When To Start Preparing For The SAT Exam?
When to Start Preparing for the SAT Exam

It is indeed true that to reach a destination, one must begin from a specific point. However, determining the starting point is often a challenge. This is also applicable to SAT preparation and taking the SAT exam.

Let’s discover the ideal starting point, the direct path, the appropriate approach, and the suitable platform to commence your SAT journey.


The road to college applications often begins with the SAT. But when to start preparing for the SAT exam? Starting too late can hinder your potential while starting too early might lead to forgotten information or difficulty grasping unfamiliar content.

This guide will navigate you through the essential knowledge tested on the SAT and offer personalized recommendations based on your college aspirations, helping you chart the perfect course for success. However, it is essential to strike a balance between the timing of when you intend to take the SAT exam and when you initiate your preparation. Let’s delve into this concept to gain a better understanding.

When are you Planning to Take the SATs? 

Before you think about the ideal time to start preparing, you need to decide, when you will take the SAT. While there’s no single “perfect” time to take the SAT, most students aim for the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. 

You’ll have to choose between a more intensive study regimen (such as ten hours per week for two months) and a more gradual one (four hours per week for five months). Either strategy can help you improve your scores significantly, so the decision will be based on your schedule and study style.  

Ideal Time to Start Preparing for the SAT

The answer to the question of when to start preparing for the SAT exam is not the same for everyone. The optimal time to begin your SAT preparation journey depends on several factors, including your learning style, academic background, and college goals. Below is a comparative table, to assist you in selecting your college strategically and preparing effectively, and a breakdown of possible starting points and their associated benefits. This plan also addresses the key query of when to start preparing for the SAT exam. 

Freshman Year: Getting Acquainted (Optional)

  • Benefits: Familiarity with the format and content areas can alleviate future anxiety.
  • Focus: Explore basic concepts covered in the SAT through your regular coursework. Consider taking practice tests in later high school years to gauge your baseline score.

Sophomore Year: In-Depth Preparation

  • Benefits: Allows sufficient time to solidify foundational knowledge and develop strong study habits.
  • Focus: Begin dedicated SAT preparation using practice tests, study materials, and online resources. Identify your strengths and weaknesses to tailor your study approach.

Junior Year: Intensifying the Practice

  • Benefits: Most students start preparing seriously during junior year, allowing them to refine their skills before senior year college applications.
  • Focus: Increase the frequency and difficulty of practice tests. Consider seeking professional guidance from tutors or online prep courses if needed.

Senior Year: Last-Minute Preparations and Last Attempts

  • Benefits: Ideal for final score optimization and addressing any lingering anxieties before the test.
  • Focus: Refine test-taking strategies, review high-yield topics, and manage test anxiety effectively. This is not the ideal time to introduce entirely new concepts.

College SelectivityTarget SAT ScorePSAT/Practice TestStudy Start TimeFirst SAT AttemptRetake Option
Highly Selective (Ivy League, Stanford, MIT)1500+PSAT (Sophomore), Full Practice SATSophomore year (gradual) or Summer before Junior year (intensive)Junior FallJunior Spring
Selective (Acceptance Rate < 50%)Based on the most selective schoolPSAT (Sophomore) or Practice SATAfter research on target schoolsJunior FallJunior Spring
Less Selective (Acceptance Rate > 50%)Based on the most selective schoolPSAT (Sophomore)Sophomore year (if PSAT < 1000) or Summer after Sophomore yearJunior FallNot mandatory

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Also Read: Last minute helpful SAT Tips

Approaching SAT Prep

Conquering the SAT requires a strategic and well-rounded approach. This section equips you with essential strategies to navigate your SAT preparation journey effectively:

1. Developing a Structured Study Plan:

  • Tailor your plan: Consider your learning style, available time, and academic strengths and weaknesses.
  • Set realistic goals: Break down your preparation journey into smaller, achievable goals with specific milestones.
  • Schedule regular study sessions: Allocate dedicated time for SAT prep, ensuring consistency and avoiding last-minute cramming.
  • Incorporate a variety of resources: Utilize practice tests, online resources, textbooks, and study guides to cater to different learning styles.

2. Balancing Regular Schoolwork and SAT Preparation:

  • Time management is key: Create a daily or weekly schedule that prioritizes both your academic commitments and SAT preparation without compromising either.
  • Identify “dead time”: Utilize commute times, lunch breaks, or even short breaks between homework assignments for focused SAT revision.
  • Seek support from teachers and counselors: Discuss your goals and challenges with your teachers or counselors. They can offer guidance, suggest resources, and help you navigate the balancing act effectively.

3. Identifying Areas of Strength and Weakness:

  • Take diagnostic tests: Utilize practice tests or online assessments to identify areas where you excel and those requiring further improvement.
  • Analyze your performance: Analyze your test results to understand your specific strengths and weaknesses in each section (Reading, Writing & Language, Math).
  • Focus on weaknesses without neglecting strengths: Prioritize focusing on areas needing improvement without neglecting your strengths. Allocate more study time to address your weaknesses while maintaining your strengths through regular practice.

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By implementing these practical strategies, you can approach your SAT preparation with a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Now, let’s take a look at the technicalities of it. 

Study Techniques for SAT

Study Techniques for SAT

Embracing effective study techniques is crucial for optimizing your SAT score. This section equips you with powerful strategies to enhance your preparation and achieve your academic goals:

1. Prioritizing Improvement Areas:

  • Leverage diagnostic data: Analyze your practice test results to identify your strengths and weaknesses across each section (Reading, Writing & Language, Math).
  • Focus on high-yield topics: Allocate dedicated study time to address frequently tested topics within your weak areas.
  • Tailor your approach: Customize your study plan to prioritize areas requiring the most significant improvement, ensuring efficient use of your study time.

