SAT Preparation: How To Score High On the SAT

how score higher on the sat

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A good SAT score can get you into a great college and set you up for success in life. The biggest myth of the SAT is that it is an assessment of your intelligence and you are doomed to your score and can never improve it.

It’s a skill, and you can learn how to score better on the SAT if you put in consistent work and know the tips, tricks, and secrets to the system.

Without further ado, this is the best SAT advice you can get in the world (and I’ll prove it)…

My SAT Story

My parents spent thousands of dollars for me to excel at the SAT. I took a couple of test prep courses, including from Princeton Review. I went to an intensive weekly Asian SAT math course by some Asian mathematics genius professor. I took an essay writing course. I had a pricey weekly tutor that cost $100+ an hour, which he called a “discount.”

I had access to dozens of all the top, thick SAT prep textbook. Many books were bought giving SAT advice, including one from two guys who scored a perfect score and wanted to teach you how the fun way.

Guess how much all of that helped me? Little. 

I went to take my first official SAT test with a bag of chocolates (because we thought chocolate would boost your perception), water, fifty pencils, a graphing calculator, extra batteries, and a back up calculator.

I got my score a week later and I had scored slightly below average.

People think that if you have money, you can spend it to increase a child’s SAT score. This is the common excuse for people who did not have parents who paid for these things. I am an example of how that’s not always true. Nor did my parents just randomly throw money at things. They were methodical in their research.

And I definitely did not enjoy the entire process. In addition to what was mentioned, I had a procedure of daily SAT practice test prep that I had to follow every summer starting from middle school because of my mom’s instruction. It usually required completing a dozens of pages of practice tests and reviewing. I remember trying earnestly initially but realizing it was too much. I ultimately started skipping most of the work and looking up the answers in the back of the book to pretend I had done it.

My mother made the fundamental mistake of demanding too much, burning a child out, and giving a bad impression. Instead, she should’ve increased work much more gradually and sustainably. Again, I was in middle school so I can’t say it was my fault completely. Looking back, I think it was maybe a little too much too early on.

Now I’m going to tell you what DID work.

Just like how I used to hate reading, I used to hate or at least not particularly enjoy the entire SAT prep process and through luck, I was introduced to it in a new way that completely changed my world.

Looking back, I was very fortunate and surprised this occurred. I had spent many years in test prep courses that I really did not find much interest in.

That is why I believe that a person could find an interest and passion in something they hate or find boring if they are introduced to it in the right way. 

I met a friend in high school who changed my mindset. This guy LOVED what he did. He loved the process of excelling and doing well in school and on the SAT. He taught me two big things in regards to academics and the SAT:

  • You can make it fun.
  • It is a skill that you can get better at, not something that is fixed.

I soon decided to hang around him as much as I can and his mindset rubbed off on me.

Over the next couple of years, I started doing a lot better in school, I started taking more advanced level courses and doing well, AND I ended up raising my SAT score 600 points.

The Best SAT Prep for High Scorers

Most people do not know this secret:

Because of how the SAT is scored, the last 200 to 300 points range of a perfect score is what I call the “Laser Thin Precision” area. This basically means that if you miss one question in the math section, that could drop you down to a 690 rather than an 800. The amount of questions you are allowed to miss varies slightly depending on the test, but it’s you’re more or less battling between slight differences in performance, just like sports.

Some tests may be more lenient with scoring but they make up for that by making the questions harder. As I got scored higher, my practice was focused on perfection in the Laser Thin Precision area. It wasn’t a matter of understanding what I got wrong anymore so much as making sure I get every single question correct well within the time limit, a difficult feat considering the small margin of error.

The rewards for answering a couple more questions right were astronomical. My friend eventually got a perfect super score. This means he didn’t get a perfect score in one sitting but he got perfect scores in each section at different sittings. Like me, he was playing in the “Laser Thin Precision” area.

We both took numerous SAT tests and would race home immediately to go on forums to verify if we got the one to three questions that were nagging us correct.

