Preparing for and taking the SAT is never easy. And this year, with all of the added stress, anxiety, and financial complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the SAT is likely the last thing you want to be thinking about right now.
First, take a deep breath.
It may ease your mind to know the SAT doesn’t matter to college admissions officers as much as you may think. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities phased out requiring applicants to submit test scores.
And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has rapidly increased. There are currently more than 1,000 colleges and universities, including the University of California system, with test-optional policies. And seemingly every day, a new institution steps forward to announce that applicants will no longer need to submit an SAT or ACT score if they aren’t able to or don’t want to.
So, you don’t need to stress. But, it would still benefit you to take the SAT and dedicate as much time as you can towards preparing for the test.
“I’m advising (my students) to try to take it one or two times before applications are due,” said Joe Korfmacher, a college counselor at Collegewise. Largely, Korfmacher says he gives that advice to his students so that they can keep their options open.
And although it can be a drag, preparing for the SAT is a must. You can’t expect to score well without any practice or at least some knowledge of how the test is formatted.
But, we get it. Right now, money is tight. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of households have lost employment income. And the last thing families want to spend money on right now is an expensive SAT tutor or prep course.
So, we at The University Network (TUN) have put together a list of free online resources and explained how you can use them to effectively prepare for the SAT without spending a dime.
Here are our choices of the best free online SAT prep resources & tips on how to use them:
When it comes to SAT prep, it is best to first go straight to the source. On its website, the College Board — the maker and owner of the SAT — offers extensive SAT prep resources, including practice questions, 10 full-length practice tests, and useful written information to help you understand the ins and outs of the SAT, for free.
- Tips on on how to effectively use Collegeboard.org to prepare for the SAT
If you’re just starting your SAT prep process, it may benefit you to first check out the “Inside the Test” section listed on the College Board’s website. This section will help you develop a fundamental understanding of the SAT, as it includes details on how the exam is formatted and what concepts are covered in the math, reading, writing, and optional essay sections. The College Board also provides brief videos in each of these sections, making the information easy to digest.
Once you’ve gained general knowledge of the SAT, switch over to the “Practice” section. You’ll find all types of free material, including sample essay prompts and practice questions for math, reading, and writing. Conveniently, you’ll also be able to see the correct answer and explanations for each practice question. And since these questions are coming directly from the College Board, you can feel confident knowing you’ll see similar questions when you sit down to take the real test.
It is a good idea to work through a handful of these practice questions before embarking on anything too substantial. That way, you’ll be able to gain an understanding of the typical format and wording of SAT questions.
When you feel up to it, though, go ahead and take one of the full-length practice tests that the College Board offers. And don’t sweat it if you don’t do so well. The point of your first practice test is to help you learn your strengths and weaknesses so that you know where to focus your future studies. It may benefit you to print out some of your practice tests and fill them out with a pencil. After all, that is how the SAT is traditionally taken.
Sitting down and kicking off your SAT prep process can feel like an overwhelming task. So, it’s important to take a steady and methodical approach to your studies.
If you feel that you’re already an organized and self-motivated studier, continue working through sample questions and taking practice tests at your own natural pace. But, if you struggle to find motivation or can’t bear the thought of sitting down to take an entire SAT, ease yourself into the process with the College Board’s “Daily Practice App.” The app is designed to help you make daily SAT practice a “part of your routine.” You can work through practice questions and ask for hints if you’re stuck. The app also provides explanations so that you can learn from your mistakes.
Note: If you can, take as many full practice tests as you can, so you can work on your timing as well. Between Collegeboard.org and Khan Academy (below), you have access to 18 full practice tests.
Khan Academy, an official partner of the College Board, is a nonprofit organization that provides an extensive SAT prep program without charging for it. Its website includes interactive practice problems, video lessons, eight full-length practice tests, and more.
What’s particularly great about Khan Academy is that its website sets up a lesson plan that is unique to your strengths and weaknesses. The site also helps you create a practice schedule based on when your test date is.
- Tips on on how to effectively use Khan Academy to prepare for the SAT
To get the most out of Khan Academy, you should carefully follow all of the steps the website walks you through and accurately answer any preliminary questions you’re asked.
