Little orange alarm clock, pencil, pencil sharpener on SAT answer sheet

6 Things You're Doing Wrong in SAT Prep, Plus Tips to Fix It

Do you know you may be unintentionally holding yourself back in your SAT prep? Here are six things possibly preventing you from getting your best scores.

The SAT is one of the biggest tests of a student's life. You may think you're doing everything possible to earn a top score—but you may be wrong. There are many everyday habits that could be hurting rather than helping in your SAT preparation. From the way you study to what you eat, there are many ways to fine-tune your SAT prep strategies. Below are a few things that may be inhibiting you achieving the best possible SAT scores, plus what to do instead.

1. Studying only while sedentary

Students who spend hours at a desk studying are depriving their brain of much needed stimulation through physical activity. Many studies show a positive association between physical activity and academic performance. While researchers haven't determined the reason this happens, many experts point to an increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain as well as higher levels of chemicals that help improve mood. Instead of dedicating all your time to studying in a chair, take breaks to get out and go for a walk, play your favorite sport, or find another way to infuse physical activity into your routine.

2. Hiding your phone while studying

Students can access so many options for SAT prep through their phones today. Though it may seem counterintuitive, if putting away your phone is part of your study plan, you could be missing out. SAT study apps can break up monotonous routines. Additionally, many websites and tutoring companies like Kaplan offer a free SAT Question of the Day on their websites. By using your phone, you'll be able to tackle SAT prep even on the go!

Related: Over 20 Apps to Help You Get Through Tough Finals This Semester

3. Concentrating on the clock

One of the biggest barriers to achieving high SAT scores is the lack of time during the exam. Most students would do much better if they weren't stressed and worried that they may not finish all the questions in time. One strategy to overcome this problem is to put away the clock during your SAT practice exams; if you do better when not timing yourself, you'll know lack of time on the SAT is an issue for you. You can then use your remaining study time to practice time-saving techniques. You can also take comfort in knowing that the more you practice, the faster you'll get.

4. Seeing the road instead of the destination

It’s easy to get caught up thinking about the actual test during SAT prep. But by concentrating on the actual exam—what it’s going to be like, how to manage time, and so on—you can forget about the end result: your SAT score. In any goal setting, it’s helpful to picture the end result. This kind of visualization might seem wishy-washy, but this strategy can help. Envision yourself achieving the score you want. To aid these efforts, you should write your SAT goal on a piece of paper then pick a place you see often, like a bathroom mirror or the family fridge, and post your goal there. This physical reminder will help you see your goal.

Related: How to Set Good Expectations for Your SAT or ACT Scores

5. Not maximizing downtime

Students are busier than ever with athletics, arts, social activities, and not to mention regular schoolwork all competing for time in your schedule. But there are small available windows in your day that you may forget to use—before class, in between activities, or right before dinner, for example. These pockets are a great time to learn SAT vocabulary. By committing to learning one or two words during breaks throughout the day, you'll easily be able to memorize over 10 new terms, which will not only help you score higher on SAT Sentence Completions but also on the SAT Evidence-Based Reading section. This will also help broaden your vocabulary for college and scholarship essays.

6. Eating an unbalanced diet

What you eat may seem like it has nothing to do with SAT prep, but that old adage of “you are what you eat” does have merit. Binging on fast food can affect your energy levels, which can have adverse consequences on your study habits. Try eating more whole fruits, vegetables, and grains during SAT prep (and throughout life, of course). Foods rich in phytoestrogens, like soybeans and soy-based products, can also be beneficial. Soybeans have phytoestrogens, such as isoflavones, that have been linked to improved function of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for short-term memory, attention, and motivation. Students who eat healthily can see improved results in their academic performance as well as their overall well-being.

Related: The Best Advice for Healthy Eating in High School

When trying to achieve your highest scores possible on the SAT, every little bit of prep helps. Being aware of some of the things that may be hurting your SAT prep and what you can do about it may be just what you need to succeed.

While you're adjusting your SAT prep approach, check out Our Best Advice for Homework, Studying, and Tests for even more great tools and tips!

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


About Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation, a #1 bestselling SAT & ACT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and the winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect using 100 strategies taught in Prep Expert's SAT and ACT courses.


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
Amari Toussaint

Amari Toussaint

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me narrow my school choices down from 10 schools to four and then two. It also gave me information on a school I had never heard about or thought about attending until now, which is the school I will be attending in the fall. I am thankful for CollegeXpress and its helpful tools.

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Casey Kammeyer

Casey Kammeyer

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

I love the site CollegeXpress; it has been very helpful finding colleges and getting them to send me information. It has also been very, very helpful with finding tons of scholarships. Also, I told many of my friends about it and they love it as well!

Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Fernando Ponce

Fernando Ponce

High School Junior

College is a way of life that helps us find out who we are as a person, and CollegeXpress is a great way to stay connected with our future, even for students with little time on their hands due to the challenges of high school we face.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Washington College

Chestertown, MD

Samford University

Birmingham, AL

Ithaca College

Ithaca, NY

DePaul University

Chicago, IL