10 SAT Score Improvement Tips

The SAT is challenging, so don't feel bad if the test didn't go well the first time. Improve your SAT test scores for your retake with these top tips!

This blog was originally posted on PrepExpert.com.

It’s rare for students to score a perfect 1600 on the SAT on their first try. However, you can always improve your overall SAT score from one test date to the next, as long as you have a plan and put in the hard work to follow it. Here are 10 SAT score improvement tips that you can use when both studying for the test and on test day itself.

SAT infographic 

Infographic by PrepExpert

1. Start studying immediately after a test

As soon as you can after taking the test, write down as much as you can remember from it. Write down anything that confused you, was unexpectedly difficult, sections you felt confident on, etc. This will help you plan for your next study cycle because now you’re aware of what you need the most help with on a live test. While your score report will help, these impression notes will help immediately start the next round of test prep.

Related: Top 5 Myths About the SAT

2. Adjust your studying based on your score report

After taking the SAT, you will receive your official score report. Whether it’s good or bad, use that report to your advantage. Besides your total score and section scores, pay particular attention to the sub-scores. These are where you will receive the greatest benefit for your next prep round. Look at the weakest scores and you’ll know what needs to be focused on next. Moreover, you’ll have the confidence of knowing which sections you’re already good at.

3. Optimize your study habits

Once you carve out the necessary time to study, the next important step is to optimize your study routine. Make sure to take at least one or two practice tests. The immediate benefit is identifying which sections give you the most trouble. You can then tailor your prep to what needs the most improvement. Once you feel confident, take another practice test, grade it, and see if you’ve improved. If you have improved, that’s great; if you are still having trouble, then circle any questions you either were unsure of—and especially those you got wrong—to drill down what skills you need to further develop.

Related: Our Best Advice for Homework, Studying, and Tests

4. Create a study schedule

When you study, it’s important to break things up into easily digestible chunks for your brain to understand and memorize. The best thing to do is look at your current schedule, list out all your commitments, and look for gaps in availability. If you need to make space, then look at your commitments, rank them in order of importance, and consider cutting ones that aren’t essential to your overall success.

5. Study with high-quality materials

Contrary to popular belief, doing well on the SAT doesn’t just boil down to knowing a lot of math, reading, and writing skills. To score highly, you need to understand the actual test structure itself. The SAT operates through specific patterns you can use to your advantage. The trick is to learn how to take the SAT. To do that, you need to use the most accurate study materials available in order to realistically replicate the experience and avoid developing bad habits and incorrect skills. Fortunately, the College Board and other places like Prep Expert provide quality study materials that accurately replicate the test-taking experience.

Related: Understanding Standardized Tests and Scores

6. Use practice tests as warm-ups and progress reports

Taking the SAT is a significant commitment that requires a lot of work and study. You need to simulate test-taking conditions to be ready for the time constraints you’ll face. Realistic practice tests will train you on both the test’s format and develop your physical and mental stamina for every section. Take multiple practice tests during your prep cycle to measure how much or little your studying is affecting your potential test score.

7. Find a study group

Sometimes it’s too hard to do it all by yourself, and study groups can help you improve and stay motivated. If you’ve been working on improving scores or problem areas and hit the wall, then don’t be afraid to look for help from peers. Chances are you’re not the only person in your class taking the SAT, so take advantage of that and join a study group with other classmates.

8. Set yourself a test score goal

One way to help focus your studying and motivate yourself is defining a goal of the score you want to hit. If you’ve taken the test already, then you can assess your section scores, especially the sub-scores, and use them to create a realistic improvement goal. If you have specific schools in mind that you’d like to attend, look at their SAT score requirements as goals to hit for motivation.

9. Use your study skills to help manage stress and fear

Taking the SAT can be nerve-wracking, but it doesn’t have to be. When preparing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the test and pressured about failure. Don’t let that fear overtake you. Instead, when studying with practice tests, look at every wrong answer as a learning opportunity. If you miss a question, focus on why. Understand that insight and your entire study approach will be engaging rather than taxing.

Related: Time Management and Study Skills

10. Don’t cram for the SAT!

The SAT isn’t like your regular high school test; there’s too much information to know about the material and test format to shove into your brain at the last possible second. That’s why you absolutely need to set aside time and schedule well in advance before signing up for a test date. Setting aside one or two months of consistent prep time before a test is recommended for positive results. Your brain and nerves will thank you for it later.

Read the full post here, and find more SAT tips in our Test Prep section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

Jada Bohanon

Jada Bohanon

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships for the colleges I applied to. It was very hard for me to find scholarships in the beginning that I was qualified for. My teachers recommended this website to find some, and not only did I find some scholarships but I also got to look into some schools I hadn’t heard of before. I was very happy to have discovered this website, especially with the coronavirus spreading all over as I can’t really go visit many colleges.

Joseph Johnsly

Joseph Johnsly

High School Class of 2021

It's an honor for me to be writing to share a little about my experience with CollegeXpress. I've been using CollegeXpress for about a year now, and the reason why I chose it is because it provides astonishing scholarships for every student around the globe. Besides that, this organization dispenses all the information necessary to help students get to college. CollegeXpress has helped me have an easier experience with applying to colleges and choosing the best fit for myself.



High School Class of 2021

For a long time, I've been searching everywhere to find the perfect website I can get scholarships and information from. Needless to say, I could never find the right one. That was, until I found CollegeXpress. Through my journey of finding the right scholarships for me, I was able to find articles about different things. They've all been helpful, especially in times like this! I was even able to connect with some of my favorite colleges! I love CollegeXpress. Thank you!

Carlie Cadet

Carlie Cadet

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me learn about an abundance of scholarships available to me and my situation. I was able to do research for colleges in my best interest with your website. I've had multiple colleges email me and offer me multiple scholarships and things of that nature because of this website! Thank you so much for uploading scholarships I didn’t even know existed, even if my life took a huge turn and I wasn’t able to go to college straight out of high school. CollegeXpress helped me a lot in high school to be even more motivated to get into my dream college (which I did, by the way). I'm looking forward to using the materials CollegeXpress has kindly provided me for free to look for scholarships to help pay for college.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Ithaca College

Ithaca, NY

Ashland University

Ashland, OH

Pace University - Westchester

Pleasantville, NY