I have never been a fan of spending exorbitant amounts of money on things I felt I could come up with an alternative for, the SAT included. I had several friends whose parents were fortunate enough to enroll them in SAT prep classes that cost upwards of $1000. I did not want to burden my family with this cost just to take a couple practice exams I could obtain elsewhere and have my overall score predicted. You do not need to spend such a high amount in order to get a high SAT score, you just need to study efficiently and effectively, by any means.
Take Advantage of Free Online Resources
Let’s face it. You, along with numerous kids these days, have access to a smartphone. This means that you also have access to numerous applications that are free and geared towards helping you succeed at all sections of the exam. Some of these apps include the College Board’s “The Offical SAT Question of the Day,” Mind Snacks’ “SAT Vocab,” and ScoreBeyond’s “SAT Up.” The list goes on and on, but these are the three that I frequented. With regard to the Critical Reading section, my personal weakness, incorporating reading newspapers into your daily routine will not only let you keep up with current events, but will also train your endurance, retention, and comprehension come game day.
As far as websites go, PWNTheSAT.com was my go to as it encompasses everything from Math to Writing to Critical Reading and even features a Q&A capability. If you’re specifically having trouble with the Math portion, you can try to win one of the author’s math guides, as I easily have, or purchase it for a low cost. There are always opportunities to win a copy so I would wait a bit if you have the time. I’m not much of a numbers person as everyone learns at a different pace, but I swear by this math guide as it helped me raise my overall math score by 100+ points. There are patterns to the exam and Mike breaks them down in such a way that ensures you do not overthink things.
Go to Prep Classes’ Free Trial Periods
If you’re not too bothered by a bit of a hassle, you can enroll for a free trial period by SAT companies which usually last a week and you’ll receive critiques and score predictions for your first round of practice tests. Students take the SAT year-round so technically, you could strategically stack trial periods from different companies to sufficiently prepare yourself for the actual exam.
Ask Older Family Members or Friends For Used Materials
Physical SAT study materials can be costly, but you can get them for a fraction to none of the cost by simply asking family members who’ve already taken the exam for their materials. You could even ask upperclassmen or college friends who’ve also already taken the exam and have no further need for their flashcards and guides. Most of these materials are in great condition and if they happened to have participated in SAT prep classes, those are some pretty expensive practice exams you just got your hands on! If they are anything like me, I do not write in my guides just so I can resell or give away my resources so that’s a plus! Sometimes if I was running low on material, I had already forgotten the content of past practice exams, so I would do those over one more time.
The Must Haves
If you are going to buy some material, it would have to be both the Direct Hits Core Vocabulary and Direct Hits Toughest Vocabulary series. Each series is comprised of two volumes that aren’t very costly and I found these instrumental in recognizing words not only in the sentence completion questions but also critical reading passages.
With the new SAT format, vocabulary is not being tested in the same rote-memorization way it had traditionally been tested, but I would still recommend these books not only for comprehension of passages but to help recall current events for possible supporting outside evidence for your essay. They have redesigned the essay so that students are required to analyze and substantiate their argument using evidence and facts from the passages, but outside references may come in handy!
If you haven’t already, I would also encourage you to get your hands on a copy of Mike’s PWN the SAT math guide. His book is hands down the holy grail of all the resources I’ve used. Along with all these resources and College Board’s The Official SAT Study Guide, I’d say you’re well on your way to success with the SAT exam. Now you have all the resources you need to succeed and scheduling time to study and practice is all on you, so make the most of your time and good luck!