16 Best SAT Hacks in 2023: What to do Before and During the Test

There’s no denying that the SAT is hard. As a matter of fact, in 2017, only 5% of the nearly two million students who took it scored above 1400. Especially if you are planning to apply to a selective school, it’s a definite must to get a high SAT score, which is achievable by studying well and doing some foolproof SAT hacks.

Relaxing and getting enough sleep are the best hacks a day before the SAT. During the test answer the questions using some effective hacks, like skipping hard questions, using the process of elimination, and guessing. In junior year take PSAT – it’s like SAT but scores do not get reported to colleges.

If you are about to take the SAT a few weeks or several hours from now, read on. Below are some of the best SAT hacks in 2021 that can help you get the score necessary to get admitted into your chosen school.

First Things First: The PSAT

Some students start preparing for the SAT several months before the test date, while others start gearing up for it a couple of weeks before the test date.

Then there are also those that start getting ready for the SAT a few years before the test date.

What’s nice about the PSAT is that it’s almost identical to the SAT. The PSAT has pretty much the same question types and tests the same knowledge domains as the SAT, and this takes us to our first SAT hack…

#1: Take the PSAT to Gain Experience

Because of the similarities between the PSAT and SAT, taking the PSAT can give you a firsthand experience of not only taking the SAT but also reviewing for the SAT.

what is PSAT

This way, when it’s time for you to prepare for and take the SAT, you will not be as shocked and dazed as a test-taker who has never tried readying for and taking a test that closely resembles the SAT. Being familiar with the SAT with the help of the PSAT can give you the confidence you need to get your target SAT score.

Not taking the PSAT will not keep you from graduating from high school or getting admitted into your preferred college. However, you will lose your money — the PSAT costs $17.

But if you are bent on getting the highest possible SAT score, taking the PSAT is an SAT hack for you.

Several Weeks Before the SAT

When it comes to getting ready for the SAT, there is no right or wrong amount of time to spend.

Just because you have several months to prepare for it doesn’t mean you will get the best SAT score for you.

Likewise, just because you have only a couple of weeks to gear up for it doesn’t mean that you will surely get a terrible SAT score.

To determine how long you will need to study for the SAT, consider two things:

  • The SAT scores required by your chosen schools
  • Your base SAT score

If your base SAT score is nowhere near the SAT scores preferred by the colleges and universities you plan on applying to, you should spend more time preparing for the SAT.

Generally speaking, the lower your SAT score compared to school SAT scores, the more time you need to study. But before studying, do this SAT hack…

#2: Set Your Target SAT Score

There is no such thing as a failing grade on the SAT.

So, in other words, every SAT score, including the lowest possible score of 400, is considered a passing score.

However, an SAT score of 400 is definitely not a good score.

If the goal is to get admission into a good school, you will have to have a good SAT score. A good SAT score is on a case-to-case basis, and it all depends on the colleges and universities you would like to apply to.

Here’s a general rule of thumb: the higher your SAT score, the higher your chances of getting into selective schools.

Once you have set your target SAT score, it’s time to determine whether or not you can get it, and this brings us to the next best SAT hack in 2021, which is…

#3: Take the SAT Practice Test

If you would like to have an idea of what it’s like to take the SAT, take the PSAT, like what was recommended earlier. And if you would like to get an idea of the real deal, consider taking the SAT practice test.

The good news is that the College Board offers the SAT practice test that’s absolutely free of charge.

After taking the SAT practice test, compare your score with your target SAT score.

Is it the same with or higher than your target SAT score?

Congratulations, you will need very little preparation for the SAT! But if your practice SAT test score is so much lower than your target SAT score, you will need to gear up for the SAT extensively.

Speaking of which…

#4: Study 10 to 20 Hours a Week

The score you will get from the SAT practice test will determine how much time you will have to spend studying for the SAT to get your target score.

Most students will have to spend 10 to 20 hours studying to prepare for the SAT.

How many hours you should prepare for the SAT will depend on factors, such as your base SAT score and the SAT score that will allow you admission into your preferred school. So, in other words, you may have to devote more than 10 to 20 hours gearing up for the SAT.

It’s a good idea to start studying for the SAT three months before the test date.

Here’s a table indicating how many hours you should study in a span of three months according to how many point increase you will need to attain your target SAT score:

0 to 3010 hours0.83 (50 min)0.11 (7 min)
30 to 7020 hours1.670.22 (13 min)
70 to 13040 hours3.330.44 (26 min)
130 to 20080 hours6.670.89 (53 min)
200+150 hours+12.5+1.67+
SAT points increase depending on 3mo study time

It’s entirely up to you how many hours you would like to spend studying per week and per day. What’s important is that you know how many hours you should study in total to increase your base SAT score.