Take tons of timed practice tests if you’re in this high scoring zone. If you’re not, I suggest focusing on quality of answers first and have no time limit. As you get better, adding a time limit makes everything harder and harder. Eventually, you want to aim for zero or one question wrong per section with a time limit of 5 minutes less than the official time limit as a margin of safety and comfort cushion.

Should you take the SAT more than once?

That is a question you are probably wondering and I’ve already hinted at. I conducted a lot of research. Typically, colleges will not care how many times you take it, especially if you eventually scored well, as it shows perseverance. Some only look at your highest score.

Since SAT tests are conducted numerous times throughout the year, you bet I took advantage. Of course, I also had Asian parents who were willing to finance academic growth no matter the cost.

My friend found a thriving online community of the peak academic performers; it’s the best online SAT prep location. It has tens of millions of posts on it. This is their forum:

Many of the users on there were top performers. They had ridiculous credentials, ridiculous schedules, and outrageous resumes. Most of the people on there were still average but they had a very keen and shared purpose of succeeding in academics from college to postgrad and beyond. There were a lot of parents on there too.

I was very inspired and learned quite a bit from the forum.

How To Get a Perfect Score on the SAT: Interviewing 100+ Perfect Scores

I set a goal to get a perfect score. I kept this to hidden from everyone. It was outrageous but I saw possibility now that I knew that this was something that could be developed. I saw a lot of success stories of people increasing their scores, which inspired me.

I decided to find and interview people who had got perfect scores. (which puts you in the 99th percentile and top 1% of the world in terms of standardized testing)

Because there were quite a few users on the forum who had scored a perfect SAT score, I used the advanced search feature on the forum to find as many as I could. Eventually, I found more than I thought there were (maybe 100). I private messaged and chatted with them. Most of them responded.

I asked them all these questions and reverse engineered how they achieved it. Some of them were naturally smart and accomplished it on their first and second try. If it was their third try, they had already scored very high on the first couple attempts. Others had scored bad initially and brought up their scores, sometimes dramatically.

This leads me to the Top 4 Things I Recommend You Do:

