How to Improve SAT Score By 400 Points (2023 Update) 

 August 30, 2023

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

Young woman studying to improve SAT score

It should come as no surprise that building upon and improving your SAT score can help increase the chances of getting accepted into the school of your dreams.

Not only are high SAT scores crucial for the college admissions process, but they can open the door to plenty of scholarship opportunities to help cover the costs of college tuition and fees.

With such high stakes, the SAT can seem a bit overwhelming, and you might find yourself not knowing where to start in improving your SAT score.

There are countless fluff tips and tricks out there that claim to help improve your SAT scores. So, we understand that it can be hard to focus on the most important tips that will be best for you.

This is why we have thoroughly reviewed and researched proven methods and tips that actually help students studying for the SAT.

In this easy guide, you will find the most effective tips that will ensure you achieve your best SAT score and enroll in your dream school!

How Can I Improve My SAT Score Quickly?

The first step in improving your SAT score is mastering the different components that make up the 4-hour SAT. The SAT contains 4 sections: reading, writing and language, math, and an optional essay section.

The math section is split into a calculator section and a non-calculator section.

The essay section is optional, and it is essential to note that only some universities require it.

The reading section is 65 minutes, the writing and language section is 35 minutes, the math section is 80 minutes, and the optional essay section is 50 minutes.

The total time for the SAT, including the essay section, is 3 hours and 50 minutes, and the maximum score that can be achieved is 1600.

It’s essential to remember that there is no penalty for guessing, and points are awarded for the number of correct answers.

Now we will break down each section and go over tips and strategies. 

What Is A Good SAT Score?

While planning and prepping for the SAT, you should first decide on a target score to aim for.

To get a good idea of what score you should aim for, try looking at scholarship or university requirements for the SAT and their recommended score range.

Many schools will also release information about accepted applicants from the prior year, which will include the mean or median SAT score range.

To be competitive for these schools and opportunities, it is best to aim for a score that is within or preferably above the median score range.

Don't forget that you also have the option of retaking the SAT if you do not achieve your target score.

Some schools might superscore the SAT by taking the highest section scores from all the SATs you have taken. 

While other schools would only accept best scores obtained on the same test day.

How Much Can I Raise My SAT Score?

According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS) - the company that develops the SAT for the College Board - score improvements of up to 300 points are possible for many students.

Keep in mind, that how much you improve your SAT score depends on how effective your SAT prep is, and the quality of your SAT prep resources, such as SAT prep courses, private SAT tutoring, and books with practice tests.

Check out our in-depth review of the best SAT prep courses on the market.

Preparing For The SAT

Once you have chosen your target score, you need to stick to an SAT practice schedule.

This can be through an SAT prep program, an SAT tutor, or a self-paced SAT prep course.

By practicing and improving your SAT score regularly, you will see growth in your score and will become faster at taking the test over time.

The best way to assess where you are along your journey is to periodically take full-length SAT practice tests. Try to emulate test day by clearing your testing room of distractions and strictly following the time limits by taking the practice tests in one sitting.

Afterward, grade your practice test and see whether you are getting closer to your target score. With so much information that the SAT can test upon, most students try to memorize every little detail or formula before test day.

However, it is just as important to become familiar with the SAT and its testing style with practice tests and questions.

The SAT not only tests on content but also on how well students can take a test under the pressures of limited time.

By getting accustomed to the length of the SAT and training yourself to take the test in an environment similar to the one on test day, you are less likely to be overly anxious during the test since you know what to expect. 

Now let's discuss how to improve your SAT score for each section of the test.

How Can You Improve Your SAT Reading Score?

The reading section is broken up into 4 single passages and 1 pair of passages with 52 multiple-choice questions in total.

After students read each passage, they are presented with a series of questions based solely on the information in the passage. Your prior or outside knowledge of these subjects is not tested, neither is it needed to answer these questions.

Passages can include graphics such as tables, graphs, and charts. Passage topics range from literature, historical pieces, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Best tips to ace the SAT Reading Section

To improve your SAT score in this section, it is important to skip hard questions and return to them at the end.

