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How To SAT Prep – Family Focus Blog

High school students have a lot on their plate with grades, social challenges, and extracurricular activities. On top of that, they have to navigate career selection, testing, and college applications! One particular challenge for almost every high school student is the SAT test. Their ACT and/or SAT score plays a significant role in the college application process. That is why SAT preparation is so important. I will discuss three methods of how to SAT prep and share their various pros and cons. Whether you decide to use SAT courses, SAT tutoring, or an SAT prep book, the extra effort to prepare for the SAT is sure to be worth it. Higher scores tend to increase chances of college admission and even of being rewarded scholarship money.

But first, what does SAT stand for?

SAT stands for Scholastic Assessment Test. SAT is a registered trademark of the college board. It is a standardized test offered by the College Board to help show colleges you are prepared academically for college. The College Board website reminds us that “although SAT scores are important, colleges consider a lot of other factors when they make admission decisions.”

How long does the SAT test take?

The SAT has three sections (Reading, Writing And Language, and Math) and an optional essay. The total time for the SAT is 180 minutes or 3 hours, not including breaks. The SAT Essay is an additional 50 minutes. So, it is a pretty long test and it does merit preparation to take a test that long and perform your best.

How to SAT prep. 3 ways to prepare and help raise your SAT score.

SAT Prep Options

Many college admission officers have unofficial rolling “cutoffs” that they use to screen applicants for acceptance. Therefore, students can find themselves under tremendous stress to reach certain SAT score goals. As is the case with many standardized tests, succeeding on the SAT does not solely depend on knowledge or intelligence. Doing well on the SAT also involves developing test-taking skills. How to prep for the SAT should be a two fold approach of studying specific areas tested and getting practice at taking the test itself. This SAT prep can be accomplished in three different ways- SAT classes, private tutoring, or by using a SAT prep book. Here I will go into more detail on each of these ways to prepare for the SAT test.

The proper method of SAT prep will depend on your child’s learning style and the budget available for this purpose. Generally speaking a class session will be most expensive and most effective. Using a SAT prep book, is often least effective and least expensive because there is not much accountability.

SAT Prep Courses Or Classes

Taking SAT courses is one the most effective ways help raise your SAT scores. When you think about the amount of time that a student will put in to SAT Classes, it is clear why this is the case. SAT courses are designed to help students brush up specifically on the academic areas on the SAT exam. While this targeted teaching is super helpful so is the opportunity to take practice tests under exam conditions. Finally, these SAT classes have studied the in and outs of the exams and most provide proprietary SAT taking tips. SAT prep online or in person will help your child score better.

Pros: In person or online courses where expert instructors share strategies to solve the most difficult SAT concepts as well as full-length practice tests. The most effective method of raising a student’s SAT score.

Cons: Because of the hours of instruction put into these prep programs, they are not cheap.

You can count on these SAT courses to raise your SAT score as long as you do the work. In fact, PrepExpert offers a 200-Point Score Improvement Guarantee or your money back on their 8-week Capstone SAT Prep Courses and 6-Week Flagship SAT Prep Courses (details on their website.) This is the method I am choosing for my own daughter. To learn more or enroll your child in classes, use my affiliate link to visit

how to prepare for the SAT
Photo Credit: Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu, Unsplash

SAT Tutoring

Private SAT tutoring can often be the solution that a student struggling with the SAT needs since so much of the score can be a result of preparation. The right SAT tutor will assess where the student stands, implement individualized learning plans to address specific SAT test taking needs, track progress, and provide support for as long as needed. A tutor for SAT can help raise test scores.

Pros: Mid Level Affordability and can be suited exactly to meet your child’s personal needs.

Cons: Not as structured or comprehensive as higher priced SAT courses.

Private SAT tutoring may be just what your child needs. Chuck Cohn, Founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, offers these five tips for finding private SAT tutoring and choosing a great tutor to help raise your SAT scores.

Identify Your Needs

You’ve already established that your student needs help with the SAT, but what exactly are you looking to achieve from test prep? There are a multitude of concepts that need to be covered for this test, but every student has different strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, every student will need help with different areas of the test. Do a bit of research on the various sections of the exam and look at the various challenges they each entail. Once you have a basic understanding of what to expect, you can identify what your student is likely to have the most trouble with and then get set with a tutor who will proceed to focus on those specific areas.

Assess the Tutor’s Communication Skills

Communication is possibly the most important element of successful tutoring. Take note of how the tutor explains certain methods to your student and then evaluate how well your student responds to them. The tutor must be able to not only describe concepts behind the test well, but also describe them in a way that your student can easily interpret. More importantly, the tutors should be able to identify how your student learns best and then tailor their explanations to that style. Additionally, any questions about the test – both your student’s and your own – must be able to be answered by the tutor in a logical and efficient manner.

Assess the Tutor’s Technical Skills

All great SAT tutors will inevitably be experts on the test, but how directly familiar are they with it? It can make a big difference in your student’s tutoring experience whether the tutor has recently been through the test themselves or if they’ve simply mastered the structure and material over time. Neither case is necessarily better than the other. What is most important is the style that fits your student. Either way, your tutor will constantly be deeply in-tune with the areas of the SAT your student needs tutoring in. Their own preparation for how they stay up-to-date is what differs, however, and is something you should examine.

Assess Personality and Teaching Style

Note how well your student and the tutor get along on a personal level. If the student genuinely likes and respects the tutor as a person, they will be more inclined to want to learn from them. It is crucial that the tutor’s personality is one that the student is naturally compatible with so the tutoring sessions can have a smooth and enjoyable flow. This kind of comfortable interaction will lead the student to care more about the SAT topics that will be discussed and subsequently be able to digest them better.

Run a Background Check and Review Qualifications

You certainly want your tutor to be someone you trust. Companies like Varsity Tutors put their tutors through background checks. The best tutoring companies go to extreme lengths to verify that a tutor has listed truthful credentials. These are very important measures that must be taken in order for you and your student to feel safe moving forward in the process.

Private SAT tutoring should help set up an appropriate scheduling of sessions that gives your student plenty of time to study before the acknowledged test date. A strong SAT tutor will develop a lesson plan dedicated to every element of the SAT. They will organize detailed sessions to focus on areas that your student struggles with the most. I hope these tips are helpful in selecting private SAT tutoring for your child.

Best Sat Prep Book

If your child is a real self starter that is good at making goals and holding themselves accountable, an SAT prep book just may do the trick. It provides tools such as study tips and diagnostic exams with correct answers and explanations. However, your child does have to get plenty of independent practice before test day.

Pros: It has the tools you need to improve your SAT score.

Cons: You have to plan your own study times and test times and drive yourself to actually carry out the SAT prep process with no one to check up on you.

There are several SAT prep books available. With big names like the Princeton Review and Barron’s it can be hard to know which is best. Personally, I would go with Amazon star ratings as my determining factor and chose the Official SAT Study Guide.


When it comes to the SAT college admissions test, everyone can do better if they put work into it. I look at it sort of like getting physically fit. You can do it at home, get an instructor, or go to a gym with a dedicated trainer. All paths will lead to success but only if you have the motivation and will power to do the work. The student progress for this important test will likely be easiest when they take SAT prep classes that hold them accountable to a timeline. Test preparation should include both academic skills and time management strategies to prepare you for the test format.

Is your child preparing for the admission process? I wish them luck and I hope they get into their dream school! Is your child starting down the test preparation road? Let me know if you have questions?

If you are interested in online sat prep courses, Prep Expert is offering big savings with Promo Code SHARKTANK

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