How long does it take to prep for the SAT? The short answer to this is that major improvements in one’s score can require A LOT of time and effort. Advantage, one of the best (and most expensive) test prep companies, suggests that students spend a year preparing for the SAT. And while on the one hand, a year may not be necessary, it is also clear that real gains are not going to be made without a fair amount of time and effort.
First, there simply is a lot of SAT material to cover. Going through the math or the verbal portion of the practice test in detail, as I do in tutorials and classes, is not a fast process.
With a class of 3-6 students, it can take 6 class sessions to go through the 58 questions that make up the calculator and non-calculator math portions of a practice test. This includes covering the material in detail, and backing up into the nuts and bolts of how the problems work.
And those 6 class sessions are just for covering the two math portions of one practice test. There are 8 practice tests in The Official SAT Study Guide. And there are the verbal portions of each practice test as well as the math.
In addition, once students get into the nitty gritty of mastering material that they don’t really know, they are going to have to spend a lot of time working problems. Even with just a smattering of garden variety gaps in knowledge and understanding, some serious diligence, time, and effort can be required in order to fill those gaps.
Going through all 8 practice tests, clearly involves a LOT OF WORK. You don’t necessarily need to go through all 8 — the previous version of The Official SAT Study Guide only contained 4 practice tests. Cranking through all 8 of those practice tests may only be within the purview of students aiming at Ivy League or other top notch schools. But the more you practice, the more you are going to raise your score.
The SAT is offered 7 times per year (see the SAT Test Dates page for dates), and most students these days take the SAT more than once. Students can start studying for the SAT the summer before their Junior year (after they have had geometry), and take their first SAT in August or October of their Junior year. It isn’t necessary to start that early, but it is helpful. Students can then study and retake, working to improve their score up until their final SAT in their Senior year.
It helps to have goals and a timeline for the entire process. A longer time frame is nice because it allows you to tackle the material in a steady, organized fashion, and it leaves time for breaks and circling back to subjects that need a second pass. Prepping for the SAT is better strategized as a 100 mile trail run than as a 50 meter sprint. And there is no substitute for preparing. There is no substitute for work.