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How I went from a 1290 on the PSAT to a 1590 on the SAT in one year: r/SAT Reddit success story

Summary

  1. Doesn’t recommend prep classes.
  2. Did a lot of Khan questions, which they recommend (they have kind of a peculiar method).
  3. Big fans of Khan, PrepScholar blog, QAS tests, r/SAT. Somewhat fans of Erica Meltzer and SAT black book. Disliked Barron’s.

Original Reddit post

So I saw a thread that u/boredandusingreddit posted about how they got their 1590 and I wanted to share some of my tips as well. People often ask me what resources I used but I feel it was a lot more than just resources that pulled me through. Of course, resources did help but my personal methods that I developed along the way helped as well.

(Keep in mind that what worked for me might not work for you. It’s an experimental process, and you have to find what works best for you)

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/bSgVFoC

My first unofficial PSAT was 1290 (taken in June 2018), my first SAT diagnostic was 1310 (taken in July 2018), and my highest score prior to the actual SAT was a 1580 (800 R&W, 780 M, taken in August 2019) on an Elite practice test. So I spent from June 2018 to August 2019 slowly improving around 280-300 points.

In that time I took all 10 official tests, 3-4 QAS tests, 1 Barrons test, and 6 Elite tests.

I attended Elite over the summer of 2019 but I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT (or any other prep class for that matter) as it didn’t significantly help me get to the next level. For $2000, I only got about 5 actually applicable tips. My growth over the summer is primarily attributed to the study method and the mindset I adopted below.

From my experience, gaining better scores isn’t only dependent on what resources you use. It’s about the effort on your part to really understand your mistakes. And I mean REALLY understand them. I wasn’t as meticulous as some other users, but I made a mental note of the types of problems I previously got wrong in the past, and I noted new ways to tackle problems more efficiently.

The resource that I found helped me the most was Khan. I completed 2700+ questions on Khan, but it wasn’t the mindless practice that helped me. It was the method I used when answering these questions.

(This is a pretty general way I used to attack problems. For different sections, I did have different methods but I’ll get to those another time)

I would go in with the mindset that I wasn’t always going to be searching for the right answer as much as I was proving three of the answers wrong.

I would do the following:

  1. I’d read and reread the question and answer choices. Too many times I’ve gotten questions wrong simply because I overlooked what the question was looking for. I find that writing/underlining the answer they are looking for helps.

  2. I’d look closely at the language of the question. Often times, the test itself can lead to a certain answer. Especially in reading, when there are two answers that you are struggling to pick between, looking at EVERY WORD of the question can help. With reading, there’s usually one word that invalidates a wrong answer.

  3. I’d then look at the answer choices and use the “vertical scan” method. This method is a part of the SAT Black Book, which I used to supplement my studying. I note the differences between the answer choices and I “split” them into the components that made them different.

  4. I’d go along solving the problem as usual, comparing my results as I go along and crossing out any answers that are definitively wrong. For math, that means solving a question and “predicting” what result the problem would lead me to. For reading, that meant recalling and going back to parts of the passage that concerns the question as well as thinking about the main idea. For writing, that means remembering grammar rules (honestly I did most of the writing by ear, which isn’t really helpful if you’re not that strong with the nuances of English).

  5. If I was stuck between two answers, I’d look even closer at the language of the question and I would try and reason why one answer was wrong. I’d look at the scope of the problem as well.

(I usually never skipped a question when I was stuck on it. I would try and reason it through. This isn’t really a good idea if you aren’t comfortable with the timing of the SAT)

Some other resources I used and my rating:

Khan: Most helpful for math for me. 5/5

Prepscholar: I didn’t use their prep program, but they have a wide variety of articles on pretty much everything from specific question type guides to time management. I really enjoyed their articles and I think that they offer pretty good advice. 5/5

QAS tests: A godsend. Really tackling different sections and analyzing my mistakes helped a ton, especially nearer to the test day. 5/5

r/sat: Very helpful! People are nice and they explain things well. I’m sure you guys already know how great a resource it is. 5/5

SAT Black Book: Pretty helpful, but I didn’t go through the entirety of it. I got a lot of strategies mainly from this book, the test question breakdowns seem useful. 4/5

PWN the Sat Math: A good reviewer, goes over strategies of plugging in & backsolving which are extremely useful. Other than that it doesn’t provide much. 3.5/5

Erica Meltzer Books: I used her reading mainly. I got some helpful strats in the beginning but personally I thought the question type breakdowns she had were sort of repetitive near the end. 4/5

Barrons: Bad. I took one practice test, got 1410 when I was usually scoring 1450+. The questions are unrealistic. 1/5

Collegeboard Offical Sat Guide: Pretty standard. Nothing too special that I got from skimming it. 3/5

Elite: No. The teachers are nice and all but the content is not great. I was scoring 1500+ around this time and I found that Elite did not help much. I did get some helpful tricks from the Math teacher but everything else was run of the mill. One note is that I tried their reading strategies (annotation and summaries when reading) and my score went down compared to the strategies I personally used. Maybe it just wasn’t for me, but take everything they do with a grain of salt. 1/5

I didn’t use Uworld or College Panda, so not sure about those.

A final note: TRUST YOURSELF. You are capable of getting your dream score. I would have done a lot worse if I kept second guessing myself.

That’s all from me. Discord server for anyone who wants to get more tips or ask more questions: https://discord.gg/MzndsTF

Good luck!

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