2. Utilizing SAT Prep Resources:

  • Explore prep books and study guides: These resources offer comprehensive explanations of concepts, practice questions, and strategies to tackle different question types.
  • Choose resources aligned with your learning style: Opt for resources that align with your preferred learning style, whether it’s visual aids, interactive exercises, or traditional text-based explanations.

3. Mastering the Format with Practice Tests:

  • Schedule regular practice tests: Regularly simulate the actual SAT experience by taking timed practice tests under testing conditions.
  • Analyze your performance: After completing a practice test, thoroughly analyze your answers, identify mistakes, and understand the reasoning behind correct solutions.
  • Develop test-taking strategies: Practice different approaches to various question types and learn effective time management strategies to complete all sections within the allocated timeframe.

4. Embracing Online Resources:

  • Explore online practice platforms: Numerous websites and applications offer interactive practice questions, personalized feedback, and score reports to track your progress.
  • Connect with online communities: Engage with online forums or communities specifically focused on SAT preparation to ask questions, share experiences, and learn from others.

By incorporating these diverse study techniques, you can have a complete solution, a solid approach, and the right direction for your query- “When to start preparing for the SAT exam?”. 

Take a look at this list of estimated hours you need to dedicate, which might help you plan better: 

  • 0-50 points: This range typically requires 10 hours of focused study.
  • 50-100 points: To climb within this range, consider dedicating 20 hours to your preparation.
  • 100-200 points: Reaching this improvement zone might involve 40 hours of committed effort.
  • 200-300 points: Significant progress like this often requires a more substantial investment of 80 hours of study time.
  • 300-500 points: If you’re aiming for a substantial leap in this range, be prepared to dedicate 150 hours or more to your preparation journey.

SAT Test Sections: Breakdown of Content, Timing, and Weightage

A brief overview of how you will be tested in the SAT exam: 

SectionTime Allotment (Minutes)Weightage (Marks)Topics Tested
Reading60400Passage analysis, identifying key ideas and arguments, evaluating evidence, drawing conclusions
Writing and Language35400Grammar and usage, sentence structure, punctuation, rhetoric, and style, essay writing
Math (No Calculator)25200Basic algebra, expressions and equations, ratios and proportional relationships, problem-solving
Math (Calculator)55400Advanced algebra, functions, geometry, data analysis, statistics, probability

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Exam Strategies for Scoring High on the SAT

Strategies for Scoring High on the SAT

Conquering the SAT is not just about knowledge; it’s also about mastering test-taking strategies. This section equips you with valuable tips to decide when to start preparing for the SAT exam with confidence and maximize your score:

1. Mastering Time Management:

  • Plan your approach: Before starting each section, quickly skim the questions to get a sense of the overall structure and difficulty level.
  • Allocate time strategically: Divide the allotted time for each section based on the number of questions and your strengths.
  • Stick to the plan: Avoid spending too much time on any single question. If you get stuck, move on and revisit it later if time allows.
  • Utilize the full time: Even if you finish a section early, use the remaining time to review your answers and address any uncertainties.

2. Conquering Test Anxiety:

  • Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises, meditation, or visualization can help you stay calm and focused during the test.
  • Positive self-talk: Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations that encourage confidence and self-belief.
  • Focus on the present: Don’t dwell on past mistakes or get overwhelmed by future questions. Concentrate on the task at hand and answer the question in front of you.

3. Approaching Difficult Questions:

  • Read the question carefully: Identify the key information and what the question is asking you to do.
  • Eliminate answer choices: Analyze each answer choice and eliminate those you know are incorrect based on the passage or your knowledge.
  • Make educated guesses: If you’re unsure of the exact answer, choose the option that seems most logical based on the available information and your understanding of the concepts.
  • Don’t dwell on difficult questions: If you get stuck, mark the question and move on. You can always revisit it later if time permits.

4. Last-Minute Tips for Peak Performance:

  • Get a good night’s sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for optimal cognitive function and focus.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast: Fuel your mind and body with a nutritious breakfast to maintain energy throughout the test.
  • Arrive early: Eliminate last-minute stress by arriving at the test center well in advance.
  • Review key concepts: Briefly review high-yield topics or essential formulas to refresh your memory.
  • Stay positive and focused: Believe in your abilities, stay calm, and trust the preparation you’ve put in.

By incorporating these exam strategies and maintaining a focused approach, you can confidently navigate the SAT and showcase your academic potential. 

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Do you have the answer to your question- when to start preparing for the SAT exam? If yes, do you know which platform can act as a one-guide solution for boosting your SAT scores? You are at the right place. Because LearnQ.ai is packed with features and helps its students to reach their maximum potential. 

Are you aiming for a perfect or close-to-perfect score? Clear your doubts, and get 24/7 assistance from our AI tutor- Mia

Gone are the days when study used to be boring stuff, now you can play and practice with LearnQ.ai’s engaging, mobile-friendly, AI-driven game-based learning modules that make SAT prep enjoyable and effective. 

Leverage Realistic digital SAT mock tests that mirror the College Board’s format, ensuring students are exam-ready.

Want to aim high score, check out our diagnostic test, a shorter, yet deeper  AI-driven test coupled with an SAT score calculator that gauges students’ understanding, setting the groundwork for SAT prep.

Ready to take your SAT learning to the next level? Sign up for LearnQ.ai today! 

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