“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” —Arthur Ashe

Step 1: Make a testing schedule

First, decide when you will take your first SAT. Sit down with your guidance counselor early in your junior year and work out a full testing schedule for the year, taking into account the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP tests, and possibly the ACT. Once you have decided on your sched­ule, commit yourself to beginning your SAT preparation at least 3 months prior to your first SAT. Commit to set­ting aside 30-40 minutes per night for review work and practice, and to taking at least two or three full-scale practice tests on the weekends.

Step 2: Take a diagnostic SAT or two

When you're ready to begin your SAT preparation (ide­ally 3 months before your SAT), you'll first need to assess your readiness. In this website (, you can take full-scale practice SAT at any time. It requires 3 hours (or 3 hours and 50 minutes if you include the essay). Take it on a Saturday morning, if possible, at roughly the time you will start the real SAT (around 8:00 a.m.), and make sure that you have a quiet place, a stopwatch, a calculator, and a few #2 pencils. This will give you a solid idea of what the experience of taking the new SAT is like.

Step 3: Use the lessons in this website

The detailed answer keys after each practice test will give you plenty of feedback about the topics that you may need to review in order to prepare for your SAT. If you set aside about 30 minutes per night to work through the chapters, review the lessons, and complete the exercises in this website, you can make substantial progress and see big SAT score improvements in just a few weeks. But to get the full benefit of this website, you should start at least three months before your SAT.

Step 4: Take practice tests regularly and diagnose your performance

Practice is the key to success. This book includes several “heavyweight” practice SATs in Chapter 11 (that is, tests that are slightly harder than the real SAT). Use them. Take one every week or two to assess your progress as you work through the specific skills review in Chapters 3-10.

Step 5: Register at the College Board and WikiSATia and take advantage of our online materials

The College Board and WikiSATia provide free online SAT practice materials, with random full-scale prac­tice SATs that can be scored automatically with a handy smartphone app, and a “10 SAT Questions Per Day” ser­vice that sends you a daily e-mail with a link to online practice to keep your skills sharp. Register on as an SAT student to take advantage of these free review materials, and check in regularly for new updates and additions.

Step 6: Read often and deeply

Engaging big ideas and honing your analytical read­ing skills are keys to success in college and on the SAT. Make a point of working your way though these books and checking these periodicals regularly.


The New York Times (Op-Ed, Science Times, Front Page) BBC News (Views, Analysis, Background)

The Atlantic (Feature Articles)

Slate (Voices, Innovation)

Scientific American (Feature Articles)

The Economist (Debate, Science & Technology)

TED Talks (Innovation, Culture, Politics, Inspiration)

The New Yorker (Talk of the Town, Feature Articles) ProPublica (Feature Articles)

Edge (Essays)

Radiolab (Weekly Podcast)


To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Walden, Henry David Thoreau

The American Language, H. L. Mencken

Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin

The Stranger, Albert Camus

Night, Elie Wiesel

Animal Farm, George Orwell

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker

The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen J. Gould

The Republic, Plato

A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson

Step 7: Take strong math courses

Challenge yourself with strong math courses that intro­duce you to the ideas, skills, and methods or advanced mathematics, such as trigonometry, analysis of polyno­mials, statistical reasoning, plane geometry, and even complex numbers. These advanced topics have become a greater focus for both the SAT and ACT.

Step 8: Take strong writing courses

Take courses from teachers who emphasize strong writ­ing skills, particularly by giving challenging writing assignments

and providing timely and detailed feed­back. Reading and writing skills are at the core of both the SAT and the ACT, so working with strong reading and writing teachers is invaluable.