when to study for sat

SAT study plans are not one size fits all—what works for one student may not work for another. We know that a common challenge that high schoolers face is deciding when to start studying for the SAT and what kind of study schedule to follow. 

In general, it’s a good idea to start prepping for the SAT early. This gives you time to try out different study approaches and cover as much test content as possible. Knowing when to officially start prepping for the exam depends on the individual student’s habits, needs and goals. Keep reading to find out when you should start preparing for the SAT.

When to Start Preparing for the SAT

Students should aim to take their first SAT in the fall of their junior year. This way, there’s time to retake the test in the spring if needed. Completing the testing process early allows seniors to spend their final year of high school submitting college applications and thinking about their futures. It’s recommended to begin studying for the SAT either during sophomore year or the following summer. 

However, it’s important to consider your study strategy before getting started. Do you intend to follow an intensive study schedule or a more gradual one? Would you work best by dedicating 10 hours a week for one month or would you benefit more from studying 3 hours a week for 5 months? So, if you’re wondering when to take SAT prep courses, keep your study style in mind. 

How Long Should I Study for the SAT?

To prevent last-minute cramming, give yourself at least 2-3 months of study time before your testing date. Students who start studying earlier tend to score higher as well as have more confidence going into the exam.

It’s important to note that how long you should prepare for the SAT depends on how much improvement you want to make. If you’ve taken the PSAT or SAT already follow our recommendations:

To raise your SAT score by 100 points, you’ll need to devote about 20-30 hours of studying. On the other hand, if you’re trying to drastically improve your score by 300 points or more, you may need to dedicate 80+ hours to test prepping. 

These numbers may seem daunting, but brushing up on the skills and knowledge from your entire education career is no quick task.

What Should I Study for the SAT?

There are three core subjects that you will be tested on the SAT: Reading, Math, and Writing & Language. Taking SAT prep courses that focus on material in these main areas will better prepare you for the test. 


The questions in this section are based on reading passages with set topics. The multiple choice questions will be based on defining vocabulary, understanding logical arguments and concepts, finding evidence and identifying claims.


This section contains math concepts such as: Numbers & Operations, Geometry & Measurement, Algebra & Functions, Statistics, Trigonometry and more. It is not recommended to attempt the SAT before completing Geometry and Algebra II.

Writing and Language

This SAT section tests your ability to identify errors and improve the grammar, structure and organization of sentences and paragraphs. 

Preparing for the SAT with Practice Tests

If you’re eligible, it’s a good idea to take the PSAT (Practice SAT) during your sophomore year of high school. This allows students to become familiar with the testing process in a no-pressure situation. If your school doesn’t offer the PSAT, you can always take an SAT practice test online. 

The UpReach Learning online SAT program includes timed practice tests that are even proctored to simulate real exam conditions. 

SAT Study Plan Based on Your College Goals

Another important factor to consider when creating an SAT study method is what colleges you  plan on applying for. The intensity and duration of your study plan will strongly depend on the acceptance rates of your target schools. 

Highly Selective Colleges

You will definitely need an intensive study plan if your aim is to be accepted into a highly competitive or Ivy League university. SAT scores of 1500 or higher are typically the standard when getting into these top schools. If this is your goal, you’ll need to take the PSAT, full-length practice exams and retake the test if needed. 

Selective Colleges

For moderately competitive schools (schools with admissions rates below 50%), you should aim to score at least an 1350 on the SAT. These schools can be tough to get into, so it would be in your best interest to take the PSAT as a sophomore in preparation.

Less Selective Colleges

If you’re trying to get into a less competitive school with admission rates above 50%, try to score a 1200. Many colleges and universities accept scores that are much lower, but it’s never a bad idea to aim high. 

Start Prepping for the SAT with UpReach Learning 

Ready to significantly improve your SAT scores? Our online SAT Camp is designed to prepare students for the test over the course of 8 weeks. UpReach Learning certified instructors are experienced in SAT test-taking strategies and are dedicated to helping students every step of the way. Our comprehensive program includes 4 hours of live college counseling and 16 hours of live online sessions taught by expert teachers. 

In addition, UpReach learning offers early SAT prep for middle schoolers because it’s never too early to get college-ready!

Contact us today to learn more about our SAT/PSAT prep courses and tutoring services for high schoolers