SAT Study Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

SAT Study PlanTo do well on the SAT, you must set up an SAT study plan & you must follow that study plan. Over the last few years I have encountered dozens of students trying to prep for the SAT at very different stages. Some brilliant kids start in middle school, others won’t think about the SAT until the night before. Regardless of your situation, you need a plan of action if you hope to do well.

I will look at 3-month, 1-month, & 1-week SAT study plans in this article. If you have a unique situation (6 months, 1 year, 4 years!), simply leave a comment below and I’ll address your situation for you.

SAT Study Plan Goals

Each study plan will work through a different set of goals. Not all plans are created equal, and a student with 1 week to prep for the SAT will have markedly different goals than someone who has alloted 3 months to study.

Throughout each SAT study plan, we have overall goals & weekly goals. This is intended to guide our daily work so that it has a tangible outcome.

You will take up to 6 tests.

SAT Textbook Requirements

You *must* purchase the Official Guide to the SAT. All of your practice tests & most of your practice problems will come from the Official Guide. Without this book your study is pretty much worthless.

The Official Guide is the only required book, though you should purchase the following books/courses as well.

(1) Pwn the SAT Math: if you are struggling with math, this is the only guide you’ll need. I will refer to math topics throughout the SAT study plan; when I do, you can refer to the sections in Mike’s index.

(2) Ultimate SAT Grammar: SAT writing is a very exciting section, because with some smart prep you can get close to a perfect score.

(3) Direct Hits Vocabulary: reading comprehension is difficult to train for, so you are going to want to get as many points from the vocabulary as possible. This is a great vocabulary book.

(4) Online SAT Class: Reading books is sometimes lame. I put together a series of knowledge and strategy videos for students who need to master the SAT. This is a 30+ hour video course that covers all the math, reading, and writing you’ll need. (Full Disclosure: This is my course, so if you purchase it, you are purchasing it from me. If you do… thank you and don’t forget to tell your friends.)

Those three books take care of the SAT nuances. If you want a 1-size-fits-all textbook, you should go for Barron’s SAT book. It has the best “knowledge” section. I may be off base, but I believe Barron’s writes the best textbooks because they don’t have a tutorial business in the background. The books have to stand for themselves.

Knowledge Gaps

Throughout your prep you will find gaps in your knowledge. If you don’t know what to do with dangling modifiers, no amount of practice tests or backsolving techniques will help you. You simply must identify knowledge gaps & take steps to fill those in.

If you purchase the supplement books (the three OR the Barron’s), most knowledge gaps will be there. There are three other ways to fill in knowledge gaps, from free to cash-moneyed:

(1) Take your knowledge problems to your teachers at school — Chances are you will find a particular math or grammar concept tricky, or you might not be confident with your SAT essay without constant feedback. If you have cool teachers, taking a few problems to your high school math or English teacher might be enough to fill in knowledge gaps.

(2) Internet search — Many popular SAT blogs (Perfect Score, Direct Hits, Pwn the SAT, SAT Dude, and this blog) have SAT lessons. While we might not have organized our sites in the best way, with a little Google magic you should be able to find someone dealing with every SAT knowledge gaps online. This is how we ensure our SAT study plan is effective.

(3) Find a tutor — Tutors aren’t in this business to help you cheat; we are here to help you maximize your time spent studying. If you cannot figure something out, and you need answers quickly, consider hiring a tutor for a few sessions or for an entire course. Self study is so important for success not only on the SAT but also in university. With that said, you will want to use educated professionals throughout life to help fill in knowledge gaps.

SAT Study Plans

3-Month SAT Study Plan

The 3-month SAT study plan follows the path most taken by many test prep companies, students, and tutors. Spending 12 weeks on SAT prep gives you enough time to really understand the test while also not allowing it to consume your life.

When you start your study is not in the scope of this lesson, but I would recommend spring of your junior year and summer before your senior year.

3-Month Goal: To do as well on the SAT on the first time — to reach your target, whatever that happens to be.