  1. Take real administered SAT tests. No more of the fake practice test booklets from test prep companies. Most of the perfect scorers were taking real practice tests to get better. It makes logical sense. You want the questions, passages, format, and style of the company actually making the tests: College Board. You can get your hands on maybe 10 to 20 of these fairly easily. Getting more is a little more difficult, which I’ll get into later. Not all test prep books are bad. Barron’s is pretty good and fairly accurate. I have taken 50 to 100 practice tests from these test prep textbooks. Might I remind you that each practice test is maybe 6 to 8 hours to complete. I did most of them because they were already bought and to be honest, I wanted to finish them all in order to say I finished them all and “get as much juice as I could out of a lower quality textbook.” If I could do it again, I would not go through most of them. Some of those books just wasted half a year of my time. I knew they were lower quality and yet I kept plowing through them. Some test prep books are better than others but some were just pretty bad. They were far off in terms of the style and type of questions and mathematics problems they asked on the real tests. Once you take enough real tests, you get almost a six sense for the type of math questions, reading passages, and type of questions they ask you. The style gets pretty routine and expected. It was pretty clear that some of the crappier practice test textbooks did NOT do this and had questions that would never be asked.
  2. Choose the right vocab lists. Barron’s has a 3500 word list in their textbook. I tried a few times to memorize some of the words in the list to no avail as it was just too much. That was all fine and dandy. But then in came this SAT tutor who forced me to buy a stack of  flash cards and memorize as many as I could a day. He boasted about how a previous student of his had done this and filled chests full of flashcards that she eventually memorized. He wanted me to memorize 15 very difficult words a day for a few months to get all 3500 and repeat them all back to him. Don’t do this. Many of the top scorers did not do this and neither did my friend. I wasted a lot of time memorizing a ton of words that were never on the test. Also, make sure you ask how well your tutor scored on the SAT before you ever hire him. I never did out of politeness and I do not know if my parents ever did. But we’ll get to that. What I found is that there are many shorter lists with a much higher quality list of words that are much more likely to be on the test. Having a good vocabulary, like it or not, is vital to scoring well. What they used to do on the College Confidential online SAT prep forum was do a direct scientific assessment of vocab lists and how often they would appear in official SAT tests that were recently administered. It was quite extensive and most likely used actual computer programs. They would back-test and search these tests and see how many of the vocab words in each of the vocab lists out in the market were on the actual tests. The results were incredible. Barron’s 3500 word vocab list often scored the worst despite it having the most words. It fluctuates from month to month, but the top scorers are almost always Direct Hits and Rocket Review. This is incredible because each volume of Direct Hits has only about 100 words you need to memorize. I will get more into this in the Resources section of this article.
  3. Have a strong foundation. If you don’t have a strong foundation, acquire it. By this, I mean that you have to know the basics of what will be tested on. You have to understand the limits of what they are testing in Math, Reading Comprehension, and so on. For instance, in terms of the Math section, it is basic algebra, geometry, numbers, operations, and basic statistics. That is as hard as it gets. Even if you think you know this well, it is best of you do a complete refresher. I finished learning all of this math back in middle school since I was in the advanced Math course. Most high school students learn all of this a year before you take the test. That is also partially why the expensive SAT Math course by the asian genius math professor did not help. He brought out a lot of fancy equations and problems that were far beyond the scope of what was ever tested. He sure knew his math. But it did not help me succeed. In fact, it discouraged me at the time from ever believing I would do well in math. I tried really hard but did not understand a lot of the more complicated problems he solved. I strongly recommend a refresher. I simply went through the Barron’s and Princeton Review textbook. They literally devote the first couple hundred pages to an extensive tutorial on every aspect of each of these sections you need to know in the rare case you never learned geometry. It was a great refresher and filled in any gaps on the more advanced or tricky things in geometry you forget about. I found this very useful for the Writing and Math section. The writing section, especially, could be mastered with strong foundation and a lot of practice tests. Why? Because it is a lot of basic grammar rules. I ended up being very good at grammar and this ended up being my best section. And I used to be a kid who didn’t care about grammar at all! How? I went through the tutorial pages, highlighted, and really studied it. I learned all the grammar rules and applied them. I suggest this over buying grammar books like Elements of Style, which my tutor made me buy. That book did not help me at all. The tutorial books in the textbooks did because they told me all the in’s and out’s of the foundation of what I needed to know rather than things that weren’t to be tested anyways (notice a theme to all of this?). I’ll talk about more of this and give you some links in the Resources section below.
  4. Have the right mindset. Again, part of this was due to luck. I was a bit of a mess as a freshman in high school for a lot of reasons. I was discouraged, thought I wasn’t that great, I wasn’t doing well in terms of grades, and was bullied. My mindset shift was largely part of hanging around my friend. I started believing that getting good grades and a good score was a skill and process that could be learned rather than something that was fixed. I started realizing that this could be fun rather than boring and a task, which is how I had thought about it for a while. Again, notice how this did not come from my parents being able to instill this in me. If you are a parent reading this, I don’t know what to tell you in terms of bringing this across to your child. Perhaps you can find your own way of bringing this across if you’re creative enough. Maybe you can find a person like my friend and introduce him to your child. But my friend is a bit rare in having this quality so it is not an easy find. Maybe you can share this article to your child and he might listen to me, if not to you. Anyhow, I found this could be fun. I started enjoying it because I realized it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought. The math wasn’t as difficult as I thought. I started enjoying timing myself taking the test and seeing if I can take it faster and more accurately within the time limit. I enjoyed coming home and taking part of a practice test because I was excited about the improvements I was making. Remember, they don’t come overnight! It’s a long-term process. Having the right mindset is very important because rather than you being burnt out, you enjoy it and do more and more. In the long term, you get more practice and do well.

This is outside of my Top 4 but I think this is very important as well: the essay.

The essay is very important to your overall writing score. I was never really good at the essay and made up for it by always scoring perfect on the multiple choice sections of the Writing section with my knowledge of grammar. Here’s what I will tell you from my friend and the people I know who did do well with essays.

If you can write a perfect scoring essay or at least a decent scoring essay, it will give you a much larger margin of error for the multiple choice section of Writing.

