Hi! I’m Ben Fierce, Academic Advisor at Learner.

I scored a 1600 on the SAT and have helped hundreds of students improve their SAT score. Check out the article below where I have shared some of my strategies for success. Interested in how I can help your child?

An image of Ben Fierce and a bookAn image of Ben Fierce and a book

7 SAT Strategies From Someone Who Scored A 1600

A good SAT score can take some of the stress out of the college admissions process. However, a perfect score is an even better goal. An SAT score of 1600 could help you get into an Ivy League school and even win a full-ride scholarship.

You may think that only students with genius-level IQs can score a 1600. The truth, however, is that anyone can get a perfect score if they put in enough work. If your goal is to ace the SAT, you need to spend enough time preparing for the exam.

One of the most important things to understand before you start studying is this: The SAT exam is not an IQ test. It’s not designed to evaluate raw intelligence. As such, you can achieve a perfect score no matter what your IQ is – you just need to prepare properly.

With the right preparation, you can significantly improve your SAT score. The key is to change your perspective. You need to see the exam as the test-makers do, not get stuck in a test-taker mindset. In this guide, we’ll cover eight tried-and-true SAT strategies. By following these techniques, you can prep your way to a perfect 1600.

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Strategy #1: Practice Effectively

Let’s start with the most obvious tip: practice. Of course, everyone knows that practice is an essential part of preparing for anything, including a standardized test. With the SAT, however, it’s essential to make sure you are practicing as effectively as possible.

Studies show that many students consistently raise their SAT scores through preparation. On average, students tend to boost their composite score by approximately 30 points after test-prep courses and/or private tutoring, according to a 1996 study by College Board (the SAT administrators). An Ohio State University study using data from 1988 to 2000 found that the students who took private SAT prep classes improved their composite scores by an average of 60 points.

When you’re studying for the SAT, it’s vital to make sure you are practicing in the most effective way. The best way to prepare is to take practice SATs. College Board offers two options: an online exam and a traditional pen-and-paper test.

While taking the online test isn’t necessarily bad, there is a potential advantage to choosing the paper test. With a physical practice exam, you can easily simulate the real testing environment, which is essential. The more you can practice for the exact test conditions, the better you can prepare.

Taking the paper test also requires you to score it yourself, so you can compare your answers with the correct ones and see where you went wrong. Reviewing right and wrong answers is a key part of effective test preparation.

No matter how well you score on your practice test, take the time to make sure you understand why your right answers are correct and where you went wrong on the questions you missed. Once you know your weakest areas, you can spend extra practice on those types of questions.

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Strategy #2: Identify and Overcome Your Weaknesses

As stated above, taking practice SAT tests can help you understand where you are getting wrong answers. Some of those places are likely due to insufficient knowledge of the material.

When you know which academic concepts you are struggling with, you can find ways to increase your knowledge. Maybe you need to spend more time on your writing skills or work with a tutor to get a handle on difficult math concepts.

Academic topics aren’t the only SAT weakness you may have. You probably need to improve your test-taking skills. For example, you must have excellent time management to test well. It’s easy to get stuck on a single challenging question, but spending too much time on hard problems can cut into your time for the rest of the test.

Conversely, you don’t want to rush through any questions, even easy ones. Going too quickly significantly increases the chance that you will misread a question or make a simple calculation error.

Part of your test preparation should involve figuring out how to optimize your time. You want to balance accuracy with speed, giving yourself enough time for hard questions without compromising your ability to answer the easier ones.

Strategy #3: Understand Your Biggest Opportunities

As you work on acknowledging and overcoming your weaknesses, take a minute to change your perspective. All of these things are opportunities for improvement, and fixing them will improve your test results.

One of the easiest ways to identify these areas is by looking for a pattern in the questions that you miss. Are you consistently getting wrong answers to certain math questions? Are you getting confused by the critical reading passages? By identifying your biggest challenges, you’ve also found the most significant opportunities.

If your weaknesses are content-related, spend some extra time studying the concepts in the test. If you have the chance to work with a tutor, that can make a big difference. But even studying alone can improve your subject knowledge.

If you know the material fairly well, your areas for improvement are probably related to the test itself. Answering questions under time pressure is daunting and causes a lot of test-takers to rush. However, going too quickly usually leads to comprehension issues.

Acclimate yourself to the feeling of time pressure by simulating an accurate testing environment during your practice exams. Get used to going through the test in the allotted time. Even with the ticking clock, take the time to ensure you truly understand each question before trying to find the answer.

Another common cause of low test scores is anxiety. Fortunately, test anxiety tends to decrease with practice. The more you can prepare yourself for the test environment, the less anxiety you may feel during the real thing.

Are you getting wrong answers due to careless mistakes? This is especially common in the math portion, but it’s another area you can improve. Make sure you verify your solution before you fill in your answer, especially if the multiple-choice options are similar.

Strategy #4: Upgrade Your Math Techniques

Even if math is a strong subject for you, the math portion of the SAT may still be challenging. Of course, if most of your wrong answers are due to a lack of subject knowledge, the best thing to do is work on understanding those concepts.

However, you may feel confident in your math knowledge but still get low scores. There are several possible reasons:

  • Calculation errors
  • Multiple choice mistakes
  • Misreading the questions

An excellent way to improve is to work on your problem-solving skills. Start with the questions you missed on your practice test. Before you look at the answer guide, re-solve each question on your own. Can you get to the correct answer? If so, figure out where your initial calculation error was and work on fixing that issue.

