As a teacher, my goal was to have only 2 students cry a semester. I knew Kayla was about to be one of those two. She was a senior with a heavy AP load and college applications on her mind.
“Ms. P, I’m under a lot of stress right now. My SAT scores just came back and my score only went up 20 points. Mom and Dad paid all this money for a SAT prep class and I wasted it all. I feel so guilty!” And on cue, Kayla started crying.
I worked in an affluent school district, so it was not unusual for students to take private SAT prep classes. I had a vague idea what they cost, but decided to do some research. Get ready to be shocked.
SAT prep classes start cost around $600. Some of the brand name companies push programs over $1200. Yikes!
For many families, like Kayla’s, this is a big investment they hope will pay off in a higher score and acceptance to the college of their child’s dreams. However, for many other families, these courses are financially out of reach. These kids walk into the exam with little or no preparation.
Luckily, along with the redesign of the SAT, the College Board now provides SAT prep material for FREE. That’s right, free SAT prep. This is high quality study material that anyone with a computer can access.
(Before we jump in, grab the FREE checklist I created for you. Just print it out and check off as you prepare for the SATs!)
Free SAT Prep
The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy (satpractice.org) to provide absolutely free, individualized SAT prep. That’s the holy grail, people. (For those not familiar, Khan Academy is a free education website used by many schools, especially for math instruction. I’ve used it in my Study Skills classes and love it.) Most kids already have a Khan Academy account. If not, sign up for one for free.
If you’ve already taken the PSAT, you can connect your College Board and Khan accounts. Using your PSAT score, Khan will figure out what areas you need to focus on. Didn’t take the PSAT? Never worry! I took a series of diagnostic quizzes so that Khan could figure out my current level. Based on when you are taking the test and your current levels, Khan will create an individualized study plan for you.
How to prepare for the SAT
After getting a study schedule from Khan Academy, write it in your planner or agenda. And then highlight it. Khan will remind you, but, trust, me it is REALLY easy to ignore those emails. Be sure to set aside some Saturday (or Sunday) mornings for practice tests.
Find a study buddy. This could be a friend, a parent, or a tutor. (If you live in the Denver area, I would love to help you!) This person can help keep you on schedule and work through problems. If you know you are a procrastinator, this step is KEY.
Take a full-length practice exam, either through Khan Academy or on paper. The test is 3 hours long and you need to build stamina. You will also get comfortable with the type of questions that are asked and the best way to approach them. If you have time, take 2-3.
Practice on your own. Buy (and use) a prep book. There are tons to pick from. I like the Official SAT Study Guide by the College Board and the Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT. (I bought this one for myself). Since there are so many practice exams available for free, don’t worry about buying a prep book with a gazillion practice exams. If you buy a used book, be sure it was published after March 2016. You can also find your own reading passages online. Practice summarizing the main idea and compare and contrast similar passages.
Answer the daily SAT practice question on the College Board app.This app gives you a new question practice daily. It will also grade your practice test answer sheet and give you an instant score. This app is a bit buggy, though, so don’t expect perfection.
There are so many amazing free or inexpensive ways to prepare for the SAT. Whether your I don’t want other kids to feel the same guilt as Kayla. You can rock the exam without spending a ton of money.
* Student’s name changed to protect her privacy.