4 Hacks to Ace the Optional Essay Portion

  1. Write them and submit them for review on forums like They have threads and areas titled FREE Essay Scoring where users will review your essays for free.
  2. Initially, do not time them. Write them as well as you can. But fairly quickly, you need to start timing them. The time limit is very short and gives you a sense of the length and quality of essay you can put on given the short time. It’s a bit like speed chess.
  3. REFERENCE good things. Ideally, make 3 quality references to books, life experiences, and stories to support your point. The topic that you have to write about is given to you at the test so you don’t know what it is. However, it usually makes you argue for a point or support a point. I was never really good at this because I did not read a lot of books back then or have extensive life experiences. The people who did well on essays, including my friend, always references at least one book. One trick they would do is that they’d have a resource of a few books that could almost be used for any topic. It helped that they were in advanced English and read a lot more than I did.
  4. Have a structure: introduction, body, conclusion.

The Most Important Part: SAT Preparation Follow-Up

The follow-up is the most important part. I spend more time reviewing than I do taking the test. I see which questions I got wrong and right. I analyze every multiple choice answer and see which ones I was considering might have been the answer. I try and figure out why the correct answer was this and why these couldn’t be the right answer. It is a skill and it takes time to figure this out. You will get better at it. It is vitally important. I started out reviewing even the questions I got right. This is very important because you may have gotten them right out of luck.

Or you may have spent a lot of time deciding between two or three choices that you thought may be right before you eventually chose the right answer. You need to review these to save time and get you to a point where you can confidently choose the right answer and you know very well why the others are wrong. Otherwise, the next time you take a test, your luck could be against you and you end up choosing the wrong answer out of the ones you are deliberating against. Most real administered tests do not come with answer explanations.

It is a bit of a skill that you can develop to deduce why certain answers are wrong and why a certain one is right without answer explanations. I think you should initially start with practice tests with answer explanations. I recommend Barron’s, despite all the crap I’ve said about it. It is fairly strong in terms of accuracy towards the actual tests. And I have taken 100+ test prep practice tests from different companies and some were REALLY bad and far off from what the actual tests will actually ask you on. Once you get the hang of it, I do think eventually you need to transition to real administered tests.

More important than vocab lists

More important than vocab lists is just reviewing and memorizing vocab words you come across while taking the real tests you come across that you don’t know what they mean. I suggest flashcards.

Important Point:

Start early and you will be able to chill and pace yourself. If you have a year or more to prepare, you can take your time to memorize vocab words. If your test is next week and you’ve only started preparing, you can only do so much to memorize vocab words and prep. This may be tough to swallow but you should probably not spend too much time trying to memorize vocab words or cram unless you have photographic memory. I would play the long game, do your best, and then focus on taking the test again at some later date and give yourself enough time to prepare.

The importance of willpower and planning

You’ve heard the story. I’ve done it too and had to kick the habit. You have a year before your SAT. Plenty of time. Then, half a year. Then, it’s tomorrow. And all the studying you planned to do you did not. It is important to have willpower and plan. If you are not serious about it and just screw around, time will fly and test date will be upon you. Just like with weight lifting and exercising, I recommend you take baby steps. So set yourself up for a tiny goal that’s so easy anyone can do it: 2 minutes of SAT study a day.

Then build from there very slowly. I think this is a much better approach than overwhelming yourself by saying you will do 5 hours of prep a day and then be so scared you never do any. Again, enjoying the process is also helpful. I eventually worked up to actually doing that much test prep a day but I don’t think this is necessary to succeed and people have scored perfect scores with less. So don’t let this scare you! You have to put in some work though!

Why Expensive Tutors and Other Programs Didn’t Work

So let’s address why the paid stuff didn’t work. We’re talking about the test prep courses, the genius math professor, the $100 an hour SAT tutor, and so on. I think this is a very important point.

The SAT Prep Tutor: This is critical because I have come across many parents who have come to me for help with SAT. They want their child to do well and are paying for a high-priced tutor. However, the tutor they describe is just like the one I had and when I tell them my story, they get uneasy and think they may be wasting money and time..

The story of my tutor: He said he was “on discount” because he had to drive an hour away to get to us and he wouldn’t make us pay for the gas. He demanded I memorize thousands of words from a vocab list through flash cards.