If you haven’t taken one of those tests or don’t have access to your score, you can take a few short diagnostic quizzes to get a study plan that helps you focus on the areas in which you need the most practice. Khan Academy will adjust question difficulties based on your current abilities.
From there, you can go through the steps to adjust your practice schedule based on the days you want to practice throughout the week. Automatically, based on your test date, Khan Academy determines when you should take your full-length practice exams.
Khan Academy has an extensive library of practice problems for math, reading, and writing. If you’ve entered former test data or taken the diagnostic quizzes, Khan Academy will automatically assign recommended skills to practice.
Uniquely, if you get stuck while working through practice problems, Khan Academy lets you see a hint or watch a video of Sal Khan, the founder and CEO of Khan Academy, explaining how to solve the problem you’re stuck on.
Naturally, some of you may thrive using this automated system that walks you through what to study. But if you prefer to learn on your own, without the aid of an automated helper, you can also manually choose what you want to practice, whether it’s math, reading or writing.
Khan Academy also provides two essay prompts. When you’re writing your response to the essay prompts, Khan Academy’s system automatically gives you feedback on how to improve and revise your essay.
Additionally, Khan Academy is a great source for detailed information regarding the structure of the test and subject-specific strategies for excelling. Dozens of videos and articles, highlighting everything from “SAT Content and Format” to “Effective Strategies for each SAT Section,” can be found in the “Tips and Strategies” section.
Overall, it’s best to use Khan Academy in conjunction with Collegeboard.org resources. First, familiarize yourself with the test by learning about it and working through some practice problems on Collegeboard.org. From there, you can get serious by diving into a study routine through Khan Academy.
The test-prep company Magoosh offers a free-to-access YouTube channel, equipped with more than 100 videos to help you excel on the SAT. Its videos, which are typically no more than 10 minutes long, provide all types of tips, strategies, and last-minute advice that you can use to prepare and get a great score.
- Tips on how to effectively use Magoosh’s YouTube Channel to prepare for the SAT
The best way to start is by taking a minute to scroll through Magoosh’s YouTube channel and look at all of the videos accessible to you. You’ll quickly notice that there are all types of videos, covering everything from “Top 10 Tips for the SAT Math Section” to “SAT Last Minute Tips: Test Stress.”
In preparation for this year’s SAT, Magoosh has recently been posting a lot of videos surrounding how the test will be impacted by COVID-19. These videos are typically much longer than the videos that they usually post. Within the past month, Magoosh posted an hour-long Q&A session addressing many of students’ biggest concerns surrounding the upcoming SATs and the college admissions process in general. In a separate video, you can hear directly from a college admissions expert. Naturally, these videos can be very helpful in calming your nerves if you have any worries about your upcoming test and, thus, serve as a great starting point.
A great number of Magoosh’s videos offer answers regarding how to solve specific SAT questions. So, Magoosh’s YouTube channel is only a good place to start your SAT prep if you already understand your strengths and weaknesses.
And, of course, Magoosh’s YouTube channel shouldn’t be the only online tool you use to prepare for the SAT, but it can greatly supplement more extensive sites like Collegeboard.org and Khan Academy. For example, Magoosh recently posted a “SAT Practice Test” video, which is nearly four hours long and is meant to replicate a real proctored exam experience. You can turn on this video while taking a practice test available on Collegeboard.org.
You may also notice that many of Magoosh’s videos were posted years ago. But, don’t worry, as the questions included in the SAT haven’t changed all that much. The vast majority of Magoosh’s videos, even if they were posted four years ago, still apply to today’s SAT test.
If you find Magoosh’s videos helpful, it may also benefit you to subscribe to its YouTube channel. That way, you will get notifications every time a new video comes out.
Preparing for and taking the SAT can undoubtedly be a stressful process. By providing you with access to these free resources, we hope to take some of that stress away.
If you have any questions regarding the logistics of the test, such as how it is scored or how many times you should take it, you should read our article “Everything You Need To Know About SAT Scores.” And if you have a few bucks to spare and would like to seek further instruction, check out our article “The Best SAT Prep Courses In 2020.”
News & Content Manager
Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.