How to Build Your SAT Study Plan

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August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Are you getting ready to write your SATs? Read on to learn how to create the best SAT study plan to optimize your performance. 

When it comes to college admissions, studying for and writing the SAT can be nerve-wracking as it’s one of many significant baselines prospective colleges use to assess your application. 

While it may seem daunting, don't fret - with the proper preparation, you can conquer the SAT. With good study habits and sticking to a comprehensive SAT study plan, you’ll be sure to ace your SAT with flying colors.

To learn more about building your SAT study schedule, read on!

What is the SAT?

The SAT is a three-hour, multiple-choice test that evaluates grade 12 students' math, reading, and writing skills. Alongside grades, the score one receives on the SAT accompanies their college application and can be the deciding factor determining an acceptance into a prospective college.

On the SAT, you'll find two sections - a Math Section and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test. The Math section is split into two sections; one where you may use a calculator and one where you may not. 

Here is a breakdown of the sections you will have to study for on the SAT:

SAT sections table

The best plan of attack when writing your SAT is to spend an extended period studying for it but breaking it up into subsections. Following a study plan and schedule is essential, as you’ll want to start studying as early as six months prior to your scheduled test date. We'll explain in detail below.

How to Build Your SAT Study Plan

Having an effective SAT study plan is your secret weapon when it comes to acing your SAT. Tailoring your study plan to your lifestyle and schedule will allow you to put in the time and discipline you need to earn a desirable SAT score. 

But how do you build the perfect SAT plan? We’ve provided some insights below.

Understand What’s on the SAT 

One of the most important things you can do before beginning the process of studying for the SAT is to understand what types of questions you’ll be expected to answer. 

That's right - not only should you study the correct answers to the SAT, but you should study the questions themselves! This will ensure that you genuinely understand the question clearly and can provide the best possible answer.  

You can start by researching practice tests and practice questions to see what the test entails. This way, there will be no surprises when your test date comes around. 

It's important to note that the SAT questions change minimally from year to year. With this said, the subject matter remains the same. So, the more versions of an SAT practice test you study, the better you’ll be able to grasp the material!

Evaluate Your Skills Beforehand

Nobody knows your strengths and weaknesses better than you do. When creating an SAT study plan, It's important to understand these so you can designate the appropriate time to study and strengthen your skills. The best way to do this is to take a PSAT or a mock test. 

Writing a PSAT will give you a generalized idea of what sections of the test come naturally to you and which ones you need to spend more time working on. This way, you can tailor your SAT study plan to put more effort into the subjects you find challenging while reinforcing your strengths.

For example, if math is something you already find challenging, you may find both math sections on the SAT troubling. When you self-test, you can diagnose issues and spend more time studying math questions to answer the questions smoothly on the SAT.

Once you finish writing your PSAT, evaluate your score and make a note of it - you'll want to compare scores each time you write the PSAT to see if you're improving.

Understand How You Study

Evaluating your personal "study skills" and how you grasp concepts and problem-solve is also essential. Ask yourself if you work best in a study group or in an environment where you can problem solve out loud, or if you find it easier to study alone.

Whatever the case may be, knowing and understanding your preferred, personalized way of studying will benefit you when it comes to creating your SAT study plan.

Practice, Practice, Practice

There's no getting around it - the key to a successful SAT score depends significantly on how much time you've spent practicing. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a stellar SAT score!

It is recommended that you start studying for the SAT as early as six months - that way, you'll have a great understanding of what to expect, and, with practice, your answers will improve and improve. If you don’t have six months, you’ll simply have to adjust your study schedule and spend more hours studying per week.

There's nothing worse than running out of time when you're writing a test, and you don't want that to be the case on the day you write your SAT. However, put in the time and effort to practice taking the test. 

You'll find that not only will your answers be better, but you will be able to give responses quickly and more efficiently. This will leave you with more time to review and check your answers once you're finished.

Ultimately, you can't study enough for the SAT–but how can you make the most of the time you have? The solution is to rely on a six-month, three-month, or one-month SAT study schedule.

SAT Study Schedules

Now that we’ve covered how you can optimize your SAT prep, we’ll go over different ways you can schedule your SAT study time. Here, you’ll see how to break down your time depending on when you start studying.

1-Month SAT Study Schedule

A 1 monthly SAT study schedule will only give you a small window to write untimed practice tests. With this time constraint in mind, you'll have to study strategically - focusing on answering study questions under a strict time limit while focusing on your weakest points. 

One Month Before the Test

  • Take a full, timed practice SAT. Once finished, evaluate your score and comb through your answers. See what sections of the test you did well on and what sections of the test you need to focus on. 
  • For answers that you need to focus on, determine what needs to change about your answer for it to get higher marks, and make suitable corrections.
  • When you can, practice individual sections, especially those challenging to you. Continue to do so until two weeks before the test. For now, individual sections can be untimed.

