The Right (AND WRONG) Ways to Use SAT Practice Tests — IVY Lounge Test Prep (2024)

Are you an SAT test-taker eager to get ahead and raise your score? If you already know that you’re going for the SAT over the ACT, there are some crucial things you need to know to prepare for Test Day that your ACT-taking friends DON’T. They have to do with how to properly utilize the 10 official practice SAT tests that the College Board makes available. And they’re important.

It might sound weird to obsess over the proper usage of practice tests, but as an SAT test taker, YOU have a challenge that didn’t exist for SAT test-takers pre-2016 (or for ACT test-takers, for that matter): there are only a few official practice tests available to hone your testing chops before the real test day! BEFORE the SAT was redesigned, there were dozens and dozens of past tests in circulation. The ACT only undergoes minor changes gradually over time, so there are (again) dozens and dozens of real, previously-administered ACT tests in circulation.

Not so for the SAT in its current form! For current SAT takers, official SAT practice tests are a finite resource, and you’ve got to make the most of the ones you have.

Here’s the good news: you have ten College Board practice tests to work with to get your target SAT score.

You see, when the new SAT was first released, there were only FOUR official practice tests to use! Since the SAT had never actually been administered at that point, the scoring for tests #1-4 were based on the College Board’s analytics, NOT from bell curves from actual past test takers. That made it QUITE difficult to work with to gets students prepared for test day, take it from me!

After over a year, the College Board released practice tests #5-8. These were actual, previously-administered tests with scoring guides based off the results of past test-takers. This made things easier, but many students would still run out of tests to use for practice, especially if they came to me AFTER studying on their own and burning through them.

Luckily for us, the College Board just released another two previously-administered official practice tests (#9 and #10) this past summer, so YOU have more wiggle room than your older friends did.

That said, here’s the bad news: you still have only a very finite number of REAL SAT tests…which means you can’t waste them!

Please don't mess this up: these are limited resources and once you've used them all up, they're gone.

  1. Use SAT Practice Test #1 as your diagnostic test to understand where you are NOW and what you need to work on. Read this post to know how to take it in testing conditions.

  2. Before your first real SAT test date, you will need to take 3-4 mock tests during the 4-6 weeks before the test. These will need to be done in testing conditions, even if you simulate the testing conditions at home. I’d use official tests #2, #5 and #6, so you use a mix of “official practice test” and “previously administered tests.” If you want a 4th test, use test #3.

  3. Before you take your second attempt at the SAT, you will take 2-3 more mock tests during the month before test day. Again, timed, under testing conditions. Use Practice Tests #3 (or #4, if you already used #3) and #7. If you have time to take a third practice test, use Test #8.

  4. If you need to take the SAT a third time to get the score (or Super Score) to reach your Target Score, you should still have Practice Tests #9, #10, and possibly tests #4 and #8 (if you didn’t already use them).

Now you may be wondering, “Kristina, if I’m only using the Official Practice Tests for either diagnostic or mock testing, what do I do for homework to get ready?”

Again, I’m so glad you asked! See, since we clearly have each official test earmarked for a special spot in your study plan, you’ve rightly identified that you should NOT use these gems for ANYTHING other than a timed diagnostic or mock test!

  1. To “just try out some math problems”

  2. To “just do a section for homework”

  3. To try out a reading strategy, working through a passage or two.

  4. To do only part of a section.

  5. To do any portion of the test untimed.

  6. To do a couple sections today and the rest tomorrow.

  7. In short, to attempt any of these tests NOT in testing conditions!


It’s making me want to cry just THINKING about people wasting their precious SAT practice tests in any of those ways! THAT’s what those test prep company practice tests are for! If you want to do a practice section or practice passage of Reading or Writing, or just some assorted practice math problems, go ahead and knock yourself out with Barron’s or Kaplan or PR or whatever NON-College Board book you want!


Make sense? Good!

As always, it’s been a pleasure to let you in on my tried and true ways of getting a stellar score. If you want my personalized help guiding you through the process, please either contact me or book an Ace the Test: Game Plan and I’ll hold your hand to your target score!

The Right (AND WRONG) Ways to Use SAT Practice Tests — IVY Lounge Test Prep (2024)

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