25 SAT Hacks | Expert Tips + Tricks to Boost Your SAT Score

July 2, 2024
7 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/19/24

The SAT is a long and challenging test. You must prepare for the SAT to perform well and achieve a high score. Although you want to spend a lot of time studying and preparing before test day, here are some tips to make you more comfortable and confident.

25 SAT Hacks to Help You Ace the SAT  

The SAT is a long and challenging test. You must prepare for it to perform well and achieve a high score. Although you want to spend a lot of time studying and preparing before test day, here are some tips to make you more comfortable and confident. 

SAT Hacks

General SAT Hacks 

Although section-specific tricks and tips can help you boost your SAT score, you can do some general things to make yourself more comfortable and perform better. 

Here are some general SAT tips and tricks to ensure test day runs smoothly. 

1. Budget Your Time 

The SAT is a timed test, and you need to answer a section’s questions within the allotted time. The fact that you're being timed can be anxiety-inducing to some people, but there are a few ways to make the most out of the time you have. 

First, be sure to read the directions before the test to know what’s expected of you in every section. Reading the directions helps you in two ways: one, you know exactly what’s coming and what you’re supposed to do, and two, you’re not wasting precious time by mulling over directions instead of reading and responding to questions. 

Time is one of the biggest obstacles a student can face in the SAT, as Dartmouth Admissions Counselor Dominique explains:

"Time yourself, time yourself, time yourself. Half of the battle, I think, is that a lot of students have testing anxiety and things like that, and getting over that is half of the prep you need to do. When I tutored students for the SAT/ACT, we would start by doing half of the program completely untimed. We would work on really finetuning the skills and just practice, practice, practice. And then the second part of our program together would be focusing on timing. How many questions can you do in 10 minutes or 15 minutes, just little short bursts to start. And then we'd work up to even longer periods; can you finish this entire math section in 60 minutes. The more you get used to that time pressure, the less it'll feel really intimidating."

2. Start With the Easier Questions

You must also consider the volume of questions you’re expected to answer within a given time limit. If you find yourself agonizing over one question you’re stuck on for more than a few minutes, it’s probably in your best interest to move along and come back later. 

Build your confidence by knocking out a few straightforward questions in a shorter amount of time before tackling the more complex ones. Try our SAT quiz below to see if you can answer exam-style questions correctly!

Dan Stratford who has many years as admissions counselor gives his expertise on the SAT.

"If you come across a question where you're like I don't know what to do on it, okay to skip and come back and visit."

3. Don’t Leave Anything Blank 

Unlike the past version of the SAT, you will not be penalized for guessing an answer. Now that you don’t have to worry about losing points for an educated guess that turns out wrong, you can relax and take your best shot without concerns about losing points for nothing. 

Remember that it’s always better to take a stab at a question—a blank answer is always a wrong answer. 

6+ SAT Reading Hacks

The reading section tests your reading comprehension abilities, picking out which pieces of evidence make sense for the question and your command of finding and understanding the main idea of a text. 

Here are some SAT exam tips sure to help you perform well. 

1. Figure Out Your Ideal Strategy Before the Test 

Strategy means the way that you go about answering each question. Some people prefer to read the entire passage before looking at the questions, while others may like to peek at the questions before delving into the reading. 

Whatever way you want to answer questions is fine, but be sure to figure out which method works for you ahead of time. This SAT exam tip can save you a lot of time and stress!

Dan also shares his thoughts on some SAT Reading Hacks.

"Invest some time and learn the shortcuts whether it's in the grammar or the analogies, it can pay off."

2. Mark Up the Passages 

Don’t be afraid to use your pencil to circle, underline, or do whatever you need to do to make sure important information jumps out at you later. Be sure to mark up the main idea or anything you deem essential, like crucial evidence. 

Marking up your paper means you spend less time scanning the passage for answers later. This SAT Reading hack can help you get the right answers quicker. 

3. Read the Pre-Passage Description

Pre-passage descriptions often provide information about the author, the time period of the writing, and its origin. While this may not seem helpful at first, the pre-passage description can give you context for the passage and an insight into the author’s purpose for writing it. 

4. Be Literal

You must remember every correct response to any SAT Reading question is explicitly present in the passage. You must use caution when making assumptions, extensive inferences, or significant logical jumps.

You should use a literal approach. Rely solely on information present in the passage and the question stem. Approach answer choices skeptically if they divert you from these two critical elements.

5. Divide and Take On the Dual Passage

Keep in mind that one of the five SAT Reading passages involves a dual passage. In this scenario, you must read two smaller passages within one and answer questions related to both.

