Ultimate SAT Prep Guide 2018 – SAT Dates, Best Books, Free Resources

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If you’ve been wondering about the SAT, you need wonder no more. Here we feature the best ways to SAT Prep, online SAT prep, SAT prep classes, SAT prep books, and more. So, let’s get started!

SAT Prep at a glance:

What it is: College admissions test

Price: $45 (or $57 including optional essay)

Time to complete: Three hours (3h 50 minutes with optional essay)

SAT Dates:

Test DateNormal DeadlineLate Registration*Online Score Release
March 10, 2018**February 9, 2018February 28, 2018March 23-29, 2018
May 5, 2018April 6, 2018April 25, 2018May 18-24, 2018
June 2, 2018May 3, 2018May 23, 2018July 11, 2018

SAT Dates (International):

Test DateRegistration DeadlineOnline Score Release
March 10, 2018**February 9, 2018March 23-29, 2018
May 5, 2018April 6, 2018May 18-24, 2018
June 2, 2018*May 3, 2018July 11, 2018

Why does my score matter?

sat scholarship sat best books

Many colleges use the SAT in combination with students’ GPAs to make admission and scholarshipdecisions.

The higher your SAT score, the more likely you are to get into your desired college and/or get a good scholarship. According to Fred Zhang, a top SAT tutor, your SAT score impacts 30 to 50% of your dream college’s admission’s decision.

From experience, I can tell you this is true. In high school, I was in the bottom half of my class. My grades weren’t fantastic. However, I scored a 2160 on my SAT in 2013, which today would equate to a 1500. I was in the top 1% of all test takers. When I applied to colleges, I was admitted into some selective technical schools. Also, I was offered scholarships equaling half my tuition every year. Not bad, right?

For some lists of guaranteed scholarships based on SAT scores, check herehere, here or search “SAT Scholarships”.

Also, the United States military offers scholarships with their ROTC programs. These can depend partially on SAT scores. ROTC is a good way to pay for college if you’re willing to serve in the military after college.

Army ROTC 
Navy ROTC 
Air Force ROTC

So, to put it plainly, it is in YOUR best interest to score as highly as you can on the SAT. The rest of this guide will teach you the best ways to SAT prep.

sat success stories sat best scores

Mindset of Success

To score highly on the SAT test, you’re going to need internal motivation. This means that you want to achieve something just for the purpose of achieving it. You value the long-term benefit, not immediate gratification. You’re motivated by the big picture reward.

So how do you get motivated?

  1. Visualize the result.
    Picture in your head what achieving that desired SAT score would look like.
    You log into your account online, and waiting for you is that juicy, high score. Bam! You know that your hours of studying have paid off and that you’ve got a good grasp of the material. You know that you’re that much closer to getting an admission decision or scholarship. Regardless of how you did compared to other people, you know you did the best you could.
  2. Break it into small, SMART goals.
    SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Relevant. Humans, especially those with mental health issues (which affect 1/4 of people), have a hard time achieving goals sometimes. We think of a goal as a huge task that has to be accomplished all at once. Instead, the best way to complete a goal is to split it up into pieces. For example: You want to make a 1500 on the SAT. You take the SAT the first time and score a 1300. You see that your weakest area was math. So you decide to study math. Don’t say, “I’m going to master math by the time I take the SAT again”, which leaves you with no direction. Instead, try saying, “I’m going to study one subsection of math every week for three months. Every day I’ll study 30 minutes or complete 15 practice problems, whichever comes first.” 30 minutes a day and one section a week is an attainable method of reaching your math goal.
  3. Reward yourself intelligently upon achieving goals. By rewarding yourself every time you complete a small goal, you’re wiring your brain to associate good feelings with your SAT prep. This reinforces your desire and motivation to study and will help you put in more hours without feeling bored. However, you must reward yourself after the goal is complete. This is especially true with addictive rewards- sugary foods, video games, drinking, TV, and technology. Sugar and alcohol (and some drugs) have a negative effect on cognition speed and memory. These rewards can sap your productivity. You also want to avoid settling into your favorite game or TV show after only 10 minutes of studying and realize hours later that you didn’t finish all your homework, and you’ve still got more practice problems to do to meet your daily goal. Save the fun for afterward- you’ll feel better and you’ll be building better SAT prep habits.

Also, to achieve high SAT scores, keep in mind that the SAT is competitive, but don’t get down on yourself. No matter what, don’t beat yourself up.

sat score table sat best scores sat prep scores

SAT Score Improvement

The SAT is designed so that the results follow a Normal Distribution. This means that the scores fit a bell-shaped pattern, with 68% of students scoring between 400 and 600 per section.
You can see the score distribution for 2016 here.

