When should I start prepping for the SAT®?  How much can I increase my score in 2 months?  If you have questions like these, you’ve come to the right place.  Below, I’ll tackle how to plan your personal self-study game plan for the SAT®. Many students who are self-prepping for the SAT® often ask when to start. If possible, I recommend beginning the summer before junior year. However, even if you’re past that time frame, it’s still not too late!  However much time you have, you can craft your own effective self-study game plan following these guidelines:

Take a PSAT or Practice Test

One of the first things you want to do before completely plunging into the realm of self-study is to either take a PSAT or practice test of some sort. This is important because you can then gauge the level you’re starting from. You can click here for our resources page, which has links to these tests. If you dive into studying for the SAT® on a blank slate, it’ll be more difficult to set goals and make subsequent plans to achieve those goals.
When you take the practice test, make sure to simulate the administered examination as much as possible. This means printing out the entire test and accompanying bubble sheets, taking it in a quiet room, and timing yourself with a silent watch or clock nearby. Although it may be tempting, do not take the test on a computer screen – even if this is just for practice! Not only is taking the SAT® on a computer potentially distracting, but studies also show that people read slower and less efficiently on a screen than on a paper. More importantly, you also want to mirror the real proctored exam so that you can accurately estimate your abilities, which will all contribute to strategically designing your study game plan.

Make a Goal

After you’ve taken a practice test, figure out your test score and then see what you would like it to be. I advise researching the universities you want to apply to and looking at the freshman admission profiles. For example, if your dream school is UCLA, you can go to the UCLA Freshman admissions profile page and look at the test scores.  With a bit of searching online, you’ll find lists of SAT® ranges and schools so that you can narrow your focus. If you fall short in, let’s say, the SAT® Writing category, you can use the chart below to see how much time and effort you need to put in to improve your score. This chart offers recommendations for how much study time you might potentially need in order to get a particular level of gain.



Please keep in mind that many factors play into your personal prep equation, such as how quickly you pick up material, how fast you learn, and how adept you are at teaching yourself. Also, this chart was formulated with the expectation I have for my private tutoring clients. I generally recommend my students to put in 4-10 hours of extra work per week. So if you were planning on allotting 30 minutes a week, I would advise to readjust the expectations in terms of the impact you’re able to make in a certain amount of time. Remember that practicing some is definitely better than not practicing at all, so whatever you give into the process, you’ll be sure to reap at least some rewards.  You’ll also want to make sure you invest in the right prep materials– I recommend getting multiple strategy books written by TUTORS who have over FIVE YEARS experience — these books tend to be better than the big brands like Kaplan and Princeton Review.

Final Note

If you’re a foreign speaker or scoring below 450 points per section, it might take a bit longer to see gains. For nonnative speakers, confronting the language challenges might make the SAT® even harder. But don’t lose heart! If you do have some trouble on memorizing vocabulary, I have a helpful video called Mnemonics: The BEST Way to Learn Vocabulary, that might be particularly helpful for the SAT® Critical Reading or Writing segments.

How to Self Study for the New SAT® Test

Also, make sure to check out our companion video – How to Self Study for the New SAT® Test – where we pick up where this post left off! Good luck in your SAT® self-prep endeavors, and stay connected with us by subscribing to our YouTube channel and mailing list!