For instance, if you would like to increase your SAT score by 70 points, instead of studying for 13 minutes daily for three months, you may study for one and a half hours a day for two weeks only. Or, if you would like to increase your SAT score by 300 points, you may study for 5 hours or more per day for a month.

To study for the SAT more effectively…

#5: Join a Study Group

Some students who are about to take the SAT can benefit from studying alone. However, there are also those that can benefit from studying with others by joining study groups.

Put simply, an SAT study group is a group of students who get together to study for the SAT.

In some instances, SAT study groups are organized by schools, community centers and other organizations.

There are times, too, in which SAT study groups are organized by the students themselves. No matter the case, joining an SAT study group can help everyone ace the SAT, depending on the approach and individual members.

Whether you would like to join an already existing SAT study group or you prefer to organize your own, it’s important to bear in mind that being in an SAT study group comes with pros and cons.


  • Information and technique exchange. There are many things to learn before taking the SAT. Similarly, there are many approaches to learning those things. Being in an SAT study group allows you to have access to pooled knowledge and some of the most effective study techniques.
  • Reinforced knowledge. Besides getting information from your SAT study group members, you can also share information with your co-members, which can work to the advantage of others and yours, too, because it will help ingrain those things so much better in your mind.
  • Staying motivated and committed. Most of the time, the members of an SAT study group are given topics or concepts to learn, which they will have to teach everyone in the group. Because of this, being a member of an SAT study group can help you stay on the right track to avoid embarrassment.


  • Varying aptitude levels. When choosing an SAT study group to join, check that the members have pretty much the same proficiency levels as you. Otherwise, you might end up teaching others all the time or feeling left behind, which can make preparing for the SAT even more stressful and nerve-racking.
  • Distractions. Most of the time, student-organized SAT study groups are made up of close friends. And when close friends gather around, there is a huge possibility for them to end up discussing past experiences, their crushes and other topics irrelevant to the SAT.
  • Conflicting schedules. The SAT is usually taken in junior and senior high school years, both of which are some of the busiest times for high school students. It’s because of this why the members of an SAT study group may end up spending more of their time trying to get together than preparing for the SAT.

The Day Before the SAT

Nothing can be more stressful and exciting for students looking forward to attending their dream colleges and universities than the day before the grand day arrives: taking the SAT!

It’s due to this exactly why many of them end up spending the day in the wrong way.

How you spend the day 24 hours or less before you head to your designated test center can have a considerable impact on your SAT score. This is true even if you have been preparing for it for several weeks or a few months. This is why you should never forget one of the best SAT hacks in 2021…

#6: Avoid Cramming the Day Before Test

No matter how hard you study everything you need to study the day before the SAT, it will have a very negligible to no effect on your SAT score. So, in other words, you should avoid cramming at all costs.

sat score 1600

Cramming, as a matter of fact, can keep you from getting your target SAT score. That’s because it can leave your mind exhausted. The last thing that any SAT test-taker would want is showing up at the test center with a tired and frayed brain, making it difficult for him or her to retrieve important pieces of information.

But if you insist on studying the day before the SAT, limit it to no more than 30 minutes.

This is why you should never forget this next SAT hack if you want to get the highest SAT score you can get…

#7: Spend the Day Before Test Relaxing

The day before the SAT, pretend like there is no standardized exam test that will help shape your college life to take. The best way to spend the remaining hours before the SAT is doing the things you love the most.

Hang out with your closest friends, watch a movie or several TV shows, tend to your herb garden, take your pooch for a walk, get a facial or manicure, paint a picture of a flower, play video games — anything that can help lower your stress and anxiety levels is an excellent activity to partake in one day before the SAT takes place.

While there are things you can or should do, there are also things you should steer clear of, such as:

  • Hitting the gym. You don’t want to get injured.
  • Pigging out. You don’t want to have diarrhea or food poisoning.
  • Traveling. You don’t want to get involved in a road accident or end up lost.
  • Sleeping all day. You don’t want to be wide awake the night before the SAT.
  • Partying. You don’t want to wake up late.

The Night Before the SAT

Above, we talked about spending the entire day before the SAT relaxing.

Keeping your stress and anxiety levels to a bare minimum is crucial for you to carry out some of the most important things that you need to do the night before the SAT. And this brings us to a couple of best SAT hacks in 2021, starting with this one that you should never forget to do no matter what…

#8: Gather SAT Must-Haves On Test Day

There is no point in being 100% confident that you will be able to answer every SAT question correctly if you don’t have with you some SAT test-taking essentials.