He spent 10 to 20 minutes, sometimes more, every week simply quizzing me on the flashcards I promised I would memorize. He spent most of the rest of the time assigning me practice tests on the spot, sitting there waiting for me to finish, then trying to explain to me why I got a question wrong. More often than not, he would flip to the answer explanations and read them before explaining it to me. He was sometimes stumped himself. Occasionally, he got off-track and went on talking about TV shows and movies.

I tried to small chat with him out of politeness but sometimes, this lead to 10 to 20 minutes small chatting. I’ve found on occasion that some people just naturally love to chat and are themselves unaware of the fact that they get off track. Sometimes, he would come in and immediately assign me to a practice test. He would time me and then text on his phone while I did so. The other kid in our neighborhood ended up parting ways with him before I did.

We were very nice to him and gave him a gift upon leaving. I may be highlighting his bad points more than his good. I definitely do not think his work was deserving of the amount he charged though.

This story is to show you what a tutor actually does. There may be much better tutors out there. But be cautious of what could happen instead, like in my case.

MAKE SURE that you ask the tutor what he scored on the SAT and demand proof before you hire him. This was suggested of me by my friend well into him tutoring me but I was too polite to ask. This is for your own good! If they cannot score well themselves, you shouldn’t be hiring them.

SAT Preparation courses: I have taken a bunch from different sources and some from more home-grown, local sources. I would say that they may be of use. More often though, they can be like this: the teacher reading from the textbook, then repeating what the textbook says on the whiteboard. Structured assignments in the form of practice sections that are timed. Group answer explanations that are limited due to the size of the class. These things may be of use to you, just like tutoring, if you need the discipline of a coach or a class to keep you taking practice tests. Your own drive to study and review on your own is critical though.

The teacher can often only do so much based off the size of the class. They can only go through so many practice sessions in the short time you are there with them. Especially if the class is large or has a lot of people from school, it can get rowdy or there can be a lot of kids there who don’t want to improve and were forced there by their parents. The general vibe of these people can seep over to you over time, which is not ideal. If you want to fit in, that can work poorly as well as you may think it is cool to pretend you don’t care about the SAT too.

Genius Specialized Asian Math Professor SAT Course: As mentioned, I think this failed simply because it was not structured towards actual SAT preparation in terms of the SAT regiment. This was based more on the teacher. I have heard of other classes very similar to this (but better) from perfect scorers I have interviewed where they claimed it helped their score. The one I took did not work, in my opinion, because the teacher was bringing out a lot of math and problems that were far more advanced or different in subject than what could ever be tested. It was not so far off that everyone recognized this was the case.

This discouraged me when I shouldn’t have been. The teacher also did not have a structure oftentimes. He would come in with no books and sometimes ask the students to present him with a problem. Also, the vibe of the students sometimes did not help although it was better than the general prep courses. I have to say I did get tired of this before too long and ended up not attending the last few classes.

The Best SAT Prep Books

In this section, I list all the best resources, including the best SAT math prep book and vocab books.

The following is an example of the Vocab List Scoring Results as explained earlier:

We now have a strong consensus on the key vocabulary words on the Nov SAT. By my count there were 22 key words. Here they are:

Metaphor, disparity, zealous, ameliorate, copious, acerbic, solicitous, discriminating, loquacious, antediluvian, unsavory, discern, provisional, virtuosity, preclude, chicanery, paradox, anecdote, skepticism, nuance, personification, and ironic.

So how did the best known vocabulary books/lists perform? Here are the results:

1. Direct Hits Vocabulary: 365 words – 12 Hits = 30.4 words per hit
2. Barron’s Hot Words: 396 words – 11 Hits = 36 words per hit
3. TestMasters: 254 words: 6 Hits = 42.3 words per hit
4. Rocket Review Core Words: 323 words – 6 hits = 53.8 words per hit
5. Princeton Review Hit Parade: 254 words – 4 hits = 63.5 words per hit
6. SparkNotes 1000: 1000 words:11 hits = 90.9 words per hit
7. Word Smart: 1505 words: 16 hits = 94 words per hit
8. Kaplan’s Score Raising Dictionary: 1000 words – 6 hits = 166.6 words per hit
9. Kaplan’s Basic SAT Book: 500 words – 3 hits = 166.6 words per hit
10 Gruber’s 3400 Word List: 3,400 words – 20 hits = 170 words per hit
11 Barron’s 3500 Word Mini-Dictionary: 3,500 words – 20 hits = 175 words per hit


