Taking tests is stressful. Taking college entrance exams, such as the SAT, can be even more so. The added pressure of doing well only increases test anxiety, and even the calmest test-takers can feel anxious under the stress. If you didn’t do as well as you hoped on your first (or second) try on the SAT, don’t worry! We’ve got tips on how to improve SAT scores below.

1. Study smart

Okay, this one might sound obvious, but standardized tests such as the SAT are usually looking for very specific answers. If you’re not studying from material that will be on the test or taking SAT practice tests, you could be missing what they’ll be looking for on the actual test. It’s not so much about studying as it is studying the right things.

2. Find a target score range

Of course you want to do as well as possible, but it can be helpful to decide on a target score range for the test. The SAT is scored on a scale of 400 to 1600, with each section contributing points to the overall score. Colleges typically list their average SAT scores of accepted applicants. If you’ve got your eye on a few schools, check what their average SAT ranges are so you can target a score close to that.

3. Read more

The SAT emphasizes its reading and writing section, so if those aren’t your strong suits, get some reading in! Reading (whether it’s a book for fun or an article in the newspaper) helps you to better understand sentence structure and grammar, expands your vocabulary, and will get you used to the types of reading passages you’ll encounter on the test.

4. Take full SAT practice tests

If you haven’t already, complete a full-length SAT practice test. This will give you a test run for what the real test will be like, and is a great way to find what your strengths and weaknesses are so you can study more effectively.

5. Use a timer

While you’re taking practice tests, set a timer for the same length of time as the actual SAT takes. This will help you get used to working on a time limit and help you figure out how to pace yourself appropriately. The total SAT is three hours, not including breaks. The time given for each section is broken down as:

  • Reading: 65 minutes
  • Writing and Language: 35 minutes
  • Math (no calculator): 25 minutes
  • Math (calculator allowed): 55 minutes
  • Optional essay section: 50 minutes

With these tips, you’ll improve your SAT scores in no time! Check out our tips for preparing for college entrance exams to learn more.