5 Critical Thinking Tips When Studying for the SAT


Teaching our students SAT tricks and strategies is just one of the ways we help students to increase their ACT or SAT scores. Through the strategies we teach and the critical thinking skills we promote in each of our students, students can easily put on their critical thinking caps during standardized testing and recognize patterns throughout each test section.  But, what if you are studying on your own?  Where do you begin with increasing your critical thinking performance?

No matter what subject you are studying, critical thinking is an integral part of learning. Likewise, critical thinking is a huge part of increasing your SAT score or your ACT score with SAT Prep Group.  With the help of our friends from Edutopia, SAT Prep Group has illustrated 5 tips for increasing your critical thinking performance.

1.  Questions, questions, questions.

Get used to answering questions and thinking about everything you study for school, not just the SAT.  Train your brain to focus and understand.  One of the best ways you can do this when studying for any subject is to create questions out of the headers in your text.

For example, Sally has an upcoming test in her History class.  She’s unsure what will be on the test.  She just knows that the test will be covering Chapter 8 through 12 of her textbook.  Sally has been doing homework on these sections for the past three weeks.  She doesn’t want to reread ALL of those chapters word for word.  Instead Sally starts at Chapter 8 and looks at all the text in bold – headers of each section and vocabulary she may need to know.  Sally creates questions out of every bold section.  The first section states “The War of 1812” in bold print before discussing the war in detail.  So Sally writes “What is the War of 1812” in her notebook.  In this same section Sally finds some bold subtext and bold vocabulary words.  Sally does the same for each section.  In the end, Sally has created a test for herself.  She goes back through and answers each question by briefly going over each section looking for important names and dates.  Sally is able to skip several paragraphs just by reading the first sentence of the paragraph and deriving from that introduction sentence whether the paragraph will have any information she needs to answer her test questions.  In the end, Sally has over 40 questions and answers to study from and will likely get an A+ on her test.

Studying every subject like this – Science, English, History – will increase a student’s reading comprehension, vocabulary, and overall test taking confidence.

2.  Create Writing Prompts

The SAT essay is a section almost every student regrets, but hardly any student studies for.  However, the SAT essay is also one of the easiest ways for a student to boost their score.  The difference between an average essay and a top scoring essay is minimal.  Find out more about SAT essay scoring through our Essay Q&A here.

Do you have an upcoming test you know will have an essay section?  Similar to how Sally created her own questions to study for a multiple choice test above, Sally can prepare for an essay test by creating her own prompts.  Knowing in general what a test will be on, a student can create a writing prompt based on major sections of reading.  Let’s say this time Sally has an essay test in her Sociology class.  Her textbook already poses several questions for consideration underneath graphs and in the first sentence of key paragraphs.  Sally takes a question from one of the graphs: Is a life in poverty the responsibility of the individual or a result of outside factors?  Sally knows that in a basic, five paragraph style essay she will need to discuss at least three factors and no more than five, supporting her writing.  Sally focuses on “responsibility of the individual” and “result of outside factors” knowing she has to answer both parts of this question carefully.  Sally then begins to answer the question in a brief essay by drafting at least three points supporting her opinion.

Students like Sally can take this step even further.  Practicing for the SAT essay can be time consuming.  The SAT essay is a timed section where students only have 25 minutes to write their answers.  Students studying for any subject can practice argumentative essay writing in a timed fashion.  This will not only prepare students for an upcoming test at school, but also prepare students for quickly drafting an essay in the 25 minutes allowed on the SAT.

3.  Get in the Conversation

When reading for school or practicing with an essay prompt, students need to know how to discuss on paper as well as participate in classroom discussions.  It’s all part of the grade.  By learning sentence starters and connectors students can dig deeper on an essay subject as well as dig deeper in classroom discussion.  Check out these Tools for Critical Thinking on sentence starters and speech connectors.  Do you see how simple sentence starters such as “I agree with [a person] that…” can help build a strong argument either in writing or in person?

4.  Learn from Others

Learn different ways to enter a conversation, the difference between an analytical point and a summary, as well as appropriate ways to disagree with an argument or essay subject.  One way of doing this is to view both good and bad examples of people presenting arguments from sites such as YouTube.  SAT students are encouraged to write a persuassive essay.  Writing coincides directly with speaking.  Check out this persuasive speech section of YouTube and see if you can pick out the students who deserve an A!

Additionally, students should evaluate each other.  Find a friend to study with who know what is expected for a basic, persuasive essay.  State your points outloud or practice writing them.  Either way, you should be graded fairly on making at least three supporting points and giving details for each of those points.  Don’t forget to have a strong introduction and conclusion.

To help increase your persuasive knowledge, sign up for a Public Speaking class at school.  Find out any additional courses you should take prior to taking the SAT or ACT here.

5.  Study What You Love

It is important a student never fall into an apathetic state thinking they’re whole life revolves around studying what someone else wants them to know.  Find a way of becoming passionate about what you are learning in school.  Outside of school, students should have their own interests and passions that keep the mind engaged.  When a student wants to learn more, he or she will retain more information and have a deeper understanding of the subject.  Engaging in sports, learning a language, or practicing a musical instrument most certainly counts as a subject that engages the brain, practices focus and encourage students to learn in ways they enjoy.  Have some fun!


Click here to find out more about SAT Prep courses and how we engage our students in critical thinking skills to help overcome test anxiety.


SAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. Call Us Today at 877-672-8773 or click here for a free consultation.

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