It is much better to spend time on more straightforward questions that you know you can get right than eating up time on hard questions. Since each question is weighted equally, this is the best strategy to maximize points.

A great time-saving tip for reading passages is to do a brief skim of the passage initially then move onto the questions.

Then you can go back and read certain areas in more detail. Only reading what you need cuts down the time wasted trying to overanalyze every sentence in the passage.

Lastly, for questions you are not sure about, use a process of elimination to get rid of answer choices that you definitely know are wrong and try to narrow down your answer to the best answer choice.

How Can You Improve Your SAT Math score?

The SAT math section is divided into a calculator portion and a non-calculator portion. The calculator portion is 55 minutes in length, with 38 questions total.

While the non-calculator part is 25 minutes in length, with 20 questions total.

Questions cover topics and concepts, including geometry, trigonometry, and introductory algebra. Most questions will be multiple-choice, while a few will be grid-ins where students bubble in the number calculated on their answer sheet.

A few questions will be multi-step, where a scenario will be presented, and multiple questions about the case will follow. There is also no penalty for guessing. 

Best tips to ace the SAT Math Section

When you begin studying for the math section, it is ideal to have an idea of the main concepts and topics tested.

These topics include exponential functions, coordinate geometry, scatter plots, graphs, quadratic equations, polynomials, systems of linear equations, linear functions, ratios, proportions, and single-variable equations.

These topics are some of the most heavily tested in the math section, so brushing up on weak areas is a great place to start with strengthening your overall score. During the test, there might be questions that seem too complicated or time-consuming to solve. 

For questions that involve isolating a variable to find its value, you can try working backward by using the numbers given in the answer choices and plugging each of them into the equation. This can save time and ensure you can score those easy points.

With so many numbers, it can be easy to make careless mistakes, so it’s essential to slow down while solving questions to make sure you are plugging in the correct numbers.

If you have any extra time at the end of the section, go back in and check your work to make sure you don’t make any simple mistakes instead of closing your test book. 

The math section provides a reference sheet for students during the test that contains important formulas and equations.

Before test day, familiarize yourself with this reference sheet to make sure you know exactly what is on it so you don’t spend precious time during test day trying to analyze it.

Also, it’s critical to use a calculator during the test that you are familiar with to make sure you can recognize all of its functions and features and make problem-solving much faster and quicker during the test.

Be sure to install a fresh set of batteries in your calculator as well. 

For help finding the best calculator for your needs on the SAT math section, check out our thorough review of the best calculators for the SAT.

How Can You Improve Your SAT Writing score?

The writing and language section is broken up into 4 passages with 44 multiple-choice questions in total.

Questions will refer to a passage or sentence’s grammar, editing skills, and vocabulary in context.

For example, a part of a sentence will be underlined and will provide the student three alternatives for the highlighted region and whether the sentence should be changed or should stay the same. 

Best tips to ace the SAT Writing Section

A crucial strategy for this section is to read the entire sentence even if only one part of the sentence is underlined.

With grammar and vocabulary in context questions, skimming only parts of the sentence can confuse the best answer or the best change that should be made to the underlined portion.

By reading the whole sentence, you will better understand the context and overall sentence structure. Brush up on important grammar rules before the test.

Some grammar rules are more common than others in this section which includes punctuation. 

Other top rules to be familiar with are sentence structure, agreement, possessiveness, pronouns, verb tense, and modifiers. This can seem like a lot to master, but for most experienced readers, these grammar rules will be easy to recognize.

It is best to focus on your weak areas and practice more on those areas to improve them. When doing practice tests and questions on this section, it is important to practice regularly and go back and analyze questions you missed.

For each question you forgot, keep track of the type of question, the topic covered, the correct answer, and why you missed the question.

By noting the questions you missed and going over why you missed them, you are less likely to make the same mistake again on test day. 

How Can You Improve Your SAT Essay Score?

The optional essay section includes 1 essay where students read a passage and explain how the author builds their argument to persuade the audience. Students will focus on the author’s reasoning, stylistic elements, persuasive elements, and use of evidence in their essay.