3-2 Weeks Before the Test 

  • Now is the time to start practicing timed sections and focusing on questions that you find difficult. 
  • Build off of your previous answers until you come up with an answer that is factually correct and that you feel comfortable answering quickly.

1 Week Before the Test

  • Focus on one different section each day of the week, and try to use memorization techniques to help remember answers that aren't sticking.
  • Study up until the day before the test. Use the day before the test to give your mind a break.

3-Month SAT Study Schedule

A 3 month SAT study schedule will give you more time to zero in on your strengths and weaknesses and dedicate time specifically to the questions and most challenging sections. Practicing consistently during this period will ensure the best results!

Three Months Before the Test

  • Research the format and read up on the type of questions offered on the SAT
  • Begin to take practice tests to assess skills
  • Once the first practice test has been taken, evaluate which segments of the SAT require more focus and make a point to review these questions and answers.

Two Months Before the Test

  • Continue to take practice tests and review questions and answers to challenging parts of the SAT.
  • Begin to take untimed practice sessions, spending one week on each subject and the last week of the month reviewing all core subjects
  • Take, at maximum, two timed practice tests - ideally on a Saturday to get a semblance of what test-taking day will feel like

1 Month - 2 Weeks Before the Test

  • Begin timing practice sessions for each section. Focus on one section per session.
  • Complete a comprehensive timed practice SAT on Saturdays. Look at your weakest answers, and determine where and why you went wrong. Focus on trying to improve upon these mistakes.

1 Week Before the Test

  • Continue to take timed practice tests, and look for areas of improvement.
  • Avoid studying the day before your scheduled SAT; give your brain a chance to rest.

6-Month SAT Study Schedule

A 6 month SAT study schedule is the recommended amount of time to get a good understanding of the SAT without experiencing study fatigue. You will have enough time to fully grasp the SAT at your own pace by doing practice tests and get used to writing answers quickly and efficiently when you start completing timed practice tests.

6 Months Before the Test

  • Take one untimed practice test per week.
  • Determine what sections you need to focus on and which sections you already have a good grasp on. Continue to review those sections whenever possible.

3 Months Before the Test

  • Continue to take one practice test per week, but this time, make sure it is timed. For each test you take, you should focus on finishing faster than before while ensuring you're answering the question in the best possible way.
  • Begin to ramp up the time you spend studying. It's usually recommended at this point that you begin studying twice a week.
  • Prioritize challenging sections. Make sure you fully understand the correct answer and not just resort to memorizing it.

1 Month Before the Test

  • Begin studying every day, focusing on a different section every day.
  • Continue to take timed practice tests, this time twice a week. Keep time management top of mind as you do this to finish quickly and have time to check your answers.

1 Week Before Test

  • Review sections, prioritize challenging ones, and take two more timed practice tests.
  • Stop studying three days before the test. The answers are all inside your brain, and you've put in the hard work studying - it's time to give your neurons a rest.

Final Step

Regardless of your chosen study plan and schedule, the most important part of SAT prep and the final step of your plan is to ensure that you are well prepared the day before. Ensure you have all your proper IDs and writing utensils and that you are adequately rested and have eaten before taking the test. These small components can make a significant impact on your performance!

FAQs: SAT Study Plan

Now that we’ve gone over everything you need to know about the SAT and the different ways you can build your SAT study plan and schedule, we’ll go over some FAQs that might answer any questions you still have.

1. What Is a Good Study Plan for the SAT?

A good study plan for the SAT is to start anywhere between 3-6 months of designated study time. This involves taking untimed and timed practice tests. It also includes taking a comprehensive look at questions within each section that you find challenging and prioritizing them during your study periods.

2. How Many Hours a Day Should I Study for the SAT?

Instead of spending multiple hours a day cramming for the SAT, it's recommended that you space out the amount of time you study for the SAT and dedicate 2-3 hours to studying. 

This will give you time to grasp the information effectively without fatiguing yourself and your brain.

How many hours you study per day will also depend on how much time you have to study before your exam. The earlier you start, the fewer hours you’ll have to put in each day to study.

3. Is 1 Month Enough to Study for the SAT?

While it is possible to dedicate only one month to study for the SAT, it's not ideal. The SAT requires understanding the concepts and mastering your time management, which is challenging when you only have a month to study.

The recommended study time for an optimal score on the SAT is 3-6 months.

4. Is 2 Months of SAT Prep Enough?

Two months of SAT studying will give you time to take timed practice tests and focus on your most challenging test sections, but more time will be needed to build a great understanding of both the content and the questions asked. You should set aside 3-6 months to study for the SAT.

Get Ready for The SAT With Quad

While the SAT may be intimidating and challenging for students, doing well is very doable with the right practices. You should have no issue if you've prepared by incorporating a study schedule and plan over three to six months. And remember, you can always retake the SAT, so if you don't like your score at first, you can always try again! 

Are you looking to take your study plan for the SAT to the next level? With Quad education, you can! With 1:1 personalized SAT tutoring, we can help bring your SAT score from good to great to outstanding!

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