Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
    (1964-1969)
  • Stanford University
    (1969-1984)
  • Princeton University
    (1988-2003)

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    (1966-1977)
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    (1977-1987)
    International Office Director
    (1987-2002)

How You Can Prepare for the SAT on a $25 Budget

Karl Schellscheidt

free sat test video No, this is not a joke. In this prepcast video I will provide free SAT help and explain in detail the resources and methods in which you can fully prepare for the SAT test with less than $25. There’s been a lot of news lately surrounding the SAT and accusations that the test favors the wealthy who can afford expensive tutors and $1,000 test prep classes to achieve higher scores. However, while tutors, consultants, and SAT courses certainly help raise a student’s score, the basic preparation methods of “test-and-review” are accessible to any student armed with determination and $25.

Links for this Video:
The Official SAT Study Guide
College Confidential SAT Forums
ePrep SAT Essay Video

How you can prepare for the SAT on a $25 Budget
[transcript]
By Karl Schellsheidt, www.eprep.com

No, the title of this article is not a joke! You really can prepare for the SAT test for under $25. While you can certainly spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on private tutors and test prep courses, the basic principles of preparing for the SAT are available to everyone for almost nothing. So how do you adequately prepare for the test with less than $25? Here are my suggestions:

Methodology

The first thing you need to understand is the methodology of studying for the SAT test is the same no matter what test prep direction you choose. This methodology is widely accepted throughout the industry and goes like this:

1) Practice under simulated conditions
2) Grade your test
3) Review the problems you missed
4) Repeat steps #1, 2 and 3!

Let’s discuss each of these steps in some detail.

Step 1: Practice Under Simulated Conditions

You first want to get the highest quality practice SAT tests you can find. I believe the best SAT practice tests are produced by the College Board in their book, “The Official SAT Study Guide”. In over fifteen years of tutoring kids on the SAT, I have found the College Board tests to be far and away superior to any other tests you’ll find. Remember, the College Board are actually the people who administer the SAT exam, so by definition, their practice test should be the best on the market. You can buy “The Official SAT Study Guide” at your local bookstore or online at Amazon.com for under $20.

Now you’re ready to sit down and take the test under “simulated conditions”. Exactly what are “simulated conditions”? First, if the practice test says “20 questions in 25 minutes”, then you should set your timer and limit yourself to 25 minutes to answer all 20 questions. Don’t give yourself 40 minutes; you’re not simulating the pressure that will exist on SAT test day. Secondly, if you’re taking your practice test at home, don’t sit or lie down on the couch while taking the test. Rather, sit yourself down at the kitchen table (preferably in an uncomfortable chair) or after school in a classroom desk and simulate the real conditions of test day. One key point on practice tests: you don’t need to complete a full SAT test each time you practice. Instead, focus on completing a full section of a test each time you sit down to practice (e.g., a 20 or 25 minute section test).

Step 2: Grade Your Test

This is the easy part. Immediately after you’ve taken the practice section test, you should grade your answers to see which ones you missed. Your brain is most open to absorbing the knowledge you’re about to immediately encounter during our next step of “review”, but you must first identify the questions you’ve answered incorrectly.

Step 3: Review Your Incorrect Answers

After you grade your test, you want to immediately launch yourself into review mode. Which questions should you review?

a) Questions answered wrong
b) Questions skipped
c) Questions you guessed correctly
d) Questions you got right but maybe took too long and you feel you need more review

You should never separate the practice from the review with time. If you practice one day and review a day or two later, the knowledge you uncover in the review will not mean nearly as much as if you had reviewed immediately following taking the practice test.

So how do you optimally “review” your practice SAT test? The first suggestion would be to get into a study group! I’ve participated in study groups in high school, college, graduate school and law school and they are definitely a fun way to learn a lot. Study groups work best when you get together with 2 to 5 diverse individuals. This may sound kind of “geeky” or “corny” to invite someone into a SAT prep study group, but please trust me and just do it. You’re going to have a really good time and you’re going to learn a ton.

Once you have your SAT study group established, you should schedule to take a practice test in a classroom after school together. Be sure to take the test under timed conditions and after the test, have everyone quickly grade their exam. Now let’s suppose everyone in your study group gets four (4) SAT problems incorrect. This is very unlikely to happen, but I can guarantee each student in your group will get different questions wrong. In this manner, there will almost always be someone in your group who can explain the questions you got wrong and you will have the opportunity to explain the answers to questions other members in your group got wrong. You will benefit in two ways from this exercise. First, you will benefit from getting correct explanations to questions you missed. Secondly, and more importantly, you will benefit by explaining an answer to another question, because when you can explain a concept to another person you learn that concept so much better.

What do you do if no one in your study group is able to answer a particular question? You should first look to the adults in your life. I myself am an adult, a parent, and I think I am as smart now as I was 15 years ago. The point is your parents know a whole lot more than you think. If your parents don’t know the answer to the question at hand, then find a teacher at school that can help you. Teachers are great people and they are not going to turn you away if you come to them with an academic question.

So what happens if you just don’t have access to an adult? What do you do? You can tap the collective knowledge and support of thousands of others online through SAT forums. There are a lot of internet sites that offer free SAT advice and often feature message boards where students post SAT questions, such as College Confidential (www.collegeconfidential.com) and my own free SAT prep website ePrep (www.eprep.com). Simply go to SAT forum and say “hey, I’ve been working on the SAT’s and this is a problem I cannot get the answer to” and I can guarantee that within a couple hours some other student or parent will have posted the correct explanation to your problem!

Conclusion

You can spend a fortune on test prep services which may or may not improve your score. The most critical step I’ve found through years of experience preparing students for the SAT is to follow a very simple and proven strategy:

1) Take practice test under timed conditions
2) Quickly grade your answers
3) Review in detail questions you either missed, skipped, guessed correctly, or took too long
4) Repeat over and over.

You might be thinking we’ve only spent $20 to purchase the College Board book of practice tests, so what do we do with our remaining $5 from the initial $25 test prep budget we established? Go buy an ice cream before the test! Yes, that’s right; you should go treat yourself to an ice cream or PowerBar because you’re going to need the energy on test day. It’s a very long test :) .

Karl Schellsheidt
ePrep, Inc.

http://blog.eprep.com

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