The SAT exam remains the national standard in assessing a student’s critical reading, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and writing skills. To ensure your utmost preparedness, it is essential to know what to expect before exam day. Below are specific details of the test itself, study tips, and the best online resources for preparation.
Disclaimer: Some courses may include an affiliate link.
First, a basic overview of the test sections:
What’s on the SAT?
The SAT consists of four sections: Critical Reading, Math (both calculator and no calculator portions), Writing and Language, and an optional essay portion that typically takes about 50 minutes. Below is a more specific breakdown of those testing areas.
- Critical Reading and Writing
- Reading: Tests reading comprehension of passages and pairs of passages covering fiction, historical documents, social science, and natural science
- 52 multiple-choice questions
- 65 minutes
- Writing and Language:
- Tests grammar, vocabulary, and editing skills
- 44 multiple-choice questions
- 35 minutes
- Tests grammar, vocabulary, and editing skills
- Math: Tests Algebra I and II, Geometry, and Trigonometry
- 58 multiple-choice questions (20 with a calculator allowed, 38 with no calculator allowed)
- 80 minutes
- The essay section is optional, although it is highly recommended that students complete it; many colleges are eager to see how applicants express themselves in writing.
- 50 minutes
What Makes a Good Online SAT Course?
As online learning expands, so do the options for courses in virtually any subject area. This is no different for online SAT preparation, and it is crucial to thoroughly research the options and determine the best resources to maximize your success. Based on your learning style, you can select SAT courses that have a particular emphasis on one feature or another. For example, if you prefer to be self-paced in your preparation, you may select a course that focuses on that method instead of synchronous classes. Regardless of delivery preference, there are certain elements of online SAT courses that should indicate top-quality. Below we’ve identified the elements that make an especially strong online SAT course.
Self-Paced or Live Courses: Once you embark on your SAT prep studies, it is important to decide whether to take self-paced or live, synchronous courses. Self-paced is best for you if you require flexibility in what time or day you conduct your studies. The live courses are for those who benefit from a more traditional, real-time classroom environment. Some of the expansive SAT prep companies have both options, so you may be allowed to switch delivery methods along the way.
Wealth of Online Resources: Regardless of which delivery you prefer, self-paced or online, it is vital that you are accessing the best learning resources possible. As you explore your options, you will want to assess certain features that are particularly beneficial when preparing for the exam. These features may include whether or not there are ample opportunities for instructor feedback, prompt answers to your study questions, SAT practice exams, progress reports, and more.
Strong Educators: The best SAT prep courses are led by instructors who care about your future and potential to get a high score. In addition to being dedicated, the SAT prep instructors should have years of experience and predominantly positive reviews from former students, and, ideally, be seasoned and resourceful. These instructors are going to be the most confident and willing to offer personalized attention.
Our Picks for Best Online SAT Courses
Prep Scholar: This SAT program will customize your areas of study based on your initial diagnostic assessment. The average score improvement from Prep Scholar is 231.3 after completing the program. Prep Scholars material was created by accomplished experts. It is taught by knowledgable teachers whose lessons are effective and motivating.
Kaplan : A recognized and respected name in education, Kaplan has a long history in academics. Kaplan SAT Test Preparation offers both live online courses and a self-paced option. Kaplan provides all students with 8 practice tests, personalized study plans, score-boosting strategies, and 25+ hrs of on-demand lessons.
Princeton Review: Princeton Review provides a wealth of quality SAT prep content, seasoned instructors, and a wide range of options for SAT prep packages. Princeton Review has a comparatively high price tag for comprehensive prep services, but there is a less expensive self-prep option that may meet your budget and study needs.
Magoosh: Magoosh is a popular and highly affordable SAT prep option. Magoosh online courses have gotten rave reviews from former students, citing its ease in course access and flexibility. Magoosh provides features that include vocab flashcards, video explanations for every question, and personalized test prep.
Kranse Institute: Kranse Institute is a newer company with excellent SAT prep resources. At $499, Kranse does cost more than many other options, however, there is a money-back guarantee should you decide it is not for you. Kranse provides 147 video lectures, 540 days of instant access, printable SAT practice tests, and more.
What’s the Best Way to Self-Prep Online for the SAT?
Regardless of how you study, online courses or self-prep, SAT studying requires focusing on a study plan, practicing, and remaining goal-oriented. Below are a few useful tips to develop a productive schedule and to maximize your SAT score. support productive studying habits and a rundown of some of the best self-prep resources.
- Create a Study Plan: The first step of your SAT exam prep is to devise a study plan; this plan should consist of both short and long-term goals. Be sure to implement plenty of focus on problem areas, anticipate scheduling conflicts, and allot for needed intermittent rest periods. Preparing for the SAT exam is a marathon, not a sprint! If cramming is your back-up study plan, you will be in for a stressful awakening.
- Work Smart Not Hard: No matter how much time you are committing to SAT exam prep, if you are not using the time wisely, the results won’t be a higher test score. You must use the time wisely and with a goal-oriented strategy. The online resources we’ve provided will guide you with ways to manage your time effectively. It is never too early to hone your skills in effective time management.
- Practice and More Practice: Learning how to take the SAT is a skill in and of itself, and you must learn how to anticipate the challenges that come up for you in practice exams. The SAT preps we’ve recommended all have access to learning from wrong answers; use these to your advantage!
- Mix it up! Change-up your study resources by exploring different content, study methods, and which SAT exam sections to review. Perhaps one day you can sharpen your vocabulary, and the next you are drilling those math problems. In shifting your study areas, you are keeping your brain fresh, motivated, and safe from that dreaded burn-out.
Our Picks for the Best Online Resources in SAT Self-Prep
- College Board: Go straight to the source! College Board is the creator and distributor of the SAT exam. College Board has a number of study materials at no cost. Access a wide range of free resources that include multiple practice tests, personalized study plans, SAT test-taking strategies, and an exhaustive exploration of each section of the test.
- Khan Academy: A highly popular learning resource, Khan Academy partnered with The College Board to provide 100% free SAT online practice exams. The College Board is the entity that distributes the SAT, so this is an especially wise choice for exam access. Khan’s offerings include a diagnostic test to determine which skills require more focus than others, personalized goal-setting, and much more.
- College Prep Genius: This award-winning study resource has affordable SAT prep memberships in the forms of both online courses and self-prep. College Prep has a comprehensive online content and has produced high scores for participating students.
How Long Will It Take to Prepare for the SAT?
There is no set number of hours or months that will guarantee your success on the SAT. That said, the average amount of time students take is at minimum, 2-3 months. The test itself is only administered on set dates, so this is the best way to start your timeline and study strategy. If you commit to your study plan, practice tests, and addressing areas of improvement, you will feel confident and prepared for exam day.
On the more pragmatic side, it will likely be in your best interest to have a clear sense of what your likely scores will be. Of course, you should be aware of what your schools of choice expect. For instance, state universities in Florida tend to accept roughly half of applicants, and the scores expected tend to be in the 550-600 range, while the most exclusive schools expect scores 750-800. If you are getting advice on how to get an 800 but haven’t scored a 600 in practice, you might consider some individualized help, such as tutors, or consider more options for your college career.