SAT Prep Steps: How much should I practice for the SAT?

SAT Prep Steps

Practice Makes Progress

Just this week, a student saw this graphic and said, “Are you serious? If I want to go up 100 points, I have to practice for 20 hours?!” And yes, at first that numbers seems jarring, considering how much students have going on these days. But when I pointed out that we have about four months to prep, and that really amounts to a little over 1 hour a week, his response was, “Legit. I can do that.” And when we considered that no sport would ever boast a one-hour practice schedule (they’re usually hours a night, not including games), it seemed even less imposing.

This assessment coming up in April is unique to other things you’ve done in class. Your goals will be different, your strategies should be different, and the timing is different. You have to practice differently to play differently.

Not all practice is created equal – just clicking mindlessly through Shmoop or Khan for an hour a week isn’t probably going to help much. BUT – if you work through Shmoop/Khan/SAT questions, write notes to follow up with teachers about, be intentional and deliberate about developing weaknesses and refining strengths, and pair that with independent, personalized reading, timing, and math strategies, you can make a significant improvement in your score. And now we’re talking beyond SAT prep- these are just great life habits!!

This practice is in addition to homework and class time; you have to practice SAT-like problems. If your goals require a higher increase, practice more. Practice will expose you to the exact types of questions you’ll see (they never change); the exact amount of questions in the same time period (it never changes); and the exact level of complexity posed by the assessment (again – never changes). And – you’ll also be reading while you do it, so reading for the win!


  • When: Identify a time and put it in your calendar. You don’t just “have” time laying around for this – you have to create the space to make it happen. When could you carve out an hour to devote? When are you most productive and awake? Set realistic goals based on your own habits and behaviors.
  • Where will this practice take place? Sometimes your bedroom isn’t the best place – because it’s so comfortable, you can be too relaxed. Consider a library, coffee shop, or other location with a slight distraction/ maybe even uncomfortable chair factor.
  • How: Are you set up with the right materials? Log into Shmoop (all SVVSD students have accounts) and Khan Academy. SAT has 8 official practice tests free online here and/or buy/ borrow this book. There’s also a daily practice app. When you’re practicing, time time yourself. That clock freaks everyone out – practice with a timer and get used to it. You’ll thank yourself on game day.


  • If a student asks you how they could improve, looking at their in-class performance is a first start. Since the SAT suite of assessments are aligned to Colorado Academic Standards for English and Math, you’ve got a great start getting them ready. Are there any papers they could take a closer look at regarding organization or structure? Any relevant math work they struggled on? How do they do on word problems or reading graphs and charts? Those are great indicators.
  • Keep a sign visible with directions for logging in to Khan or Shmoop. Remind them frequently to use these resources.
  • Encourage students to read an article a night in any content. They’ll need literacy skills across the spectrum for this assessment. How could they share their learning with their peers? Science teachers can help a lot here too since many articles in the SAT include graphs and charts.
  • Identify a location in your school where students could set up a practice club. Ideally a location where they will always have access to a device and SAT materials. The library is always a great place, and maybe even identify certain times when someone could be on hand to answer questions – a practice club might encourage students who are intimidated to practice on their own. And help doesn’t have to come from a teacher! Other students who are experts in their content could volunteer to be available.

Does this raise any questions, comments, or suggestions for other students you may have about this? Post them on Twitter, Facebook, or email!

St. Vrain Valley Schools