To get a perfect SAT score of 1600, you’ll need good prep materials, persistence, an understanding of the format, and more. Chances are, if you know somebody with a perfect SAT score, they didn’t just breeze through the test without ever having seen the official exam before. (If they say they did, take it with a big pinch of salt.)
How do we know this? We’ve talked with students who have gotten those scores…and every. Single. One. Prepared.
Not just some of them. Every single one.
But these students with perfect SAT scores didn’t just sit down and stare at that big blue College Board book for 50 hours. As we discussed their study habits with them, we noticed that a few big trends emerged.
- Use good materials. Over and over again, students told us that learning about the test was super important to their success. They looked at practice tests and practice questions. They analyzed those. They took them apart to understand how they worked.
If you’re not using test-like materials, that’s not only a waste of time, but it’s also damaging to your score. Lousy materials just teach you what their writers think the SAT is about—not what the SAT is actually about. So be choosy in your materials: get testimonials, statistics, previews. Whatever you do, make sure that those materials mirror what you’ll see on test day. (The College Board, the test-maker, has some great practice tests you can use for both practice and comparison.)
- Know why you want that high score. Did you visit a competitive college and fall in love with it? Did your parents dress you in onesies with “YALE” on them? Do you want to prove something to yourself? There’s no bad reason to aim for a high score—but the more specific our high scorers were, the easier they found it was to get through the hard times and stay persistent with their drive for a perfect SAT score.
- Consistency matters. When it comes to SAT prep, 20 hours aren’t 20 hours, and 50 hours aren’t 50 hours. In other words, not all study time is created equal. 20 hours over the four days before the test will actually end up being a lot less useful than spending five hours a week for four weeks preparing (and even less useful than doing it over 10 weeks!).
You will come across times when you don’t want to study. You will get frustrated. You may even want to throw in the towel. This happens to so many high-scoring students. What separates those test-takers from the ones who might have gotten a perfect SAT score but didn’t is that they kept going. Motivation? Key.
- Learn the test, not just the material on it. No matter how people talk about it, the SAT is not and never has been an IQ test. It is a test that can be prepared for. It is a test that can be learned. You can be an absolute, bona fide genius, but if you walk into the exam room without ever having seen the test before—and more than that, without having studied its format, question types, and quirks—you’re not getting a 1600. It’s that simple.
- Think strategically—but don’t overthink. The SAT is tricky, yes. But what we’ve heard from some students who got a perfect SAT score is that it’s important not to overthink the test—because it’s not, at the end of the day, a trick! Even if you’ve studied extensively for the test, you might find that you start second-guessing yourself and justifying wrong answer choices. Again, the SAT is tricky, but you shouldn’t need to write a paragraph to explain why the correct answer choice was right.
- Don’t forget about your schoolwork. Not only are grades and your curriculum going to be the main factors determining your college admissions (test scores are actually the second biggest factor), but you’ll also learn things that will help you ace the SAT. This is especially true if you’re currently taking any math at the Trig/Algebra II level or below, but it’s true for English students at every level.
- Never, ever, ever, give up. While the students we talked to had varied schedules, varied goals, and varied eating habits (yep, we were thorough), they all emphasized the importance of persistence. So if you’re getting down on the test? As one of the test-takers said, “Just keep on trucking.”