Top Digital SAT Exam Strategies
While there are plenty of strategies applicable to individual sections of the SAT, here are ten strategies that are important throughout the exam:
Strategy #1: Answer every question.
There is no penalty for guessing on the SAT, so be sure to enter an answer for every question. Even on the fill-in questions on the SAT Math, there is no penalty for guessing. Put down some number so you have at least a chance of earning the point.
Strategy #2: Become thoroughly familiar with the testing program features ahead of time.
Download the testing app from collegeboard.org ahead of time and practice with the program. You do not want the actual test to be the first time you use the testing program. The Digital SAT will have several features to help you as you take your exam:
- A clock you can use to see how much time remains on your testing module
- A flagging feature to highlight questions you want to return to
- A crossing-out feature so you can eliminate incorrect answers
- A zoom feature you can use to read graphics and reading material more easily
- An annotation feature to make notes as you read
- A built-in graphing calculator you can use throughout the math program
- A reference sheet you can click on should you need a geometry or trigonometry formula
Strategy #3: Focus on understanding the question.
If a question asks for the circumference and you instead calculate the area, you will be incorrect. Take time to thoroughly understand what is being asked.
Strategy #4: Come back to questions if needed.
Do not look at skipping a question as a sign that you have given up. Instead, use it as an opportunity to let your subconscious mind process the question while you consider other questions. Flag the question and revisit it after some time has gone by, and you will likely notice something that you did not previously see.
Strategy #5: Write as much as you would like on the scrap paper and with the annotation feature.
Make notes as you read the reading texts, highlight important phrases in the writing texts, and draw pictures and write out equations in the math. Writing will help you clarify what is being asked and notice patterns so that you can arrive at a solution.
Strategy #6: Use the full amount of time.
The SAT is not a race—there is no prize for finishing first. Also, since the questions are often challenging, you will be best served by taking your time to do the questions once well instead of doing them repeatedly, making the same mistakes. Pace yourself so that you finish your work right as time is called.
Strategy #7: Do not look at your performance on the SAT as an all-or-nothing situation.
The SAT is very different from typical school tests in which missing a few questions results in a greatly decreased grade. The SAT is graded on a curve, so your score is determined by how other test-takers perform, not just some arbitrary number. On most tests, you can likely miss several questions to achieve the score you desire. So, do not look at the SAT as something where you either do great or do poorly—a score that isn’t perfect can still be excellent. Also, keep in mind that a handful of the questions you encounter will be experimental and will not count towards your score; you will not be able to determine which questions these are, so don’t worry about them.
Strategy #8: Try to figure things out.
Instead of looking at SAT problems as knowledge to be recalled, look at them as puzzles to be solved. Do not be intimidated by a problem that you do not immediately know how to solve—instead, patiently think your way through it. The SAT is a test of your skill in problem solving, not simply a test of memorized knowledge.
Strategy #9: Know that there will be one definite answer to each question.
The College Board goes to extraordinary lengths to be sure that test questions are fair and have a definitive answer. Each question is independently reviewed by several test developers or educators before it makes it onto an actual SAT. In addition, each test question is pre-tested on hundreds of students to be sure it performs as expected prior to inclusion on a real SAT. Given these checks, you can be assured that the questions are well-crafted. Do not overthink the questions because you are looking for a trick. Instead, give the SAT the benefit of the doubt and if you do not see a correct answer, review the texts and the questions to be sure you did not miss anything.
Strategy #10: What works for one student may not work for another.
Students differ in terms of how quickly they read, how much they comprehend, their knowledge of English grammar, how much math they have taken, and their competency with different types of math problems. Just because a strategy worked well for your friend does not necessarily mean it would work well for you.