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Study Tips and Info for SAT-Bound Students

Ask Mike: How much can I increase my score?

Dear Mike,

I already took the SAT and got 1800.  I’m planning to take it again in 5 months.  How much can I hope to increase my score by then?



Dear Tyler,

Every time students or parents ask me what kind of increase they can expect (or hope for), my answer is always the same: it depends! There are many factors that influence how much you can hope to increase. Among the most important are:

  1. where you’re starting (what score)
  2. how much time you have before the test
  3. how hard you’re willing to work

So, in this case, we know the answer to the first two questions: 1800 and five months. In terms of the starting score, always remember that what ultimately determines whether an SAT score is good enough is whether it makes you competitive at the colleges to which you plan to apply. I will say that, for most students, 1800 is a solid starting score (about 300 points above average), and I’ve seen many dedicated, diligent students work their way from there to the 2200+ range. In terms of the amount of time you have before the test, five months seems like a long time when it comes to SAT prep, but it’d be best to have even more, especially when it comes to learning vocabulary and taking practice tests. Having said that, many students have made huge improvements with even less time, as long as they’re sedulous in their preparation (i.e., doing vocabulary and taking practice sections every week with a full length practice test mixed in every second or third week to chart progress and reveal strengths and weaknesses).

So, to answer the question more directly, here’s what I would say:

If you’re prepping on your own, write out a plan which includes learning vocabulary every week (preferably around 40 to 50 words), doing a few timed practice sections each week, and taking a practice test every second or third week. Of course, you’ll need to also constantly be analyzing your results to see where you need more review and practice. If you make a plan like this and stick to it- and work your tail off- you most certainly can expect a significant increase, one that should get you well into the 2000s if not higher.


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