Month 1 Goal: Understand the SAT & recognize all of my SAT strengths & weaknesses

Week 1 Goal: Understand the SAT

  • Take 1 practice test from the Official Guide (make sure to mark all guesses)
  • Check your practice test and mark your score range in an excel file
  • Attempt to re-do and understand all questions that you guessed or got incorrect
  • Learn the math strategies (plugging in & backsolving) and work through math drills [Barron’s or Pwn teach this]
  • Review SAT math algebra

Week 2 Goal: Understand the SAT math

  • Study SAT arithmetic [Barron’s or Pwn]
  • Focus on rates, probabilities, mean, combinations, ratios, and proportions
  • Study SAT algebra with special emphasis on plugging in [Barron’s or Pwn]
  • Study SAT geometry [Barron’s or Pwn]
  • Focus on 2D, 3D, coordinate geometry – specifically perimeter, area, volume, and diagonals

Week 3 Goal: Understand the SAT reading

  • Create a vocabulary SAT study plan [Direct Hits or Barron’s]
  • Build flash cards or whatever device you need to force yourself into a system of vocabulary development
  • Do 3 reading comprehension sections and focus on paraphrasing all questions and all passages
  • Learn the strategies for sentence completion [Barron’s or the internet]
  • Practice paraphrasing (mapping) reading comprehension passages

Week 4 Goal: Understand the SAT writing (non-essay)

  • Understand loosely the big 6 grammar errors (s-v agreement, pronouns, idioms, parallelism, modifiers, verb tense)
  • Use the internet, Barron’s, or Erica’s book to learn those grammar errors
  • Identify the error ID and sentence correction strategy (online, tutor, or a textbook)
  • Take a practice test
  • Make a list of every question type & question topic you got wrong [put in an excel sheet for month 2]

Month 2 Goal: Fill in knowledge gaps

Week 5 Goal: Perfect Essay

  • Write 3 essays & seek feedback (college confidential, teachers, friends, or tutors)
  • Read as many good & as many bad essays as possible (Barron’s, Official Guide, tutors)
  • Perfect your introduction
  • Come up with many good, relevant examples
  • Practice writing links & transitions
  • Master your conclusion
  • Take 1 test & mark your progress

Week 6 Goal: Math Masterclass

  • Go through every math topic you got wrong and find a way to fundamentally understand the math
  • Spend this entire week LEARNING SAT math
  • During every math drill [Official Guide], attempt to use the strategies, but don’t ever rely on them: fix your math

Week 7 Goal: Reading Masterclass

  • Learn the reading comprehension question types
  • Practice an entire reading comprehension section from Official Guide every day
  • Do an aggressive elimination on each question (If you pick C, you need to write down WHY A, B, D, & E are incorrect. Do this for the entire reading section.)
  • Take 1 test and mark your progress

Week 8 Goal: Writing Masterclass

  • Figure out what grammar problems you have and fix them
  • Use Official Guide or Barron’s to learn how to deal with the improving paragraph section
  • Do whatever you need to do to ensure you never miss an improving paragraph question
  • Do at least 1 writing section per day & use aggressive elimination techniques after each section

Month 3 Goal: Fine Tune & Pacing

Week 9 Goal: 10×10 Drills

  • Open up a section and spend 10 minutes answering as many questions as possible
  • Mark in an excel sheet what % of those questions you finished & what % you got correct
  • Finish the questions you left or got wrong
  • Continue with the section and do 10 questions in unlimited time
  • On the excel sheet mark the % correct and the time it took
  • Do these drill at least 5 times per day every day this week
  • At the end of the week, review every question you got incorrect and write the “knowledge topic” on an excel sheet
  • Put a star next to any topic that had more than 3 mistakes
  • Take 1 test

Week 10 Goal: Fix those mistakes

  • Spend this week doing 3 10×10 drills every day
  • Spend the rest of each day learning the academic knowledge behind every star from the previous week
  • Take 1 test

Week 11 Goal: Deal with very hard questions

  • If you have achieved your goal, you can spend this week on hard questions to try & push your score higher.
  • If you have NOT achieved your goal, spend this week on 10×10 drills & knowledge gap gains
  • Take 1 test

Week 12 Goal: Calm down & take the test

  • Do 2 sections per day (so you would do 1 test over the next 5 days)
  • After each section spend as much time reviewing all knowledge behind all wrong answers
  • Do not do anything on Friday
  • Maybe hang out with your friends or spend some time chilling out. It’s been a long 3 months.
  • Take the SAT; do a little dance.

