You will want to use these tools for your SAT Preparation. A lot of them you can use on your own. Others are best used with guidance. Here is the list:
First SAT Preparation Tool: The Official SAT Study Guide (OSSG)
The Official SAT Study Guide (OSSG), available from Amazon or other booksellers. Your free option is the College Board’s SAT practice tests as PDFs.
While you don’t need a print copy of the tests, you will most likely prefer it. First, it is more realistic as the SAT is still printed and not digital when administered. Second, it’s easier for you to flip pages when a reading passage question refers to text on the preceding page. Third, it’s easier for you to make notes and scribble diagrams. This is just like your real SAT test.
The alternative is using the practice test PDFs, available here. With this, there are two options. You can print them so as to mimic the print copy of a real SAT. The drawback is that each test is about 50 pages, so that’s a lot of printing. It might be less expensive for you to buy the OSSG.
The other option is to use a digital device to read the questions of the test. It is free, but it can be cumbersome when making notes or flipping back a page. If you have a device you’re comfortable reading from, this could be a good option for you.
Second Tool: TI 84 Calculator
While there are calculators that are both legal and have greater computing power, the TI 84 is unsurpassed in its ease of use and ability to store programs. The TI 84 can calculate imaginary numbers, change decimal answers into fractions, and supply you with graphs and tables. This sounds simple, but it is the time-saving aspect along with efficiency that helps you. Keep in mind that each math question equates to about 10 points. So, a mere 5 more questions answered correctly raises your score 50 points.
Next, the TI 84 calculator can use programs. This is incredibly helpful. You can definitely calculate a lot of the answers on the SAT math using your head. The calculator is faster. A TI 84 with programs is faster yet, and likely more accurate. Later on, check out the fifth tool.
Third Tool: College Board Account Linked to Khan Academy (KA)
This is not what you think. This is for answering math questions (and verbal, if you’re so inclined) similar to those found on the SAT. Think a question/answer machine.
The best part is that you can take short diagnostic tests. Once you do that, KA will direct you to topics that can help you work on your weaknesses. Their modules range from 5 to 15 questions and sometimes involve timed quizzes. Taking these is great way to make use of short time intervals on a regular basis. Nobody needs to know your scores. Oh, and it tracks your progress. You will want to use this on a regular basis to keep your head in the SAT game.
The only three downsides. First, the questions, especially the more difficult ones, are sometimes more difficult than those on the actual SAT. Second, they can become more obscure, slightly off-topic once you’ve completed enough of them. Third, it is digital. While the instant feedback is nice, you can incur digital fatigue.
All in all, a good tool. However, you might want to switch to the sixth tool if you want more SAT math practice questions.
Joining KA: You can click here to join KA. You’ll want to join as a learner. Include SAT practice as one of your learning topics.
Also, in order to register for an SAT, you’ll want a College Board account. Then, you’ll want to link them so that KA can track what topics you need to work on to improve your composite score.
Fourth Tool: College Panda SAT Advanced Math Book and Workbook
This is the single best guide on the SAT math. Most other guides include questions more difficult than those found on the SAT. Even worse, they include questions on topics not actually covered by the SAT.
Bucking this trend, College Panda uses many of the math questions found on the real SAT practice tests. Even better, the questions are divided by topic, with the more basic and popular topics first.
Each chapter focuses on a handful of examples and rules to explain its topic. Then it provides you with questions at the end in a fashion similar to what you would find on the real SAT.
Fifth Tool: SAT Help TI 84 Calculator Program
You can download it here. If you aren’t familiar with downloading calculator programs onto your TI 84 calculator, click here. That page will give you instructions and a video about downloading TI Connect (free) onto your computer so that your calculator can download programs. Also, the page will provide instructions about how to connect your calculator to your computer and then download programs from the internet.
*Please keep in mind that calculator programs are legal on section 4 (math, calculator) of the test. Section 4 contains 38 of the 58 math questions. This means you can use your calculator on about 2/3 of all the math questions.
For this section, you’ll want to use your calculator on about 10-15 of the questions, and programs on about 5-10 of those. Keep in mind that every little bit helps.
Sixth Tool (optional): College Panda 10 SAT Math Tests
This is to be used only after you’ve exhausted most of the other tools. It’s good as it gives you timed tests on the math sections.
While the questions are of the same topics of an actual SAT, there is a drawback. A portion of the questions are among the more difficult math questions you’ll see on the SAT. This is not a dealbreaker in itself. It’s just with too many difficult math questions per test, your score would be lower on these practice tests than the actual SAT. So, taking these tests, expect your score to be lower on these than they would an actual SAT math test.
Please use these tools. Most of them are free or low cost.
And be sure to create a plan and stick with it. This starts with taking a practice test to establish your baseline score.
After that, set a target score and a date you want to achieve it. You will want to do some work towards that each week. It’s best to do a little bit a day rather than a marathon session once weekly. You want to practice for the SAT as you would practice a sport or musical instrument. Consistency is key.
Basically, you’ll want to take a full practice SAT once every 2-4 weeks. If possible, take an entire practice test all in one sitting.
On a more daily basis, you’ll want to work on the topics from the College Panda Math book. Once you’ve completed the almost 30 chapters of that book, move on to KA.
Oh, and be sure to use your calculator a lot. The more familiar you are with the calculator in general and the SAT HELP program in particular, the better off you’ll be.
Many students are surprised that the calculator program can solve complex numbers, solve systems of equations, and calculate quadratics. Even basic things like simplifying fractions, simplifying radicals, calculating the distance between two points or creating a linear equation from two points are extremely helpful. Not only do the calculator and the program help, they make sure your answers are correct and in the format the SAT wants. As you take practice tests, you’ll grow to appreciate the meaning of this.
All in all, good luck. You will experience ups and downs. That’s part of the process. Just keep your head in the game on a regular basis. And please keep your progress to yourself, your tutor, and your parents. Sharing scores or progress with peers is, in most cases, a mistake. It leads to a comparison game and robs you of the joy of your journey.