What To Do When Your SAT Score Just Won’t Budge

Have you taken the SAT multiple times and still not reached your target score? Have you dedicated extensive time and money prepping for the SAT, yet find yourself stuck in a specific score range? Do you keep asking yourself, “why is my SAT score not improving?” If your answer to these questions is yes, then you have come to the right place.

Here are five things you can do to improve your SAT score.

Change Your Mindset

Stop worrying about your score, and think of the SAT as a game. Negative thoughts waste valuable mental energy and distract you from reaching your full potential. Too often, students complete an SAT practice test, score poorly, and then spend more time feeling sorry for themselves than working on solutions to the problem. This is a self-defeating attitude. Instead, you should see every problem you miss as an opportunity to perfect your understanding of the SAT game.

Your goal each day is simple: figure out what you did wrong and learn how to avoid at least one mistake the next time around. Learning one rule each day is a foolproof method for beating the game. Have faith! Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard. By focusing on the individual, fixable problems, the whole will continue to improve.

Get Organized

Rigorous self-study with careful note-taking and review is one of the best ways to maximize realistic SAT improvement in a short time. Take time to craft a study schedule from now through your test date(s). Make sure your schedule is realistic and not just a record of every moment of free time that you have. Setting an unrealistic schedule is discouraging and cumbersome, and as stated above, we don’t need that kind of energy! Of course, the more time you can spend studying, the better, but it’s more important to make a schedule that you can commit to. Ideally, you should set aside at least 1.5 hours each time you sit down to study. See our SAT Study Schedule Guide for more info.

Record and Review Your Mistakes

Whether it be chess, soccer, monopoly, or any other game, the more you practice, the better you’ll be. It is not enough, however, to simply open your SAT practice book and answer questions for an hour or so each day.  Keep a record of every problem you miss and how to fix your errors so that you can come back to these past mistakes and quiz yourself regularly.

Many SAT concepts only show up once every three or four tests! You may have learned how to tackle a concept today, but if you don’t see it show up again in your practice, how will you remember it on test day? The answer is rigorous record-keeping and self-quizzing. Like chess masters studying past losses or football players reviewing game film, you must constantly revisit your weak spots. See our SAT Mistakes Journal Guide for more info.

Find an SAT Study Buddy

Countless studies have shown that the best way to learn is through teaching. Working with friends is both a fun way to practice and a helpful tool for improving your score. Explaining your answer choices and reasoning to a friend or even your parents will help you solidify your approach and the steps you took to get there. If possible, pair up with a friend who has different subject strengths from you so that you can alternate between who is wearing the teacher hat. Also, you are more likely to remember things that you talk about and write down. When you keep a journal of mistakes and work with a friend, you give yourself the best chance to avoid those same mistakes on test day.

Take Advantage of Test Prep Resources

There are many outside resources available to help you boost your SAT score. For example, if you tend to struggle in reading, you should subscribe to and read articles from reputable online journals and magazines such as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist.

While reading, attack the passage in the same way you would a normal SAT Reading passage. Circle or underline the most important claims, write difficult parts in your own words, and when you finish an article, write its main point.  Every time you see a word you don’t know, write it down in a  vocabulary journal, include the word, the definition, the sentence you found the word in, and make up your own sentence using the word.

Additional websites and resources to check out for SAT test prep:

The SAT is designed to challenge you, and what works for one student may not work for you. While some may gradually improve their score by 10 points per practice test, others might be stuck in the same range for months before their score suddenly makes a big jump. Instead of judging your progress or expecting your score to improve overnight, you should take your test prep one step at a time and make sure to celebrate the little victories. If you learned how to avoid just one single mistake on your next test, that’s a victory!

If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, take a day or two off and be sure to schedule breaks at least twice a month. Sometimes taking a step back is exactly what you need to approach the test with fresh energy and insight. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, parents, and siblings. If you feel like you need more guidance, working with a tutor might be the best way to improve your score.

Finally, remember that the SAT is just one part of your college application, and success on the SAT does not predict success in college. Your grades, your extracurricular and volunteer activities, and your personality are often more important than test scores in the college admissions process, and your personal motivation and study habits are the best predictors of your college grades. Replace negativity with good study habits and dedication – that’s all it takes to grab your future by the horns and ride it into the college of your dreams!