Most of your SAT score comes from the preparation you received from your teachers. Most do not teach specifically SAT prep classes. Instead, they teach the component elements of the SAT test as school subjects. So, if your instruction was subpar, or you didn’t do so well in a particular class, you won’t have a good comprehension of that SAT subject. Also, the SAT test may ask questions that use familiar concepts in a new way. For example, one SAT question asks you to find the area of a shaded region inside a square with a circle (see picture).SAT Math circle square

Many geometry classes don’t teach that. Also the SAT will use high-level vocabulary words in the reading section that students won’t normally encounter, so they won’t know the definitions.

For SAT success, you need to not be too critical on yourself if you score low and be willing to improve. The mindset of success means that you are willing to train like a mental athlete to increase your SAT score. How many hours? Here is an estimate:

0-30 Point Improvement: 10 hours
30-70 Point Improvement: 20 hours
70-130 Point Improvement: 40 hours
130-200 Point Improvement: 80 hours
200-330 Point Improvement: 150 hours+

Studying for the SAT

Q: What’s the minimum time I can study per day?

There is no minimum. It all depends on how much time you want to spend a week. However, it’s important that you practice as close to everyday as possible. This facilitates maximum skill-building, as Daniel Coyle writes in his book The Talent Code. Here’s the science behind it: the more frequently you do something, the more myelin wraps around the neurons in your brains. This makes increases the synaptic connections and makes the neural activity faster. It’s better to spend 5 hours spread out over 5 days a week instead of 5 hours in 2 days. Higher frequency is better than longer sets.

sat girl studying sat scores

Q: How do I know what to study?

You’ll want to take practice tests to find out exactly what areas of the SAT you are weak in. But it’s not enough to know what the right answer is once you’ve completed the test, you also have to know why. For this, the official SAT practice tests are the best resource.

You can also use The Virtual Wiz Library SAT Test Prep Medium to take a practice test that features unused questions written by the writers of the new SAT. Additionally, there are several study websites like PrepScholar that have SAT questions outside of a test, categorized by subject but the most detailed and presized SAT study Platform is via tvw-educare

After you’ve taken the practice test and viewed your results, go back through the test and fill out the PowerScore Skills Assessment. It may seem like a lot of work, but trust us, this will actually boost your SAT score many times by identifying what your weakest areas are. Once you have identified your weaknesses, you can use any resource to help improve in those areas. The next few sections of this guide will focus on resources, courses and books for SAT prep.

Q: What tools do I need to study effectively?

You might find this list helpful.

Q: What are some highly effective study strategies I can use?

1. Space your Studying Out

2. Divide your Studying Between Subjects

3. Test Yourself

4. Answer “Why?”

5. Self-Monitoring Works

You can visit this link for more information.

Q: How do I choose the best study environment?

Noise, lighting, music, and distractions all play a role in deciding your study environment. For more information, you can read this guide.

Paid SAT Prep Resources

If you’re looking for more than free content and have the money, then paid options are a good idea. Here are some of the best.

Kaplan SAT Prep Course

Price: $899+

An established giant in the field of SAT prep, Kaplan offers the complete package. Practice tests, videos, one-on-one help, 18 hours of live instruction, and two SAT prep books.

Princeton Review

Price: $299 or $1099

For $299 you get the self-paced version, perfect for those with busy schedules. It features 140+ videos, 14 practice tests, customized lesson plans, online drills to practice skills, and 3 hours of on-demand help from an instructor.

For $1099 you get the classroom experience, with in-person instruction and lots of Q&A, along with everything in the lower price tier.

Prepscholar

Price: $400-600 depending on location

PrepScholar offers thousands of test practice questions written by people who scored in the top 1% of all test takers and even by some who got perfect scores on the SAT, along with graduates from top universities. It personalizes your learning by showing you exactly where to focus to best improve your score.

SAT Prep curvebreakersCurveBreakers Test Prep

Price: $650 for five hours of online tutoring (more options available)

CurveBreakers is more of a dedicated tutoring service than an all-around prep course. You can get online tutoring worldwide or in-person tutoring if you live in New York. Nick LaPoma, owner and main tutor of CurveBreakers, is a veteran in the field of test prep. Also, CurveBreakers has success stories of students increasing their SAT score on the old SAT by 310 points.

SAT Prep Books

sat best book sat free resources
Source: thekennedyword.com

If you want a hard-copy version of the 8 SAT practice tests offered for free online, you can go with The Official SAT Study Guide, 2018 Edition. You’ll need a separate app to score your tests in the book, though.

An alternative is SAT Prep Plus 2018: 5 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies + Online (Kaplan Test Prep). The Online Resources are more practice questions to help practice your SAT skills.

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