Taking Advantage of the Free College Board Resources
As a student preparing for the redesigned SAT, you may be wondering what quality materials are out there. You’ll find several options from the College Board, all of which are free, as well as third-party options that will cost you. Since the test is still several months away, you don’t want to burn through your resources too quickly; the really early bird, after all, ends up falling asleep and losing the worm to the moderately early bird. So, what’s the best way to use the College Board’s offerings to prepare for the March test?
First, the most helpful resource will be the practice redesigned SAT tests. When it comes to test prep, nothing compares to the simulated experience of taking a full-length mock test. The four tests give the clearest view of what students can expect in terms of breadth and depth of content.
However, there is a downside: there are only four official tests, whereas the current SAT book has ten. There is the redesigned PSAT that you can use as well, but the content will be slightly less difficult than what you will see on the SAT. Assuming that you’ll take one of those tests before starting your preparation to get a sense of your starting score, you will have three tests at your disposal. As tempting as it may be to use these tests for drills, you’ll likely want to save them for full-length practice to check how your score changes. Work backwards from the March test date to the date you want to begin your test preparation, and spread the three practice tests across those weeks or months. It’s tempting to want to split up each test, but it’s more important that you get an accurate sense of how your score is changing, as well as feedback on your test performance.
Second, the Khan Academy website features some additional questions that are worth using for drilling purposes. For the math and reading/writing sections, you will take several diagnostic tests to determine your level with different types of content (e.g. solving linear equations, quadratic equations, using ratios). The strengths of the website are the diagnostic sessions and the additional practice problems in each content area. The math section is stronger than the reading/writing sections, but this free site gives additional practice and helps pinpoint areas for you to improve.
Third, there is the set of sample questions that the College Board released in 2014. The difficulty of the math may be higher than what you’ll see on the actual test, but you’ll still find excellent practice in all of the three sections. The downside to these practice problems is that your work is not saved, but you can return to the same problems again and again, if you like.
Finally, the College Board has released a Daily Practice app for Apple and Android phones. If you’re a student who needs some motivation to get daily practice for the test, this app might be a good first step.
To begin your preparation, you’ll first want to take a practice redesigned SAT test to establish a baseline score. If you’ve taken the ACT, you can compare your scores to see which test suits you better.* Once you’ve picked your test, decide on the right amount of time to prepare: longer than 3 months and you’ll risk burnout; shorter than a few weeks and you won’t give yourself sufficient time to build your reading speed or master that math/writing content. Then, by practicing with the Daily Practice app or on Khan Academy, with released practice tests dispersed every few weeks to gauge your progress, you will successfully utilize all of the resources that the College Board has to offer.
* Keep in mind that the scoring tables that the College Board provided for the redesigned SAT are approximations and not based on real student outcomes. Additionally, the College Board has not provided concordance tables for the new SAT and ACT; still, you should be able to get a general idea of your stronger test using the current SAT/ACT concordance table. (UPDATE 6/14/2018: ACT, Inc and the College Board have released updated concordance numbers. The newest numbers tell students who score above a 1250 on the SAT that their equivalent ACT score is about 1 point higher than was communicated in 2016’s tables).