Grade 10 students: How to prepare for your first attempt at the SAT

Once registered for the SAT, most students will embark on self-study sourcing papers online and dive straight into intense practice or will sign up for an expensive batch of mostly group classes.

Self-preparation can be effective for maths, as much of the content has been covered in the IGCSE syllabus, however, approaching the Reading and Writing sections without guidance and strategy will not be as fruitful. The skills required for the SAT are unlikely to have been addressed as part of grade school curriculums, particularly for International Students, and whilst test-takers mostly score well at maths they tend to stagnate around a particular mark for English. Self-study is limiting as students honestly do not know how to improve and generic group classes will not address individual issues – so how do you prepare to attempt the SAT?

Where do you start then?

    1. Book your first test date, planning ahead to fit in with university application deadlines, estimating that most students will attempt the test thrice. Current grade 10 students should consider August or September 2020 for their first attempt at the test to make use of the summer to study and not overlap with the transition to IB.
    2. Timing- To be optimal, SAT preparation should start 12-14 weeks before the first attempt of the test.
    3. Purchase the official book published by the College Board. This is fundamental as it includes real tests and having a hard copy of the papers is key for annotating and mastering strategy.
    4. Book core strategy coaching sessions with a professional tutor. Look for a hybrid programme offering a mixture of group and solo classes. There is little point embarking upon test practice unless you have been taught a clear Reading and Writing strategy. Motivated students should not need to block book group classes, just book the essential ones you need to learn the core concepts and approaches to different types of questions.
    5. Independent Study– Embark upon a self-study programme alongside guidance from a professional tutor.
    6. Book personalised SAT coaching sessions – where mistakes are analysed, doubts clarified and personal strategy refined. The Reading and Writing element particularly requires a personalised approach with an effective and proven methodology at the onset, followed by independent practice supported by a detailed evaluation of error.
    7. Practice tests-once concepts and strategies have been understood. Practice passages, timing each one gradually building up to the whole English section and then to complete papers. Practicing as many papers as possible is essential, however, starting the preparation process too early and without individual guidance can be futile. To improve through test practice, something in the approach has to be modified which can only be done by personalised review and evaluation of mistakes through individual coaching.
    8. Make use of free resources such us Official SAT® Practice on Khan Academy using Free Official SAT Practice Tests | SAT Suite of Assessments in tandem with personalised coaching.

Future Attempts at the test

Most International Students will take at least a second attempt at the test – understandably so, it is a difficult test!

  1. Start preparation about 8 -10 weeks before the test, depending upon proximity to previous attempts and school deadlines.
  2. Buy an additional book of practice papers such as Barron’s SAT prep book.
  3. Book 3-4 personal coaching sessions to evaluate previous results, review and refine personal strategy
  4. Practice papers following a sound strategy and individualised review and correction of mistakes