College Entrance Exams: 5 SAT Prep Mistakes to Avoid

By Jennifer Cohen

sat prep mistakesIt’s SAT season again.  Most high school juniors are planning to take the test for the first time in May or June.  You’ve signed up for a prep course, filled your Amazon shopping cart with books and committed to getting yourself ready.  You’re headed in the right direction, but those steps aren’t enough. Really, you’re not even close.

Here are a common mistakes in getting ready for the test:

1. Signing up for an SAT class is not enough.

You’ve got to actually GO to class, and when you’re there, you’ve got to actually PAY ATTENTION.  I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and a lot of you are tweeting from your SAT classes about how boring it is, how’d you rather be playing video games, and how the instructor wears ugly ties.  It should be obvious that simply being in the presence of an SAT book won’t help you on test day.

2. Thinking that paying attention in SAT class is enough.

Listening in class and taking notes is a great start, but it will only get you so far.  Sure, strategies are important, and brushing up on the rules for special triangles is helpful.  But the most important part of an SAT prep course is the work you do outside of class.  You must do the assigned homework, and you must work as many practice questions as possible before test day.  You won’t make great gains without doing the work.

3.  Not going beyond assigned SAT Prep Class assignments. 

You’re starting to hate me aren’t you?!  The College Board has tons of free preparation materials, and you should take advantage of them.  Sign up for the daily practice question email, and download the student bulletins and practice tests.

4. Not using your course instructor as a resource.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even “stupid” ones.  You’re paying for his or her time, remember?  I can count on one hand the number of times students actually asked me questions about the homework.  If you don’t understand something now, you won’t get it on test day either, and that’s points down the drain.  If you’re afraid of speaking up in class, send an email to the instructor.

5. Not actually signing up to take the test. 

Signing up for a prep class doesn’t mean you’re registered to take it!  It’s important to register early so you can get a desirable test center (and avoid late registration fees).  An hour or more commute on test day will only hurt you.  May, June and October are heavy administration dates, so go to the College Board’s website now.  If registration isn’t open yet for your desired date, there’s an email reminder service to job your memory.

Now get to work – there’s less than a month until the May 7th test date! Good luck!

Jennifer Cohen is President and Chief Word-Nerd of, an SAT vocabulary tutorial website.  She is a primary contributor to The Fat Envelope blog, and aspires to bring sanity back to the college admissions process.  She is also an experienced SAT and PSAT tutor.  You can find Word-Nerd on Facebook and Twitter.

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