On the official SAT, test booklets will include a notes page for any scratch work, note-taking, and planning. Essays are given three scores on the categories of reading, analysis, and writing. 

Best tips to ace the SAT Essay Section

It’s essential to have a game plan before starting the essay section since the amount of time is limited.

Before reading the passage, closely read the prompt and mark any important keywords you need to focus on while reading the passage, which will give you a better idea of what to look for when reading.

While reading the passage, it is a good idea to annotate the passage by underlining or circling key points or examples you would like to include in your essay.

Labeling and taking notes while reading the passage will be much easier and faster when writing the essay since all of your main points have already been highlighted. 

To start with a strong essay, you should give a clear thesis or clear argument that includes a central claim to open up your argument.

After developing a clear thesis, the rest of the essay will be used to back up your claim with supporting evidence and examples.

Providing a good introduction that includes your thesis as well as a conclusion can provide structure to your essay and increase the quality of your essay.

Pay attention to grammar or spelling mistakes as these can often be overlooked, and choose appropriate language and words that have variety but are also strong descriptors of what you are trying to convey.

When choosing which pieces of evidence to use in your essay, it is best to choose a few of the strongest pieces. Having too many examples can dilute the overall strength of the argument. 

FAQs About the 2023- 2024 SAT

What are the SAT Test Dates for 2023 - 2024?

  • August 26, 2023 (Registration Deadline: July 28, 2023)
  • October 7, 2023 (Registration Deadline: September 7, 2023)
  • November 4, 2023 (Registration Deadline: October 5, 2023)
  • December 2, 2023 (Registration Deadline: November 2, 2023)
  • March 9, 2024 (Registration Deadline: February 23, 2024)
  • May 4, 2024 (Registration Deadline: April 19, 2024)
  • June 1, 2024 (Registration Deadline: May 17, 2024)

What is the best time to start prepping for SAT?

It's best to allow at least 12 weeks to study for the SAT test. After completing multiple practice tests, you would be confident in identifying sections of the test where you're weak and sections where you're strong.

How much does the SAT Registration Cost?

For the 2023-2024 year, the SAT registration cost is $60. This cost covers the free score reports to 4 schools. There is an additional fee of $25 for changing your test center or canceling your registration by the change deadline.

Can I cancel my SAT score if I don't like it?

After completing the test, if you think your SAT scores would be poor, don't worry you can cancel the score! But make sure to act quickly. According to the College Board, you must cancel your SAT score before 11:59 PM Eastern Time on the Thursday after your official test date.

How long does it take to complete the SAT test?

Excluding the optional essay section, the total time to complete the SAT test is 3 hours.

How often can you retake the SAT if you don't get the desired score?

There are no restrictions on the number of times you may take the SAT. For the 2023 - 2024 year, there are 7 dates available to take the SAT. So you may take the SAT on any of these dates until you get your desired SAT score.

What type of calculators are allowed on the SAT test day?

While you are allowed to use a calculator on the SAT math section, certain calculators are unacceptable. For the complete list of accepted calculators check out the College Board's calculator policy.

What clothes should I wear on test day?

You should plan to wear comfortable clothes to your test center. But it's a good idea to bring extra layers of clothes just in case the testing center becomes too cold for you.

Can I combine SAT scores from different tests?

This depends on the school you are applying to. Some schools allow applicants to combine their highest section scores from all SAT tests completed. This is called Superscroing. While others would only consider your highest SAT score obtained in one seating.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to preparing for the SAT, the key to success is simple. Identify weak points early on in your SAT prep and devote the majority of your time strengthening your skills in these weak areas.  

Beyond that, the ability to improve your SAT score then ultimately lies in the effectiveness of your test prep resource and how much time dedicated to studying for the SAT.

To help you find the best SAT prep courses that are guaranteed to increase SAT scores, check out our in-depth review of the best SAT prep courses worth investing in!

Good luck as you prepare for the official SAT! 

Chuky Ofoegbu

With almost a decade of experience pursuing higher education in the United States, I fully understand the pain points foreign students endure. I created this website to help foreign students successfully navigate their way through the challenges they will face while living in the United States.

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