It’s the night before the SAT when you should gather and organize them to make sure that you won’t forget to take them with you to the test center and go back home to gather them only to be turned away by the proctor for arriving late at the venue when in fact you were there earlier, albeit without some essentials.

Check that you place the following where you can easily see and grab them in the morning:

  • Photo ID
  • SAT admission ticket
  • #2 pencils — bring two or more to be safe
  • Eraser
  • Approved calculator
  • Snack and water

Besides the ones mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to bring a sweatshirt. Just in case the testing room’s temperature gets too low, there is something you can wear to keep yourself warm.

Being cold can keep you from completely focusing on the questions. It can also make your bladder hyperactive, causing you to take frequent bathroom breaks.

After preparing the essentials, it’s time for this crucial SAT hack…

#9: Get a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s not enough that you spend the day before the SAT unwinding. It’s also a must to allow your brain to fully relax and give it plenty of time to rejuvenate for the challenge the following day.

The importance of taking a trip to dreamland for seven to nine long hours cannot be stressed enough.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for insomnia to strike before an important day arrives, such as taking the SAT. If it seems like you will be spending the entire night tossing and turning in bed, try some all-natural home remedies for insomnia. The good news is that there are many of them, such as:

  • Having a glass of warm milk.
  • Drinking a cup of tart cherry juice.
  • Snacking on a piece of banana.
  • Taking a whiff of lavender or chamomile essential oil.
  • Listening to nature sounds like the rain, brook, waves, crickets, etc.

No matter what you do, avoid taking sleeping pills — you might wake up the next morning feeling groggy, which is a common sleeping pill side effect, and find it extremely hard to concentrate on the SAT.

The Day of the SAT

Finally, it’s the day of the SAT!

And since it’s one of the most important days of your life as a high school student and just before you commence your college life, you should start the grand day right by doing this SAT hack…

#10: Have a Healthy Breakfast

There are a couple of reasons why you should have a healthy breakfast before you head to the test center:

  • To supply your brain with the nutrients it needs for proper functioning.
  • To keep the discomfort of having an empty stomach from distracting you.

When it comes to deciding which breakfast you should have just before taking the SAT, include foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates (oats, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, potatoes), high-quality protein (dairy products, nuts, seeds) and healthy fat (avocados, tofu, eggs, fatty fish like salmon and tuna).

And now that you know what to eat before you head to your designated test center, it’s now time for us to discuss the last few hacks when answering the SAT itself…

#11: Stay Calm During the Test

Remember to take slow, deep breaths. It’s also a good idea to think positively. Taking the SAT can be nerve-racking alright, but doing your best to keep your anxiety to a minimum can help you analyze the questions so much easier and determine the right answers without much trouble.

#12: Answer All Easy Questions First

If it seems like you will be spending more than 30 seconds on a question, skip it and start answering the next one. Use the remaining time to answer the questions you skipped.

#13: Eliminate Wrong Answers

Rather than determining the right answer, in some instances, it’s a much better idea to figure out the wrong answers instead. The majority of SAT questions contain four answer choices. Getting rid of one wrong answer gives you a 75% chance of getting the correct answer. Eliminating two wrong answers gives you a 50% chance of getting it right!

#14: Guess, If You Must

Since there is no penalty for guessing on the SAT, make sure that you guess if you have absolutely no idea of the correct answer — it’s a wonderful idea to pair this SAT hack with SAT hack #13.

#15: Keep the Answer Sheet Neat

Your answer sheet will be read and scored by a machine.

To keep the machine from mistakenly marking a correct answer wrong, make sure that you don’t put any unnecessary marks on your answer sheet.

Fill in the bubbles with a #2 pencil neatly and carefully, but do it as quickly as you can to avoid wasting precious time.

#16: Write a Solid Essay

Are you going to take the optional Essay section?

Ensure that you include an introduction and a conclusion — they can be as short as two to three sentences only. Refrain from being repetitive, avoid committing grammatical mistakes, and don’t be too shy to showcase your vocabulary when writing the SAT Essay.

Just Before You Take the SAT

Getting a perfect SAT score of 1600 is very rare. On the other hand, getting an SAT score that your dream school is looking for can be easy, provided that you know what to do months or weeks before taking the SAT.

Pair studying well for the SAT with the above-mentioned foolproof hacks, and you’re golden!

Read Also: Can You Pass the SAT Without Studying?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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