3 Must Know Tips for the SAT

Updated: Mar 19, 2019


If you have started studying for the SAT, you might be a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information thrown at you. But, don’t worry - TutoringBoston is here to help! Here are 3 must know techniques to get you started.




Math: Plugging in the Answers

Some SAT math multiple choice questions can be solved backwards by plugging in the answer choices. For example, consider the problem below



Let’s suppose that you are either not sure how to solve this by factoring or the quadratic formula, or you simply don’t want to. No problem! We know that one of these answer choices will be correct…so let’s just try them until we find the one that works. We know we found the correct answer when the left side of the equation equals 0.



But since this is timed test, let’s plug strategically to not waste time. Notice that the answers are in increasing order…so, we should start with either “b” or “c” to determine whether we need to go lower or higher. It does not matter which one we start with, so for this example, let’s start with answer choice “c” first. Watch what happens when we plug “5” in for “x”





We need the equation to equal 0, but we actually got 7…which is too big. So, if our answer was too big when we plugged in 5, we know it’ll be even bigger when we plug in 6. For this reason, we can eliminate answer choice “d,” and then either try “a” or “b.” Again, it doesn’t matter which one we try since we know it’s either going to be “a” or “b,” and if it’s not “a,” then it has to be “b,” and if it’s not “b,” then it has to be “a.” Let’s try “b” and see what we get.





“B” get us 0, which is exactly what we are looking for. There is no need to check “a” since “b” already works. That’s it!


Other math problems can be solved by picking your own number.


Reading/Writing: Process of Elimination

Process of elimination is one of the most useful techniques you can use on the SAT reading and writing sections. Since all questions in these sections are multiple choice, it is often easier to look for the wrong answers instead of the correct one. Once you eliminate obviously incorrect answer choices, it is easier to compare the remaining ones to find the right answer.


Identifying the wrong answers first works well because they may be easier to spot that the correct answer. For example, if you don’t know the right answer to a reading question, but you know for sure that 3 of the 4 are incorrect, then you’ve found the right answer by process of elimination!


Essay: Prepare Examples in Advance

It may be a common misconception that you can’t prepare for the essay in advance. However, the truth is that you can! It’s true that you won’t know your prompt until you see it on your test, but the question will always be the same: how does the author build an argument to persuade his or her audience of XYZ?


The good news is that most authors will use the same types of literary techniques regardless of what they are trying to persuade the audience of. Below are some common literary devices that competent authors might use:


- Statistics/Facts

- Citing credible sources

- Appeals to emotion

- Consequences

- Specific word choice


With enough practice and analysis of sample prompts and responses, you’ll develop the skill set to be able to recognize these techniques when you see them. Finally, prepare a few favorite canned phrases that you can use on the test regardless of the prompt. This way, you’ll have the shell of your essay planned out in advance, and you’ll just need to adjust and make changes based on the specific prompt you are given.


If you are looking for a great SAT Tutor in the Greater Boston area, please schedule your free introductory session today!


TutoringBoston, LLC., based in Newton, Massachusetts, was founded by Leo Rusinov in 2016. Leo has been tutoring and teaching since 2010. He started his education career as an SAT Math and English classroom teacher and private instructor for The Princeton Review. Since then, he has worked as a classroom Math, Science, and English teacher for the Department of Youth Services, teaching at-risk youth in the Greater Boston area. He now dedicates himself full time to private tutoring.
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