Rather than reading both passages before addressing the questions, employ a divide-and-conquer approach for a smoother experience. Simplify the task by focusing on one passage at a time.

Here's the strategy:

1. Review the questions.

2. Start with the passage that has the most questions.

3. Answer questions related to that passage.

4. Proceed to the other passage and address its respective questions.

5. Finally, complete questions that pertain to both passages.

This method streamlines your thought process, requiring simultaneous consideration of both passages only for questions involving both—a particularly useful tactic for handling the more challenging questions on the dual passage.

6. Practice Active Reading

Engage actively with the passage by underlining key information, jotting notes, and marking important details. This helps in better comprehension and serves as a reference when answering questions.

Skimming is also very important. This is what Dan had to say about it

"Get comfortable with skimming, reading the topic sentences, and reading the conclusion of the essay first."

6+ SAT Writing Hacks

The SAT writing section gives you passages that may have grammatical errors or poor style choices and asks you to choose an answer that would improve that passage. 

These hacks for SAT Writing can help you answer questions quicker.   

1. The Concise Answer Is Often the Right Answer 

The shorter answers are typically correct because better writing doesn’t necessarily mean more words but straightforward content. Longer answers may contain redundant information or look more “complex and sophisticated,” but this can be a diversion to trip you up. 

Examine all the choices, but know that the short answers may be your best bet. 

2. Memorize Grammar Rules  

Unfortunately, there’s not very much you can do to hack your way through the writing section. Try looking for concise answers and finding the wrong answers first by the process of elimination. 

Studying grammar rules is your best bet for a high score. Study proper constructions and punctuation like subject-verb agreement, where to use a semi-colon, and other English language mechanics to feel confident and tackle the writing questions. 

3. Use Proper Punctuation

Using proper punctuation entails a meticulous application of comma, semicolon, and dash rules to enhance clarity and coherence. Understanding when and how to use these punctuation marks is vital for conveying ideas accurately and efficiently. When precise communication is essential within a time limit on the SAT, mastering punctuation rules becomes especially significant. 

4. Read Aloud

Reading your sentences aloud is a valuable practice, particularly on the SAT. This method engages multiple senses, helps catch errors, identifies awkward phrasing, and improves overall readability. The auditory experience allows for a comprehensive assessment, ensuring that your writing adheres to grammatical rules and flows smoothly. 

This skill extends beyond standardized testing, proving value in writing scenarios and contributing to polished and accessible communication.

5. Be Consistent When Using Verb Tense

Consistently maintaining verb tense is vital in effective writing, especially on the SAT. This principle emphasizes using a uniform tense throughout your writing to prevent confusion and preserve overall coherence. Inconsistent tenses can disrupt the flow of ideas, making it challenging for readers to follow the timeline of events. 

Following a steady and appropriate verb tense enhances clarity and contributes to a more polished and effective response. This practice is particularly crucial in the timed context of the SAT. 

Ariana Lee, a former admissions counselor at Dartmouth College shares her thoughts on an easy SAT Writing hack.

"Pay attention to agreements with subject-verbs with the tenses to make sure the tense is consistent.This is a strategy you can use to cross out the answers that don't fit or make sense; it's an easy way to narrow down your answer choices."

6. Be Concise

In SAT writing, prioritizing clear and concise communication is essential, especially given time constraints. The principle of concision involves conveying ideas efficiently without sacrificing meaning. Recognizing that wordiness can lead to confusion, test-takers aim to streamline sentences and phrases. 

This approach not only aids comprehension but helps with the timed nature of the SAT. Beyond the exam, the emphasis on concision is a valuable skill in various contexts, promoting clarity and precision in communication.

SAT Essay Hacks

The SAT essay section can be difficult and daunting for test-takers. To help you navigate these nerve-wracking sections, here are a few tips to guide you through the SAT essay. 

1. Understand the Prompt

Analyzing the SAT essay prompt thoroughly is essential for a successful response. This involves identifying key components and understanding the specific task required. This clarity is a guiding framework for crafting a focused and relevant thesis statement, ensuring that the essay addresses the prompt directly. 

Test-takers set a clear roadmap for their essay by dissecting the prompt, enhancing coherence, and laying the foundation for a well-structured and purposeful response.

2. Create a Clear Thesis 

Crafting a concise and clear thesis statement is pivotal in the SAT essay. The thesis statement, directly responsive to the prompt, serves as the foundational core of the essay. It captures the primary idea and guides the overall structure, maintaining focus and coherence. A well-developed thesis sets the tone for subsequent paragraphs, ensuring the essay is persuasive and aligned with the prompt. 