1 Month SAT Study Plan

Goal: Fundamentally understand the SAT & have the strategies in place to do my best

Week 1: Strategies

  • Learn the plugging in & backsolving strategies and practice them extensively
  • Learn the sentence completion strategy & create a vocabulary study plan
  • Learn the reading comprehension paraphrasing & aggressive elimination strategy
  • Understand how the essay works & think through some localized examples
  • Learn the error ID & sentence correction grammar backsolving strategies & practice
  • Take 1 test

Week 2: Knowledge

  • Day 1 –> Math (learn SAT arithmetic & algebra)
  • Day 2 –> Reading (practice reading comprehension from Official Guide)
  • Day 3 –> Writing (learn the big 6 grammar rules & how to spot and fix them)
  • Day 4 –> Math (learn SAT geometry & data)
  • Day 5 –> Reading (practice an entire reading & writing section)
  • Day 6 –> Take a practice test

Week 3: Pacing

  •  Day 1 –> 10×10 Drills (Math)
  • Open up a section and spend 10 minutes answering as many questions as possible
  • Mark in an excel sheet what % of those questions you finished & what % you got correct
  • Finish the questions you left or got wrong
  • Continue with the section and do 10 questions in unlimited time
  • On the excel sheet mark the % correct and the time it took
  • Do thise drill at least 5 times per day every day this week
  • At the end of the week, review every question you got incorrect and write the “knowledge topic” on an excel sheet
  • Put a star next to any topic that had more than 3 mistakes
  • Day 2 –> 10×10 Drills (Reading)
  • Day 3 –> 10×10 Drills (Writing)
  • Day 4 –> Fundamentally understand improving paragraphs
  • Day 5 –> 10×10 (math, reading, writing)
  • Day 6 –> Take a practice test

Week 4: Loose Ends

  • Day 1 –> Use any text, tutor, or website to learn all the mistakes from your starred 10×10 knowledge topic (math)
  • Day 2 –> Use any text, tutor, or website to learn all the mistakes from your starred 10×10 knowledge topic (reading)
  • Day 3 –> Use any text, tutor, or website to learn all the mistakes from your starred 10×10 knowledge topic (writing)
  • Day 4 –> If you have time, do a few practice sections
  • Day 5 –> Do nothing. Maybe have some healthy food or run around the park.

1 Week SAT Study Plan

Goal: Don’t go into the SAT test blind

  • Day 1: Take a practice test
  • Day 2: Learn the SAT math plugging in & backsolving strategies
  • Day 3: Review the big 6 grammar topics & learn the error ID & sentence correction strategies
  • Day 4: Learn the sentence completion vocabulary strategy & try to paraphrase and understand necessarily wrong reading comprehension answers
  • Day 5: Relax… you understand how the SAT works and have some strategies floating in your head

Morning of the test

Don’t forget to take a minute after waking up to do a few easy math or reading or writing questions. This will shake the muck out of your head and get you into the testing mindset.

Did I miss anything? Does anything not make much sense? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Dear Sir/Mam,
    My school recently decided to teach SAT. It is an (originally) British international school that teaches the IGCSE (International GCSEs aka British exams). The school’s plan is to teach IGCSE syllabus for 3 days and SAT syllabus for 2 days, per week (only Math and English) I have quite some trouble understanding the SATs. Are English and Math the only subjects required?
    I am a 9th grader, so I have 3 or 4 years to study SATs AND IGCSE. My original plan was to study IGCSE only, but after going a bit through SATs, I realized it is much easier than the IG, so I decided to take both (if circumstances allow). (If you have any idea about the IGCSEs, do you think I can score well on the SATs using basic knowledge from the IG?)
    I would really like you to suggest some ideas for a study plan. I am not sure how to handle both exams. Please help.
    For the record, I don’t live in Britain. I live in Saudi Arabia as a foreigner and I don’t have a wide choice of tutors. And, to my luck, IGCSEs are very hard exams. More difficult than the GCSEs.
    Thank you very much and I hope you would be able to help me get out of this mental mess I’m currently in. :)

  2. Hi,
    My name is Nicole and I am taking to PSAT in two weeks and the SAT and 6 months. Is there a way I can study for both effectively at the same time? I currently have Barron’s SAT guide.

  3. Hi, I’m a sophmore and i am going to take the SAT in spring of my junior year. Im pretty sure thats the year 2016. So i have about a year and 4-5 months left before i take the SAT and i felt now was the right time to start preparing for it. Can you pleas help me come up with a study plan/study schedule. I also heard that there will be some new changes to the SAT in 2016, and also the essay is optional but thats my favorite part. Please get back to me as soon as possible.

    Thank you!!!

  4. Hi,

    What would you suggest for a one-year or even a four-year plan?


  5. i have the six month i was looking for a study plan for the same duration.also i’m an indian,living in india,and don’t really know much about the sat apart from the test dates and that there are three sections on the exam.did i mention that i cannot afford the courses? online or otherwise? yeah…that too..



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