How to Study for the SAT/PSAT English Sections

tl;dr: Studying for the SAT humanities section doesn't have to be overwhelming! Here are five top tips to help you get a high score: find an approach that fits your learning style, learn basic grammar rules, pace your prep, take advantage of outside resources, and practice, practice, practice. Good luck!

Studying Tips and Tricks

The SAT humanities sections, Reading and Grammar (for SAT writing advice, check out our Section Strategy Study Guide 🎊) can be difficult to study: in one section you are tasked with knowing the ins and outs of the English language and in the other, you must read, understand, and answer questions for five passages all within 65 minutes! However, with a solid plan and an approach that works for you, studying for the SAT humanities sections will be a breeze!

We consulted students who scored a 700+ on the English section of the SAT/PSAT and compiled their advice into a list of five top tips just for you!

#1: Find an Approach that Fits your Learning Style 🤓

Are you someone who learns best by trial and error? Are you someone who learns best by reading a study guide? Are you someone who learns best by watching a video or interacting with an in-person tutor? It is crucial to know the best way to make your brain retain information as you embark on your SAT studying journey. Having an idea of the best studying approach for your learning style will help you choose resources and methods of preparation best suited to your individual needs!

Most students learn by doing Practice Questions on apps like Almost Fun, but others need more help with refining their personal strategies before they practice!

#2: Learn Basic Grammar Rules 🔤

One of the easiest ways to obtain a high score on the Grammar section of the SAT is to learn basic grammar rules. It sounds trivial, but many students, especially native English speakers, tend to judge grammar based on what sounds right in their head, which can be dangerous on the SAT's tricky questions ⚠️

Thorough knowledge of grammar rules will equip you with the necessary tools to logically figure out every grammar question and significantly increase your chances of correctly answering these questions. Some easy ways to integrate grammar studying into your preparation regiment are to use a grammar prep book or websites such as Almost Fun or NoRedInk!

#3: Pace Your Prep 🚶🏿‍♀️

Especially for SAT humanities, cramming is not a practical option for studying to achieve the best possible score. Although the grammar section's content can be learned fairly quickly due to its strict and universal rules, it requires lots of practice to fully develop a concrete understanding of the applications of said rules in all contexts in which they will appear on the SAT. In addition, you want to give yourself plenty of time to study with breaks in between. Test prep is notoriously stressful, so self-care and taking care of your mental health become super important. Read this page about how to develop self-care routines and access mental health resources to learn more.

#4: Take Advantage of Outside Resources 📚

One of the easiest ways to plan and stay organized in your SAT humanities prep is to use a prep book and/or other online resources such as mobile apps or websites! These resources house a wealth of knowledge such as strategies and demonstrations of exam questions. Prep books such as the College Board's Official SAT Study Guide or the SAT Black Book contain practice questions directly from SAT exams as well as question explanations. The College Board's book also has ten practice SAT tests and they are also available for free online. Additionally, there is an array of SAT prep apps available for free that offer a variety of services such as practice questions, study timers, and tools for implementing SAT prep into a busy schedule! For the best SAT humanities prep resources, check out Best Resources for SAT/PSAT English (coming soon).

#5: Practice, Practice, Practice ✍🏿

The absolute best way to make sure you perform to your fullest potential on the SAT is to consistently practice! For both grammar and reading, the SAT always uses the same types of questions. The more you practice, the more exposure you will have to every question type on the exam. SAT practice does not have to be rigorous and intense. As long as you stay consistent, completing a question a day or a practice test a week will astronomically increase your chances of earning a higher score.

As you continue to practice, you may notice patterns in your results that will help you better assess your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you notice that you always miss the most amount of questions on the history passage or you consistently miss questions about comma rules. These patterns may not be so clear if the practice is not completed regularly. Once you see these patterns, it will become crystal clear exactly what you need to work on as you get closer to your exam!

Additionally, completing practice exams/questions will help improve your reading skills such as speed and comprehension which are essential for the SAT humanities sections. Being able to read and understand the questions/passages quickly will maximize the amount of time you have to logically think through and answer the questions. With practice, you will also be able to fine-tune your test-taking strategy and find an approach that works best for you!


And that's a wrap, five top tips for studying SAT humanities! Ultimately, only you can decide the best way to study SAT humanities, but hopefully these suggestions help guide you in your preparation for your next SAT exam! Best of luck on your exam, you've got this! 🙌🏼

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