3. Use Concise Language

Embracing concise language emphasizes clarity and precision by urging writers to avoid unnecessary filler words and express ideas directly. The goal is to eliminate flowery language, allowing key ideas to shine through with greater impact and efficiency. As the SAT places a tight on time, mastering concise language enhances essay readability and demonstrates valuable communication skills.

4. Craft a Strong Conclusion

Crafting a strong conclusion involves summarizing key points and restating the thesis for closure. The conclusion is the last chance to leave a lasting impression, reinforcing the essay's coherence and contributing to its overall persuasiveness. Ending on a strong note is strategic, making the essay more compelling and memorable for the reader.

Math SAT Hacks 

The math section of the SAT will test your command of mathematics in three areas: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving & Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. 

Below, you will find more information on how to perform well in the SAT’s math section. 

1. Mark Up the Problems 

Like the reading section, you should try to underline or circle any relevant information in the questions you see. This can help you understand what you’re looking for in an answer and help you identify the critical information you need to get there. 

2. Memorize Formulas 

While it may not feel like much of an SAT Math hack, a little bit of memorization can go a long way. Although you receive a reference sheet, some formulas may be missing that you need to answer questions. Make sure you’re familiar with these formulas and have them ready to plug numbers into if you need them. 

Arianna emphasizes the importance of memorizing formulas.

"Memorizing common formulas is just going to speed things up for you."

3. If You’re Stuck, Plug in the Multiple-Choice Answers

Unfortunately, this SAT tip eats up your precious time, but maybe it's worth it if you’re handling the last questions that you didn’t understand. This method means that you work through your equation backward and see if the answer you plug in makes sense for the given numbers and can help you ascertain the correct answer. 

Dan mentions how this hack can be beneficial for you if you need solving a difficult math problem.

"Sometimes it can be a good trick to start with the answers and work backwards. Sometimes that can save time."

4. Underline the Main Points of the Questions

When tackling each question, make it a habit to underline key elements to avoid confusion during the calculation process.

SAT Math questions may require you to determine a value, and sometimes, solving for that value involves finding another quantity first (such as solving for x before determining the value of 7x). This first step, like the value of x in this example, can frequently appear as one of the incorrect answer choices. 

Students often mistakenly choose the wrong answer because they lose sight of the original value they were supposed to find. To prevent this, ensure you underline important parts of the question to keep your attention on track.

5. Solve For The Correct Value

Oftentimes the SAT presents students with a math problem, often a lengthy one to blur the question's instructions in their minds. After successfully solving for the variable, students confidently select their answer, only to find it's incorrect. What went wrong? They overlooked solving for the specific variable the question actually required. Ensure you don’t do this and reread the instructions carefully. 

6. Show Your Work

In math classes, the common advice is to show your work step by step. While SAT Math doesn't offer partial marks, documenting your process helps maintain clarity and reduces the chance of errors. Whether it's solving for x or simplifying expressions, writing out calculations is crucial, especially for multi-step problems in the No Calculator section.

If you need further help with preparing for the SAT, you can check out our collection of cheat sheets here.

SAT Hacks FAQs 

If you still have questions about SAT test hacks, these FAQs can provide more clarity. 

1. Can These SAT Hacks Replace Studying? 

The purpose of these SAT exam tips is to help you navigate the real test after adequate study time. Even with these SAT tips, you’ll still need to follow a consistent study schedule and complete as many practice questions as possible. Check out our free, downloadable practice exams to help you ace the SAT!

2. How Can SAT Reading Hacks Help Me? 

Using SAT Reading hacks can help you know what works for you before test day, can you help you find crucial information faster, and can help you gain a better understanding of the content you’re working with. Saving time is key on the SAT!

3. How Can SAT Math Hacks Help Me? 

Using SAT Math hacks can help you spend less time determining which information given in questions is important and even have a foolproof way to check your work or get the correct answer (even if it’s time-consuming). 

4. How Can SAT Writing Hacks Help Me? 

SAT Writing tips can help you find the potential correct answer quickly and ensure you don’t spend too much time stuck on your grammar rules. 

5. What’s the Best SAT Tip? 

The best SAT hack depends on your improvement areas, but the best general advice for the SAT is to use the process of elimination, budget your time, and don’t get stuck for too long on challenging questions. 

Hack the SAT to Unlock Your Dream School

The SAT is a challenging test, and it’s in your best interest to come prepared and confident on test day. Your SAT scores are an essential part of your college applications that show the admissions committee you can handle a college curriculum's workload and intellectual demands. 

With the SAT hacks outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can be sure that you have the tools and know-how to perform well on test day by budgeting your time and answering questions strategically. If you put the required effort into your SAT studies, you’re sure to meet your target score. 

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