Monday, January 14, 2019

Strategies to Score High on Upcoming March SAT Exam

Students planning to take the March 9th SAT – the first one of the 2019 calendar year – have just three weeks to register to take the exam (without incurring a late fee) and two months to prepare to earn an impressive score.  Many top public high schools in Central New Jersey report average SAT scores above 600 in both Evidence-based Reading & Writing and Math. These high schools include: Hillsborough, Montgomery, Princeton, Hopewell Valley Central, West Windsor/Plainsboro North and South, South Brunswick, East Brunswick, Watchung Hills, John P. Stevens, and North Hunterdon. A couple of high schools even reached or topped 1500 for combined scores. So the bar is set high for local students.

The latest SAT exam, introduced in March of 2016, focuses on three areas: critical reading, grammar and math. A key strategy, that is relevant on all areas of the test, is for students to answer each and every question (whether or not they know the correct answer) as there is no longer a penalty for wrong answers.

On the reading section, students should pay extra attention to the “duo” questions where two points are at stake. Students can often look at the answer options for the second of the two questions, which reference different parts of the passage, to find the answer to the first question. 

Students should likewise carefully consider the “vocabulary in context” questions where they choose a word that most closely resembles the meaning of a word included in the story.  For example, students may need to choose a word to replace “leave” with the options being “retire,” “evacuate,” “vacate,” or “depart.” Students need to carefully consider the context of the sentence as these words may have similar meanings, but they are not interchangeable.

On the grammar section that is titled, “Writing and Language,” it’s vital that students recall the proper use of the comma, semi-colon, colon and hyphen. It’s also important for students to examine each sentence for correct tense, agreement and parallel sentence structure.

On the two math sections, one that allows the use of a calculator and one that does not, students should use their test booklet as scrap paper and remember to refer to the box of math formulas that is provided on the direction page.  The best overall strategy is to prepare, well in advance of test day, with actual College Board written tests in order to be proficient in the material tested and knowledgeable of the directions for each test section.

To download a free Strategy Guide, with detailed advice and examples for each test section, visit

Susan Alaimo is the founder of SAT Smart. For the past 25 years, SAT Smart’s Ivy League educated tutors have prepared students for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, AP courses, and all high school subjects. Visit or call 908-369-5362.

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