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Planning your SAT practice

We like to think we’ve done a pretty good job creating the best study program for the SAT—now if only Khan Academy could also do your studying for you! Alas, one of the challenges you will face with the SAT is figuring out what kind of study schedule works for you and will best prepare you to succeed. An SAT study plan is not one size fits all, so what works for your friends or classmates may not work for you. In fact, students who have taken the SAT have used very different approaches with very different focuses, as you’ll see in our sample study guides for the redesigned SAT written by current high school students.
You should definitely consider your study preferences, SAT goals, and resources before deciding on a study plan. In general, we recommend starting your SAT prep early. About three months before your test should give you enough of a buffer to try a few study approaches and get comfortable with the test content.
When you create your Official SAT Practice schedule, the system will suggest how often you should practice and how many full-length tests to take based on the amount of time before your test. You’ll also choose the times each week that you want to do focused practice on improving your different skills.
For more tips on how to study and manage your time, see these ideas from fellow students:
  • Diagnose your skills early on. Even if you don’t plan on studying during the months leading up to the SAT, we advise you to take a diagnostic on Khan Academy, or complete the PSAT/NMSQT, six months before the test. That way, you’ll have a good sense of how close you are to your SAT goal. If you have a lot of skills to learn, you might want to start studying earlier than you’d planned. Fariha suggests: “Figure out what areas you need to focus on the most, and keep practicing. Don't get discouraged if at first it is difficult to understand or learn, the more you practice the easier it will get.”
  • Take at least two full practice tests. We recommend taking at least one fully-timed practice test toward the beginning of your studying, and one toward the end. We also recommend you take at least one practice test on paper, which is how the actual SAT is administered, so you can get comfortable with the format. Taking a full-length practice test provides a realistic sense of how long the test is and where you tend to get tired or mentally blocked. Yes, it’s at least three hours of hard work, but if your first full SAT is on Test Day, you may find yourself unpleasantly surprised by how taxing all of that intense thinking can be. You can't train for a marathon just by doing sprints! Gaeun says: “Full practice tests are invaluable. Taking at least two before the actual test helps you gain some sense of what it's like to sit for four hours taking the SAT. Timing yourself strictly and accurately is essential when taking these tests.”
  • Familiarize yourself with the instructions for each test section. The sequence of the sections and the directions for each section will be the same for every SAT. Time that you spend trying to understand the instructions on Test Day is time wasted. Hannah says: “If I take the SAT again … I would want to better know what would be expected of me on the writing portion, by looking at some kind of rubric or other guide.”
  • Study outside the box. Mix up your SAT prep with some general skill building. Read and summarize long articles and scientific studies to prepare for the Reading Test. Read editorial articles or essays and pay attention to how the writer constructs his or her argument to prepare for the optional essay. These approaches may not be enough on their own, but there’s no more sure way to reinforce a skill and build your understanding than to apply what you know to the real world. Eric advises: “Don't underestimate the power of reading books. Reading in bulk not only increases your world knowledge and cultural awareness, but it also helps exercise your brain to pick up on finer details and make extrapolations based on context. It will make the critical reading and writing sections more enjoyable and allow you to think clearer. Read often, read lots.”
  • Take a break the night before the test. We know this can be hard advice to follow—why would you waste any critical study time right before the SAT? But it’s important to make sure you’re rested and relaxed when you wake up for the test. Studying at the last minute can introduce extra stress, lower your confidence, and wear you out. Instead, we recommend you do something calm and enjoyable, like watching a favorite movie or playing soccer with friends, to take your mind off the test and put yourself in a good mood. David says: “Please, do not study the SATs the night before the exam! Our neurons need some rest too.”
  • Set yourself up for success on Test Day. What everyone says is true—a good night’s sleep can make all the difference. Make sure you go to bed early the night before the test and clock a full night of sleep (at least 8 hours). It may help to go to bed a little earlier every night the week before the test so an early bedtime on Friday feels natural. Wake up early on Saturday so you have plenty of time to warm up your brain before the SAT starts, and eat a full, healthy breakfast so you’re not distracted by hunger or discomfort during the test. And don’t forget to organize your supplies in advance! You’ll need No. 2 pencils and a calculator to take the test, and you will not be allowed into the test room without a valid photo ID and a printed copy of your SAT test registration. The more you do to feel prepared and rested before the SAT, the more you’ll be able to focus on success while taking the test. Rushi says: “Try to get as much sleep as possible before the exam. You're most likely already prepared, and the extra sleep will help you think properly during the SAT.”
So how does Khan Academy’s SAT practice fit into your study schedule? Again, there’s no one right answer. Depending on where you plan to study, what resources you have at your disposal, and what your goals are, your personal study plan may be all Khan Academy or only a little, practice test-heavy or math-focused, with friends or alone late at night. No matter your preferences, Khan Academy’s prep is available 24/7, so you can use the program at a pace that is most comfortable and accessible for you. We asked some students what kind of schedule worked for them, and here’s what they told us:
If you have six months …
Six months is plenty of time to practice the skills on the test, but to avoid study fatigue, you’ll want to keep your studying organized and ramp up slowly. Here are two sample schedules:
If you have three months …
This is a great amount of time to get up to speed on content and format as well as drill down into the areas in which you’ll most want to improve to raise your score. Here are some sample schedules:
If you have one month ...
With one month, you’ll want to prioritize the highest value practice areas while also getting comfortable with the experience of taking a full test. Here are some sample schedules:

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user wdick
    What does Tiffany mean when she says to practice bubbling in answers 5 at a time? I know it is OK to mark up the test booklet, but why wait to bubble in an answer?
    (17 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Opabinia (search it up!)
    Hi, does anyone know how Khanacademy's practice questions relate to the actual test's questions? Are khanacademy's harder or easier? I'd just like to know so I can guess how well I will do on the real psat.
    (26 votes)
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  • leafers seed style avatar for user Zulaikha Zainal Efendi
    Hello, when I set up my account I was under the impression that I will be taking my SAT's in October and have set up all my practise tests to start in May but alas I am now taking it in May and would like to know how do I change my practise test dates?
    (17 votes)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user sabajafroodii
    What is the difference in preparing for the SAT and the PSAT? I know people say the PSAT is just practice, but I still want to do really well..
    (5 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Rhonda Pinter
      The PSAT is the ONLY test measure used to determine national merit scholars. Your target score varies from state to state, but if you can score high enough on the PSAT to be commended as a national merit scholar, and then follow that through to the end to actually be named a national merit scholar, it could result in huge scholarships for you - depending on your college choice. You will still be required to "verify" your PSAT score by taking the SAT and obtaining a qualifying score on that also, but it is well worth the effort to focus on and prepare well for the PSAT. As a rule, the PSAT targets high school juniors and the SAT targets high school seniors which translates into the math not being quite as advanced on the PSAT. Some schools (like ours) will allow underclassmen to take the PSAT as a practice effort. I recommend starting early so that you can work on your weaknesses and try and fill in the gaps in your foundational knowledge bank in order to perform well on the PSAT your junior year, which is the ONLY year that actually enters you into the national merit scholar competition.
      (19 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user knewman15
    What if you didint take the PSAT
    (6 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user kendra
      You do not have to take the PSAT, knewman15. Most colleges only require you to take the SAT and/or the ACT. The PSAT is mainly just to get an idea of what the SAT will be like, but if you score in the top 1% in your state, you may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
      So, you do not need to take the PSAT, but you can if you want to. Hope this helps!
      (10 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Oluwadamilola Taiwo-Olowa
    Please what's the difference between the PSAT and the SAT
    (5 votes)
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    • cacteye yellow style avatar for user Br Paul
      1. The PSAT prepares you for the SAT
      2. You can only take the PSAT in 8th and 9th grade (for PSAT 8/9),10th grade (for PSAT 10), and 11th grade (for PSAT/NMSQT), while you can take the SAT at any age
      3. The PSAT has fewer questions
      4. The PSAT does not have the hardest questions that the SAT has
      5. The PSAT does not have an essay
      (9 votes)
  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user ariannatwnsnd
    Where do I sign up to take the SAT?
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Al Pinner
    Where can I find the answer sheet for the 4 pratice SAT exams?
    (6 votes)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Raima Saboor
    What books can be used to prepare for SAT?
    (3 votes)
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  • leafers tree style avatar for user barbarianlibrarian266
    I have SAT's in less than a month and am trying to do my best and study effectively. I have broken up the next three weeks into studying each section of the SAT's to the fullest. I am almost finished with "math week" and am not feeling very confidant. I am regularly taking full length tests and I have a SAT prep book that I am using along with Khan Academy. I am at level four for every category on Khan Academy and have gone back through and watched/done all the suggested lessons. I am also reading scientific journals and practicing vocabulary every day and plan to do this up until test day. I am not sure where to go from here, does anyone have any suggestions? I don't want it to be test day and be unprepared because I studied wrong. I appreciate any advice. Thanks.
    (3 votes)
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    • mr pink red style avatar for user David Lee
      You're doing great. Set up your own plan and stick to it. You mentioned that you are not so feeling confident in math. I would suggest keep doing what you have planned and studying math a little more about what you don't really understand. Also, I cannot give you more suggestions what to do since you are doing great. However, I would say (I'm not sure how long you spend on reading but) just spend little time on reading. Reading books, research papers, journals, etc. will help you a lot but since you only have a month, it won't improve your score that much. I would rather focus on vocabularies, grammar, math, etc. Also, I would say study math a lot since if you don't have any what to do on math, you barely can do something. However, for reading, even if you don't know what to do, at least you can assume what to do and find the correct answer. I guess this is all for now. I mean I could give you more tips if I know what's your goal and give me more specific details on your plan.

      Hope this helps! If you have any questions or need help, please ask! :)
      (3 votes)