If you have never cracked open The Official SAT Study Guide, then you may have no idea what an SAT practice test even is, but these tests form the core of the material that students need to study in order to improve their score on the SAT.
In addition, these tests can be also be used as an actual test that students take to get a sense of what the testing process involves, and what their score might look like.
SAT Proctored Practice Tests
I encourage students to take 1 or 2 timed proctored practice tests. This lets them get used to the focus and endurance needed for a full length test (the SAT is long — 180 minutes), and it gives them valuable feedback as to their score range, and their strengths and weaknesses.
The timed practice tests can be a real reality check, and therefore quite motivating. There is no fooling yourself into thinking you understand a topic, if you miss the problems testing that topic on the practice test.
The cost is $60 for a proctored practice test. Proctored tests are limited to 12 students. I offer practice tests several times throughout the year, often in conjunction with Math or Verbal Test Packages.
Below I will discuss different aspects of practice tests :
More about SAT Practice Tests :
What’s in a Practice Test, and Why do I care about them?
The Logistics of Practice Tests
What’s in an SAT Practice Test?
The best way to study for the SAT is with The Official SAT Study Guide’s practice tests. There are 8 tests in The Guide. Each test is comprised of 4 sections :
- Reading – 52 questions to be completed in 65 minutes
- Writing and Language — 44 questions to be completed in 35 minutes
- Math (no calculator) — 20 questions to be completed in 25 minutes
- Math (calculator) — 38 questions to be completed in 55 minutes
I work through these practice tests in my classes and tutorials. Going through the practice tests slowly and in detail makes it possible to learn the material, and this is probably the best way to improve your score.
You can also take the practice tests timed, just like you would in a real testing center, and then score your test and get an interpretation of your score using the algorithm provided by the College Board.
Taken as a test, the total time is 3 hours. In a test setting, many students do not manage to complete all of the questions in the time allotted. There is little time for really detailed analysis, and usually much guessing. You have to have mastery of the subject in order to do well on the test.
Consider a timed SAT Practice Test
Taking a practice test under conditions that are similar to those that will be encountered on the test day helps build the mental and physical endurance that is required for an actual test. At 180 minutes in length, the SAT is in part an endurance event that tests your ability to hang in there and stay focused. Taking practice tests allows you to work on this part of the equation.
Taking practice tests also helps hone your test taking skills — and improving your test taking skills will gain you extra points.
Taking a practice test will give you a real sense of where you will score, and provides you with a good sense of your strengths and your weaknesses.
But if I plan to take the SAT multiple times, do I need to take Practice Tests?
Of course you can get by without practice tests. But practice tests give you …. more practice(!!!) Also, the practice test makes it very apparent what you do and don’t know, and the feedback is immediate. It can serve to encourage you to get down to work and let you know where to focus your studying.
As a study tool, the actual SAT test is just plain lousy. You don’t even know your score for weeks. And while it is possible to get a list of the answers you missed, you can only get a copy of the test booklet (to go with the answers) for the October, March, and May tests. And this information is released even later than your score, so by the time you receive the test questions (and the booklet when it is available), way too much time has passed for the information to feel current for a study plan.
With a practice test you have immediate information about where you are at and what you really need to focus on.
Testing helps you avoid the familiarity trap.
Without testing, there is the trap of having material feel familiar, and assuming you know it. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we know difficult material when we read somthing and it seems familiar. We say to ourselves “Oh I know that”, when often we don’t know it at all.
Sitting down and slogging through material we don’t understand is difficult and somewhat painful. It really isn’t fun. Fooling ourselves into thinking we know material gives us a reason to avoid having to spend time figuring it out and practicing.
Testing and tutoring both help get rid of this trap.
If you got a problem wrong on a proctored test, you don’t understand it. Or you don’t understand it well enough. You need to go back and spend some time digging into it.
Scheduling an SAT Practice Test
Can you do this on your own? Absolutely. It just takes the time and the discipline to take the test, to grade it, and to use the College Board algorithm to translate the raw scores into an SAT score.
Getting students to schedule a time and sit down and spend 3 hours taking a practice test is HARD. There are so many other things to do that are more fun, or more interesting, or in the short run seemingly more important.
Signing up for a practice test with me and getting it on your calendar is one sure way to ensure that it gets done.
I offer practice tests several times per year. I suggest that you take a practice test at least once.
Study tip : Whether you do a full length practice test on your own or with me, make sure you use a practice test that does NOT have notes (and answers) written in next to the problems. Buy a second copy of The Official SAT Study Guide if you need to, in order to take the test from a clean slate.
Logistics and Cost of Proctored SAT Practice Tests
The test that I run will be timed as per the instructions given in The Official College Board SAT Study Guide.
Cost : I charge $60 for one proctored College Board practice test with all 4 tests (2 verbal and 2 math). I do not include the essay. For those students taking my Test Prep Packages, practice tests are included as part of the cost.
There are a total of 8 different practice tests in The Official College Board SAT Study Guide. Over the course of several years I will cycle through using different tests.
The test totals 180 minutes. We will take 5 minute breaks between each portion of the test, so the total for the entire test is 195 minutes, including the breaks. Students need to arrive 10 minutes before the test, so they need to count on 3 1/2 hours for the entire test.
(Remember that in a real testing situation, an SAT which includes the Essay will be 50 minutes longer than this, and students need to arrive a full 30 minutes in advance.)
I have a class size limit of 12 students for a proctored practice test.
Dates : Practice tests are usually offered 3 times per year — in January, June and July. Check the schedule page for details.
SAT Practice Test Follow up and Your Results
I will grade your practice test and email you the results. This will include the specific problems that were missed plus converting the raw data into the SAT score that your results represent. The College Board provides directions for doing this conversion, and it is not difficult, but it is another step.
Typically in my schedule, a proctored practice test will be followed by group classes that go through the math portions of that test in detail.
What students need to Bring to a Proctored SAT Practice Test
Bring the following items to the practice test:
- Your own copy of The Official SAT Study Guide — with an unmarked copy of the test that we will be taking. Everyone is expected to have their own copy of this book for taking the test, and for later study. Obviously, you will not need this for the actual SAT.
Two bookmarks (you also won’t need these for the actual SAT test)
Several number 2 pencils.
Scratch paper (you can’t take scratch paper to a real SAT, but their answer books provide some blank pages)
An SAT approved calculator (basic scientific or graphing calculators are okay, phones are not)
A watch for tracking the time (phones are not allowed, so not your phone). There is no guarantee of a working clock in the room where you take the test. An analogue watch is particularly nice, because you can reset it to 12:00 at the beginning of each portion of the test, and then track your time from there.
I will provide answer sheets for griding in the answers. There are answer sheets in your Official Study Guide, but it would be totally unwieldy to flip back and forth between the test questions and the answer sheets.
Note that the copy of The Official SAT Study Guide that students bring needs to have an unmarked copy of the test that we will be taking. Practice tests aside, students may want to own 2 copies of The Guide — one that they can mark in, plus an unmarked copy that they use for reworking problems that they didn’t understand.
What Students need to take with them for the actual SAT
It is not complicated, but you don’t want to mess up. You need a photo ID (driver’s license, or passport), you need your admission ticket, you need #2 pencils, and you need an approved calculator. Also consider bringing an analogue watch. And you need to show up 30 minutes early.
Get everything ready the night before, and then double check it against a list before you leave in the morning!