How to Improve Your SAT Score
Whether you are looking for a higher SAT score to increase your college opportunities or qualify for more scholarships, we’re here to help. Most students who take the SAT again improve their scores, so we encourage students to take the SAT twice—once in the spring of their junior year and once in the fall of their senior year. (But we offer the SAT many times during the school year, so you can choose whichever dates work best for you.)
If you’re getting ready to take the SAT for the first time, check out this post for some great tips. If you’ve already taken the SAT once and want to increase your score, here are some specific steps you can take to improve:
Step 1. Decide on a target score range
Before taking the SAT again, take some time to think about what your SAT score will help you accomplish. Maybe earning a certain score will help you stand out to your dream college or maybe you need to improve by 50 points to meet the application requirements for a scholarship. Having a clear goal will help you know how much you need to improve and, most importantly, stay motivated as you prepare to take the SAT again.
To decide on your target score range, make a list of colleges you’re planning to apply to on BigFuture™ (pro tip—building a college list on BigFuture™ can also help you qualify for entry in our College Board Opportunity Scholarships if you’re a junior in the U.S.). Then click on the Applying tab for each college on your list to see what range of SAT scores they’re looking for. Compare these ranges to your current score to see how many points you need to gain.
If you’re eligible for the College Board Opportunity Scholarships, you can qualify to earn money for college when you study for the SAT for 12 hours on Official SAT Practice and improve your score by 100+ points from PSAT/NMSQT to SAT or SAT to SAT—keep that in mind when setting your goal. (Don’t forget to link your College Board and Khan Academy® accounts before you practice so your hours will count toward the College Board Opportunity Scholarships.)
Step 2. Register for the SAT
Now that you know the score range you’re aiming for, look at the upcoming SAT dates and decide when you’d like to take the test again. Choose a date that works with your college application timeline and gives you enough time to practice before the test. We recommend practicing for 6–8 weeks before your SAT so you can study a little bit at a time instead of cramming.
Once you know when you’d like to take the SAT, register right away. Test centers fill up early for certain test dates (especially the August SAT), so reserve your spot in advance. Registering for the SAT the second time will only take a couple of minutes because you’ve already created a College Board account and entered your information. Just sign in, choose your test date and test center, and pay for your test. Don’t forget to take advantage of registration fee waivers if you qualify for them.
Step 3. Set up a practice schedule
Here’s the good news: You don’t need to pay for a private tutor or an SAT prep class to improve your SAT scores. Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is the most official and comprehensive SAT study resource available—and it’s completely free. Our research shows that more time on Official SAT Practice is associated with higher SAT scores.
Here’s how to get started:
- Sign up for a free Official SAT Practice account on Khan Academy. While you’re signing up, link your Khan Academy and College Board accounts so Khan Academy can use your past SAT scores to personalize your study plan.
- Once you’ve signed up, click on the Create Schedule button in your account dashboard. Then enter the day you’re taking the SAT (see step 2) and set up a personalized study schedule leading up to that date. As you create your schedule, really think about when you’ll be able to study and what time of day works best for you. Khan Academy will send you an email reminder each day you committed to studying to help you stick to your plan. Think about how many points you’re hoping to improve your score by and make sure you’ve set aside enough practice time to reach that goal.
Quick fact: Students who spent six hours on Official SAT Practice using one of our “best practices” performed on average 39 points higher than students who did not study using Offical SAT Practice.
Step 4. Use these best practices to guide your study time
You’ve signed up for Khan Academy, you have your practice schedule mapped out—now it’s time to get practicing. Improving your SAT score means spending study time on Official SAT Practice, but its how you spend your time that matters the most. Our research identified three best practices for making the most of your time on Khan:
- Following personalized practice recommendations: Official SAT Practice provides personalized practice recommendations based on your previous scores and performance on any PSAT or SAT assessment or through mini-diagnostic quizzes. Following practice recommendations will help you stay focused when studying and work on areas where you most need to grow.
- Leveling up skills: As you progress through Official SAT Practice material, you can achieve new levels in the skills practiced. Overall, leveling up provides a signal that that you are consistently advancing in content tested on the SAT, and is a marker for learning progress on Official SAT Practice.
- Taking a full-length practice test: Taking a full-length practice exam simulates the real test experience and helps you see what you do and don’t know.
As you study, remember your reason for wanting to improve your SAT score (you can put up pictures of the colleges you’d love to go to around your desk at home). Studying even pays off right now—the concepts you’ll master for the SAT will help you in your English and math classes—so it’s a win-win.
Step 5. Take a full-length SAT practice test
As shared above, taking a full-length practice test is one of the three best practices for maximizing your time on Khan Academy. Once you’ve been practicing for a couple weeks on Official SAT Practice, set aside time for a full practice test. It’ll probably be easiest to do on a weekend since you’ll need a little over three hours to complete the test. Our research shows that the score you get on one of our official practice tests taken within 30 days of your test date is highly predictive of the score you’ll get on the actual SAT. We recommend that all students take at least one practice test about two weeks before taking the SAT but take more if you have time or if you have a very ambitious score increase goal.
The College Board is committed to helping all students do their best on the SAT, so we offer eight full-length practice tests for free (that doesn’t mean we recommend you take all eight—usually one to two practice tests will be enough). You can print out the practice tests from our website or take the practice tests online on Official SAT Practice. There are pros and cons to both methods—some students like to take the pencil-and-paper practice tests because the actual SAT will be pencil-and-paper. Others prefer the online option because Khan Academy will time you during the test and provide your results immediately. You can also practice the essay portion of the test with the online option. Choose the format that works best for you.
Step 6. Retake the SAT
Now you’re ready for the real thing. You’ve planned, you’ve practiced, and now you’re ready to take the SAT again. Get a good night’s sleep before test day and follow our test day checklist to make sure you have everything you need. Be confident knowing you put in the hard work and you’re ready to do your best.
Once you have taken your SAT, your scores will be available to you in about two weeks. View your SAT score report online and you will find lots of valuable information about how you performed.
If you didn’t reach your goal score, register to test again and practice. Once again you can use Official SAT Practice Khan Academy to create a personalized plan and focus your preparation on areas where you need more work.
If Official SAT Practice helps you increase your score, let us know—we’d love to hear your story. And remember to sign up for the College Board Opportunity Scholarships so your hard work can help you qualify for more money to pay for college.