before you take your next test.

With Test Prep for Success

I’ve taught SAT prep for almost 2 decades and know hundreds of tips and tricks for the test. I’ve also learned that some tips are better than others.  When one of my students makes a big improvement, I always ask “what did you do differently this time?  What was it that helped so much?”  I get the same answers over and over again.  Some of the most common ones are marking up the passages as you read them, taking a systematic approach to the grammar questions, and slowing down in the math section, even if it causes you to run out of time.  I’ve compiled a list of five or six of the very best “success strategies” for each section of the test and review them at each of my classes.  If you’d like to give these classes a try, here are is the schedule and the pricing.

I also work one-on-one with my tutoring students to create a personalized version of the success strategies that is tailored to their strengths, weaknesses, and personality. We can use a tutoring session to go through the practice test question by question and connect the SAT question to concepts you’ve already learned in school. If we identify any gaps in your knowledge, I can help fill those in and provide targeted drills in the areas you need to work on the most. You can learn more about the TP4S one-on-one tutoring program here.

Whether you decide to study on your own or work with a tutor, taking practice tests is the most important thing you can do to raise your SAT score.  So what are you waiting for?  Try a test and see what you get!  Each practice test you take will get you one step closer to attending the college of your dreams.  Best of luck with your test prep, and don’t forget to give me a call if you’d like some extra help.