Originally Posted: Mar 6, 2013
Last Updated: Jul 11, 2019
The SAT is one of the biggest tests of students' lives, and they may think they’re doing everything possible to earn a top score—but they may be wrong. There are many everyday habits that may be hurting, rather than helping, in SAT preparation. From the way students study to what they eat, there are many ways to fine tune SAT prep strategies. Below are a few things that may be inhibiting achieving the best possible SAT score.
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 have not 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. So, students who dedicate all their time to studying in a chair should get out and go for a walk, play their favorite sport, or find another way to infuse physical activity into their routine.
Hiding a smartphone while studying
Students can access many options for SAT prep through their smartphones today. Though it may seem counterintuitive, if putting away their phones is part of their study plan, students could be losing out. SAT prep apps, such as the SAT Vocabulary app by Veritas Prep, can break up monotonous study routines. Additionally, the College Board, the company that publishes the SAT, releases a free, authentic SAT question daily through its website and students can have the question e-mailed directly to their inbox. By using their smartphones, students will be able to tackle SAT prep even on the go!
Concentrating on the clock
One of the biggest barriers to achieving a high SAT score is the lack of time during the exam. The majority of students would do much better if they weren't stressed and worried that they may not finish all of the questions on time. One strategy to overcome this problem is to put away the clock during SAT practice exams; then, if students do better when not timing themselves, then they know lack of time on the SAT is an issue. They can then use their remaining study time practicing time-saving techniques. They can also take comfort knowing that the more they practice, the faster they'll get.
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—students can forget about the end result: their 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. Students should envision themselves achieving the score they want. To aid these efforts, students should write their SAT goal on a piece of paper then pick a place they see often, like a bathroom mirror or the family fridge, and post their goal there. This physical reminder will help students see their goal.
Not maximizing downtime
Students are busier than ever. Athletics, arts, social activities, and not to mention regular schoolwork all compete for time in a student’s schedule. But, there are small available windows in their day that students might forget to use, for example, before class, in between activities, or right before dinner. These pockets are a great time to learn SAT vocabulary. By committing to learning one or two words during breaks throughout the day, students will easily be able to memorize over 10 new terms, which will not only help them score higher on SAT Sentence Completions, but also in the SAT Passage-Based Reading, the SAT essay, as well as broaden their vocabulary for college and scholarship essays.
Eating an unbalanced diet
What students 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 energy levels, which can have adverse consequences on students’ study habits. Students should 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.
When trying to achieve the highest score possible on the SAT, every little bit helps. Being aware of some of the things that may be hurting SAT prep and what you can do about it may be just the strategies you need to earn a top score.