Again, I recommend Direct Hits as my #1 recommendation. There are numerous volumes. It is the best SAT prep book for high scorers when it comes to vocabulary. Get all the volumes. Memorize at the least the most recent volume. That will be around 200 words. If you break it up to a couple a day, that’s easily doable. That’s so much more efficient than that horrible 3,500 word list.

#2 would probably be Rocket Review and Hit Parade. They are usually at the top.

#3. I think that is enough. If you MUST have a #3, Barron’s Hot Words.

I do not know if they still do this on College Confidential. Maybe if you search around you will find it. I do not think so anymore as the user(s) who did this have left the forum.

There are things I know about that many do not that I am purposefully not including on here because I don’t think they were of use.

Practice Test Books

Start with College Board’s official blue books, the old and new ones. The Barron’s SAT practice test textbook is probably the next most accurate. It’s useful for practice tests, answer explanations, and foundation building:


I have taken tons of practice tests from virtually every test prep company. As you become a master, there are nuances between how close to real questions each of these practice tests area, undetectable to the novice. The more different they are, the more it’ll cost you during the test because you’ll be unprepared. Certain brands, like Princeton Review, were a decent amount off the mark, undetectable to the beginner but not tome. Avoid Princeton when starting out; use it as a last resort.

Kaplan’s Basic SAT Book

SAT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective SAT Strategies Ever Published

Grammar & Writing Foundation Building:

I recommend this book if the Barron’s or Kaplan standard textbook isn’t doing it for you. I have heard many amazing things about this baby.

The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar


If foundation building from standard test prep books don’t work, these are highly recommended by people who have more recently prepped and taken the tests:

PWN The SAT: Math Guide

Dr. Chung’s SAT Math

Vocab Building: 

Direct Hits (entire list)

Directs Hit 5th Edition Volume 1

Direct Hits 5th Edition Volume 2

Rocket Review

Hit Parade.

Barron’s Hot Words.

If you must have more vocab:

The Insider’s Complete Guide To SAT Vocabulary: The Essential 500

Word Smart by Princeton Review

Critical Reading: 

The Critical Reader by Erica Meltzer

How To Get Real Administered SAT Tests for Free

You can get about 7 tests through CollegeBoard’s Blue Books. They release a new one with new tests every 4 or 5 years. Otherwise, they just update it slightly every year and call it a “new edition.”

Get the new Blue Book here

Get the old Blue Book from 5 years ago (still good) here

Sometimes, CollegeBoard will have free real, full practice tests on their website.

Here is a link where you can download four. 

Here is a link to download one or take it online. 


○     Test C Answers

○     Test D Answers

Here are three books that claim they have real SAT tests in them on These were not books I knew about or used when I was taking the test. I would if I knew about them. Two are by CollegeBoard so they seem pretty legitimate. They have a decently high rating. I would at least check them out.

10 Real SATS 3rd Edition by The College Board

10 Real SATS by Cathy Claman

10 Real SATS the Solution Manual by The College Board

Get a test after you take it: If you are a student and you are taking an official test, you can pay a fee and have the test mailed to you after the test date. I did this a couple times. It gives you a free test to review. It is called a QAS and costs $18 USD. Here is the link to the official order form on College Board’s website.  Note: You can only do this up to 5 months after your test date.

If you do some digging online, you can find more sometimes. If anyone has found anymore, feel free to leave a comment with the link so I can add it to the resources for our community.

Not enough? Want more tests?

That should be more than enough tests. If not, I recommend Barron’s. They have fairly realistic tests and actual answer explanations that will help you.

What if you want more real tests? Here’s the thing. There used to be and probably still is a huge underground black market. People would get a QA and scan it. They would trade and sell tests online. People had databases of all the tests all the way back to 2000 and before that. That is a LOT of tests since new official CollegeBoard tests are administered many times a year.