Most people tend to make the same common mistakes on the SAT math portion:

  • Forgetting important formulas
  • Misunderstanding the question format
  • Solving for the wrong value
  • Misreading the questions
  • Misusing the calculator
  • Skipping steps in the solution
  • Using time inefficiently

Ask yourself if you are making some of these errors. Once you know which ones you are dealing with, you can address them in your study sessions.

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Strategy #5: Have a Reading Passage Strategy

Maybe you find the math questions easy but have issues with the reading portion. If so, you may need to modify your studying strategy for the reading section. Chances are your wrong answers aren’t based on a lack of knowledge. They are likely due to not understanding the questions or missing key portions of the text.

Here's a solid reading strategy:

  1. Start by skimming the passage.
  2. Start by skimming the passage.
  3. After you skim, carefully read through the questions.
  4. Go back and read the passage fully, keeping the questions in mind.

Another option is to skip the initial skimming of the passage – just go straight to the questions at first. Then read the passage while thinking about the questions.

Find a technique that helps you engage with the reading passage. You could circle words or themes from the questions. Another option is to underline portions you feel are important. You can also jot notes to yourself in the margins as you read.

You might not need to use all of these techniques. During your practice tests, try them all out and decide which ones work best for you.

Strategy #6: Learn How To Eliminate Wrong Answers

Ideally, you could get a perfect score by simply figuring out all the correct answers. However, this isn’t necessarily what you should be aiming for, especially when it comes to the reading section. Rather, it’s important to apply some critical thinking to the test.

Because the SAT is a standardized multiple-choice test, there is no ambiguity in the right and wrong answers. Each question only has one right answer. That answer is 100% correct, and therefore, the other three answers have something about them that is 100% wrong. This means you can use the process of elimination to get rid of the incorrect answers, letting you choose the right one with certainty.

Here are some common types of wrong answers:

  1. Opposite: the information is reversed from the passage, which can be easy to miss if you read too quickly
  2. Extra information or minor changes: there are small details that don’t match the passage exactly
  3. Irrelevant or jumbled concepts: answers have similar phrasing but different meanings than the passage Irrelevant or jumbled concepts: answers have similar phrasing but different meanings than the passage
  4. Plausible interpretation: the question seems to allow multiple interpretations

The plausible interpretation answers can be the hardest to eliminate, because you may think you are being asked for your personal thoughts on the passage. However, these are standardized test questions – the only correct answer is the one that you can directly support from the passage itself.

Strategy #7: Improve Your Time Management

Poor time management is one of the main causes of low SAT scores. Students run out of time to answer all the questions or they end up rushing through a lot of questions after getting stuck on a few hard problems.

Improving your time management can significantly increase your SAT score simply because you’ll be able to give adequate time to each question. Remember, each question on the test is worth the same amount of points, and there is no penalty for guessing or leaving an answer blank. So you want to make sure get the points from all the easy questions rather than getting hung up on the harder questions.

Before you start each section, understand approximately how much time you have for each question.
Reading: 52 questions, 65 minutes
Writing and language: 44 questions, 35 minutes
Math: 38 questions, 55 minutes (calculator portion); 20 questions, 25 minutes (no calculator)

Make sure you don’t spend too long on a single problem. Instead, start with the questions you know you can answer fairly quickly. Then you can circle back to the harder problems if you have time.

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Bonus Strategy: Follow These Test Day Tips

You’ve prepared and studied, and now the test is upon you! Follow these steps to ensure the best possible test day.

The night before: Pack your test-taking supplies (#2 pencils, calculator, admission paperwork, photo ID) so you don’t have to think about it in the morning. Eat a nutritious dinner, and get plenty of sleep. You may want to try some stress-reduction techniques, such as meditating.

The morning of: Wake up with enough time to have breakfast and make it to the test site on time. Hydrate well, and avoid the temptation of too much coffee, which can increase anxiety.

During the test: Make the most of your time.
Skip difficult questions, and come back to them if you have enough time.
Save time by filling in the bubbles in batches. Mark the right answers in the test booklet as you solve problems, and then go back and fill in the bubbles on the answer sheet for several questions at a time. Only use this strategy if you are confident you’ll have enough time to fill in the bubble sheet.

Stay positive: Use positive self-talk. Try to avoid getting frustrated or overwhelmed. You’ve worked hard for this moment – believe in yourself!

A Perfect SAT Score Is Within Your Grasp

If your goal is a perfect 1600 on the SAT, you can achieve it! As long as you have the self-discipline to practice and prepare enough, you can ace the test. Before you dive into serious test-prep mode, make sure you have the tools and techniques to study effectively.

Try to figure out your biggest areas for improvement. Are you struggling with the test format? Are you forgetting the math formulas you need to know? Maybe you are blanking on the reading questions because the test environment is stressful. As long as you know what your challenges are, you can tailor your preparation to address them.

Once you have a plan, set up a study schedule. You might want to split your time between studying the material and taking SAT practice tests. Maybe schedule a weekly meeting with a tutor.

No matter what your preparation plan looks like, go into it optimistically. With enough practice, a perfect SAT score is possible. Make up your mind to address your weak areas and improve your testing techniques. Now, get studying, and good luck!

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