SAT Practice Test Guidelines

Following these SAT practice test guidelines regarding timing will help you smile.

SAT Practice Test

1. Take your SAT Practice Test in the morning after a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast. You want to replicate test conditions as much as possible. This means you will want to seek seclusion in a room where you will remain undisturbed for the duration of the test.

Also, test fatigue can creep up on you. Inuring yourself to the length of the test will prepare you for the length of the real test.

Expect your REAL SAT score to drop 30-80 points from your SAT practice test score if you do not take your practice test(s) in one sitting.

2. Time yourself: each section of the test will show you the time allotted for that section. Use only that time. If you have an accommodation, you can use your extra time.

3. If a question is taking up too much time, let it go. By taking multiple SAT practice tests prior to your real test, you will understand your own test timing better.

SAT Practice Test Bubble Sheet and Scoring

4. Use a bubble sheet as you would on the test day. Be as careful with your answers as you would be taking the real SAT test.

You want to answer ALL questions. Unlike your parents’ generation, there is no penalty for a wrong answer.

Remember, practicing like you want to perform is the way to improve your score. Only the self-delusional believe they can change their methods under the duress of a real test.

5. Your scores will likely fluctuate during your first few practice SAT tests. This is normal. Over time you will most likely notice a general upward score trend. You are looking for progress, not perfection.

6. You are allowed water and snacks for the real test. Drinking water during a section is fine, but be inconspicuous.

As for snacks, wait till the breaks. And be sure to make the snack a power bar of some type, something unobtrusive.

Doodling and Summarizing on your SAT Practice Test

7. Doodle. Be sure to make diagrams and drawings when they help you. The more work you can do on paper and on calculator, the better. Accuracy and clear thinking are helped by doodling with a pencil and calculating with a calculator, when allowed.

Doodling and marking up the test makes it YOUR test. For a lot of students, it helps to redraw diagrams on the math section, making them larger. This makes it easier to label lengths and angles. Also, it helps you to see triangles within triangles, objects within objects, and angles within different, likely parallel, lines. Take a handful of tests and this will make sense.

As for the Reading section, mark line number references of the questions. Also, feel free to use a 1 or 2-word summary for paragraphs. In the case of a character, jot down your own emotional reaction to guide you. There will likely be a question about it.

Miscellaneous SAT Practice Test Tips

8. For the section you are allowed to use your calculator, use your calculator as if you are paid to do so. Also, use parentheses as you would a seat belt when driving. For clarification on this point, please ask me during your next SAT prep session.

9. Use triage marking: when you encounter a difficult question or one you guessed your answer, please mark it so you can review it at the post-mortem. Even if you arrive at the correct answer.

Many times there is a better, faster, or clearer way to understand the answer or how to obtain it. Making your mark will help guide you where you need help.

Last piece of SAT Practice Test Advice

10. Answer every question. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer. Mentioning this again as it is the most ignored, but easiest followed, method to gain points.

Good luck in your SAT endeavor!


By Martin

Martin McSweeney is a National Merit Finalist, Pomona College Graduate, and member of MENSA. He has worked at the Center for Talented Youth (Loyola Marymount University campus); Upward Bound (Harvey Mudd campus); various test prep companies; and Whittier High School. Now, Martin helps students of all abilities improve their relationship with math.