They also had a lot of old school guides and eBooks by top test scoring students. Some of which were called Grammatix and The Xiggi Method, which were highly acclaimed in the community. However, it is illegal or outdated. The practice test property is owned by College Board and is intended for distribution only to the buyer of the QA. I suggest you be careful.

What I have provided so far is more than enough tests. From experience, quality practice beats quantity. One of the periods where my score increased the least was when I was solely focused on getting through and reviewing as many practice tests as possible per week.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you time the test when practicing?

Initially, I don’t think you should. When you’re scoring around 1500, you should have no time limit in my opinion. You are missing half the questions. You are getting most of them wrong. You need to take your time and figure out why this answer is right and this answer is wrong.

Eventually, you have to start timing. Again, you can take your time with this.

Should I get all volumes of Direct Hits?

There are new volumes because the author updates every year or so. Get the latest two years at the very least and that should be enough. If you want to cover all bases, then I would highly suggest all the volumes. These are just my opinions though, which may be wrong.

What if I don’t have much time? My test date is coming up very soon?

If you have a year or more to prepare, you can take your time to memorize vocab words. If your test is next week and you’ve only started preparing, you can only do so much to memorize vocab words and prep. This may be tough to swallow but you should probably not spend too much time trying to memorize vocab words or cram unless you have photographic memory. I would play the long game, do your best, and then focus on taking the test again at some later date and give yourself enough time to prepare.

How Long Does It Take For You To Finish & Review A Test? 

It took me, starting out, maybe a full week to finish an entire practice tests with all its sections working a couple hours a night with maybe one night off. Eventually, I got to a point where I could do it in 2 to 3 days spending 3 or 4 hours. Again, I had a mindset where I found it fun, which helped.

How many practice tests is enough?

I would say one of the Blue Books and a Barron’s book should be able to hold you for a good couple months. If you end up becoming a voracious practice test taker like me, then you will need more. I would say 50 is more than a solid number.

Should I get the DVD with the book(s)? Only if whoever is taking the test prefers to take the test electronically. It may be better if it keeps him or her more engaged and more open to learning. Eventually, I suggest transitioning to paper and pencil because that is how the real test is administered right now.

Should I use a highlighter when doing foundation building work? Sure. I did. Some people I know did. Others I know did not. Just know you only get a pencil on the actual test so maybe you might want to eventually shift to circling or highlighting

Should I skip questions I do not know the answer to? I did the math and you gain no advantage or disadvantage if you skip a question or blindly guess. The formula is +1 for every correct and -0.25 for every wrong answer. There are five multiple choice. On average, you will get one out of every five blind guesses right which equates to zero: +1 -0.25 -0.25 -0.25 -0.25. I would suggest not skipping any and guess. Why?

Because you can’t score a perfect score or come close to it if you skip a question. But if you’re not aiming for that it doesn’t matter. You get a deduction of zero if you leave a question blank. If you are practicing and it’s not the actual test, I suggest taking every question to get practice and understand why you got it right or wrong. Eventually, you need to start timing yourself to get used to the fact that it’s timed.

Should you remain on a question that stumps you or skip it and come back when you’re being timed for a test? 

The best practice seems to be to give yourself 1 to 2 minutes and then skip it. You will not have time to come back with this strategy though because of how stringent the timing is. You should practice a lot before the actual date so you get to a point where you can fairly easily answer all the questions within the time limit and not be stressed.


In summary, becoming a master of the SAT is not a matter of luck or genetics. You can increase your score dramatically with patience and deliberate practice over time. To increase the speed this happens, you have to optimize how you practice. Here’s what you should look for:
  • Use real or previously administered practice tests from College Board rather than practice tests modeled to look like real SAT questions from test prep companies.
  • Review the answers you got wrong (and sometimes even the answers you got right) and find out why so you don’t make the same mistake. Answer explanations help tremendously.
  • Have a solid vocabulary of the core set of words they’ll likely test you on (mentioned earlier).
  • Have the right books that provide the most growth (titles mentioned earlier).

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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