Your Baseline SAT Score

Your baseline SAT score is important to establish before you embark on any type of SAT prep. In order to create your SAT prep plan, you’ll need to know where you are right now. To do that, you’ll take a REAL practice SAT. Real means it’s from the College Board, the makers of the SAT. Any other test won’t give you an accurate reading. Having worked for a big box test prep company, I know the games they play. Basically, their questions are harder and/or their scoring rubrick is more severe. Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal calling out test prep companies about this practice.

In any case, you’ll want to take a REAL Practice SAT. You have 3 options for this.

Baseline Score: Best Option

Best Option: Buy The Official SAT Study Guide from the College Board. You can buy it via Amazon.

Free SAT Practice Tests

This option is best as you can work from a printed version of the test. You’ll likely prefer a printed version as that’s what you’ll have when you take your Real SAT. It’s also handy as you’ll feel comfortable showing your work, drawing diagrams, or just doodling on the printed page.

Another advantage of this option is that you’ll have 7 more REAL practice tests to use during prep. That’s helpful as you’ll always know which test to take next. And which test(s) you’ve already taken.

One note: the tests are in reverse order in the Official SAT Study Guide. So, if you want to take test #1, keep in mind it’s toward the back of the book (test #1 questions start on p. 1196).

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Baseline SAT Score: Second Best Option

Download a copy of the first practice test here. You can print this if you like. Keep in mind that it’s about 45 pages of questions to print out. Definitely look over the PDF before you print. This way you’ll know which pages you need to print.

Having a printed copy allows you to show work, draw diagrams and doodle. The drawback is that it’s a lot of loose pages to keep together. At least it’s a printed copy.

Baseline SAT Score: Third Best Option

Third Best Option: Download a copy of your first REAL practice SAT here.

If you don’t print it, you can still view it from a computer screen. This has the distinct disadvantage of not replicating test conditions. Also, it tends to dissuade you from jotting down notes on questions. A tangible copy of your test is always preferred. Yet, this is the least expensive (free) and fastest. Remember that you’ll still have to print out 5 pages of blank answer sheets.

What To Do

Obviously, you’ll want to replicate test conditions. To do so, you’ll want to be in a room where you’ll be undisturbed for the duration of the test. The timing of the test is according to the table below. Follow it closely as you’ll want to establish an accurate baseline score, not one in which you’ll have extra time per section.

*If you do have an IEP or 503, please speak with your high school guidance counselor regarding particulars. There are specific cases when the College Board will allow you time accommodations for your SAT. Please discuss details with your guidance counselor. You’ll need to start this process sooner than later. If that causes you anxiety, have your parents start the process. Now.

Some important notes:

-You’ll be allowed a water bottle in your bag while you take the test. You can sip between sections. Best to wait for breaks, though.

-Take a break only when you’re allowed to take a break. You want an accurate gauge of your score. Your strict adherence to SAT protocol insures that your baseline score will be accurate.

-You’re allowed the use of a calculator during section 4. This is the math/calculator section. As I’ve been asked this question at least 1000 times (not exaggerating), yes, you can use a TI 84 graphing calculator. And you can use programs.?

Here is a screenshot from the College Board Site of the allowable calculators on the SAT:

baseline act score

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How to Score Your Practice SAT

Fortunately, you can download the Daily Practice for the SAT app for free. To do this, you’ll need to create a College Board account. Don’t sweat it. You’ll need a College Board account to take the SAT anyway, so you might as well do it now.

Naturally, the app works on both iPhones and Droids. Just follow the instructions below as there are some idiosyncrasies regarding the app you ought to know about.

Important Points about scoring your practice SAT:

You?ll need to print out answer sheets. You can download them in the links above with the first REAL SAT. In case you don’t want to scroll up, here are the Answer Sheets. PRINT THESE SINGLE-SIDED. Yes, I, too, want to save trees. However, if you print these duplex, you probably won’t be able to score them.

Follow the instructions:

-Fill out which test number. DO THIS! It makes it easier for the app to determine which test to score.

-Use a pencil to fill in the test bubbles. Surprise! Highlighters or Sharpies don’t work so well here.

-Keep your answer sheets flat. Not kidding. If your answer sheets are as wrinkled as a paper airplane, the scoring app won’t work.

-Use the app in natural lighting, but not outside. It seems the app works best when using low natural light. So, score it near a window, but not outside. The brightness of direct sunlight tends to be too much light for the app. My students and I found this out from scoring dozens of tests. Please heed this admonition.

Final Notes on Establishing Your Baseline SAT Score

Thanks for reading this. It’s a small price to pay for a free, or extremely low cost method of establishing your baseline SAT score. Really, you can do this on your own. No need to pay for it.

If you don’t feel comfortable about timing yourself, you can have a friend or family member set a timer to make sure you stop at the appropriate time. You can also have them read the instructions so that there’s another person to help you maintain protocol.

Good luck. May your baseline score help you to gauge where you are now relative to where you want to be by your final SAT!

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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.