The SAT has a maximum score of 1600. Only approximately 500 students out of the two million who take the test each year receive the maximum possible SAT score. This coveted perfect score propels you to the pinnacle of high school academic performance and can give your college applications a significant boost.
On the SAT, I received flawless scores. I got two flawless scores: 1600 when I was in high school in 2004 and 2400 when I took it again ten years later in March 2014.
The majority of the advice on how to earn a perfect score comes from people who didn’t get perfect marks themselves. In this unique essay, I’ll break down exactly what it takes to acquire a perfect score, as well as the brutal methods I used to get there. It.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Perfect SAT Scores Look Like
- 2 What Does It Take to Get a SAT Score of 1600?
- 3 What Do You Need to Do to Get a Perfect 1600 SAT Score?
- 4 Step 1: Do High-Quality Practice and Avoid Low-Quality Materials
- 5 Step 2: Focus on Quality First, Quantity Second
- 6 Step 3: Be Ruthless About Understanding Your Mistakes
- 7 Step 4: Look for patterns in your flaws and drill them down to perfection.
- 8 Step 5: Eliminate Careless Errors
- 9 Step 6: Create Fantastic Study Habits
- 10 Step 7: Improve Your Speed to the Point Where You Always Double-Check Your Answers
- 11 Step 8: During the test, don’t get caught up in your own thoughts.
- 12 Recommended
What Perfect SAT Scores Look Like
For full transparency, let me show you my personal score report. This is a screenshot from my College Board SAT Organizer:
I took the two SATs 10 years apart. The 2004 test was in an old format of the SAT and was scored out of 1600. I took the new test in 2014 and scored a 2400.
(Yes, I took the SAT as an adult. Besides getting funny looks from high school students, I wanted to go through the experience anew so I knew what my students were going through.)
So that you can see in bleeding detail how I got 2400, I’ve attached my unofficial detailed score report from the College Board. You can see exactly how many questions I missed and read my essay (my handwriting could use some work).
Let’s look at what it takes to earn a flawless SAT score using my score report as an example. The concepts remain the same, even though this score report refers to the Old 2400 SAT. There are still Reading, Math, and Writing sections on the current SAT, and you must do EXTREMELY well on them to get a perfect score.
What Does It Take to Get a SAT Score of 1600?
The SAT is not lenient at the upper end of the scale. You must strive towards perfection.
Here’s what you need to do in each section in detail:
- Only 1 or 2 questions can be missed in Reading. This is dependent on the test’s curve. It’s best to aim for 0 or 1 question missing. I got one question wrong on my test about reading passages.
- In math, you must answer each question correctly. There’s no doubt about it. Math has a hard time with the curve. You won’t get an 800 on this section if you miss one question.
- In Writing, you can sometimes miss 1 question at most. In some tests, you have to achieve a flawless Writing and Language score to have a shot at an 800.
Essentially, you need to aim for perfection during your prep. If you’re continuously missing one or more questions on each section, you’re not performing consistently enough to be safe for a 1600. Below, we’ll go through this in greater depth.
If you want to confirm my statements here, check out the College Board score charts for official SAT practice tests.
One last question to answer before my actual advice:
But wait…do you think you’re just clever? Will This Suggestion Help Me?
You may have heard stories about high-achieving students who simply rolled out of bed, strolled to the SAT test centre, and achieved the best possible SAT score with no prior preparation.
This was not me at all. Some persons like the ones described above may exist, but they are extremely unusual. I was naturally better at math in high school—I competed in math and science competitions—and I could consistently achieve 800s on the math portion.
However, I needed to improve my reading and writing skills. I used to frequently score in the 700s when I first started. Now, while this is a good score, it wasn’t good enough for the top colleges I wanted to attend. I wasn’t used to the SAT reading passages or the types of questions that were presented.
It took a lot of effort on my part to figure out how the SAT works, how it tries to deceive kids, and how to develop a technique that worked for me so that I could consistently achieve high marks.
I also have the benefit of knowing whether my tactics worked throughout time, rather than just on the SAT, now that I’m older. The principles outlined below have consistently proven effective throughout my academic career.
Here’s another illustration. I wanted to go to medical school as an undergraduate, so I had to take the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). This, in my opinion, is a lot more difficult test than the SAT. It also includes general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biology, and verbal thinking, among other topics. Furthermore, you’re up against pre-med students from all across the country, people who are naturally motivated and vying for a spot in medical school, not just your typical high school student.
I scored in the low 30s when I first started preparing for the MCAT. The exam is a 45-point scale with a highly aggressive curve. Again, this was substantially above average, but it wasn’t good enough for the top medical schools I was interested in.
So I put in a lot of effort. I put in the effort, covered all of the topics I needed to know, and was meticulous in my preparation. In the end, I received a 44:
As the testing organization notes, this is in the 99.9 percentile rank, with 0.0% achieving this score (this figure is rounded). I had multiple medical advisers tell me that they had never seen a score this high before, and there might indeed be fewer than three people per year—or none at all—who get a 44. Scoring this high definitely helped me get into the MD-PhD program at Harvard Medical School and MIT.
I wish I were talented enough to get these test scores naturally without hundreds of hours of hard work. That would be the cooler thing to say. But it wasn’t true for me, and it probably won’t be true for you either.
With this foundation laid, here’s the meat of what I want to say:
What Do You Need to Do to Get a Perfect 1600 SAT Score?
In broad strokes, it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of smart work, and some amount of luck.
But you’ve heard this before so just this alone isn’t helpful. Let’s dig deeper.
You have to want it. Really, really want it.
You must be motivated in order to push yourself. Overcome your want to browse YouTube or hang out at the mall by prioritizing SAT practice as one of your top objectives in life.
When you take a practice test and drop 100 points mysteriously, your parents panic out, and you’re frightened you’ll never get into your top college, you need the inner fire to keep yourself from being despondent. Instead, you must pick yourself up and objectively dissect your errors in order to avoid repeating them.
Individuals rarely discuss motivation, but in my opinion, it is one of the most significant factors that distinguishes successful people from unsuccessful people in all parts of life. It is far more significant than simply being intelligent.
Make a list of all the reasons why you desire to achieve perfection. Make a list of them. When you’re losing faith, look at them.
Do you aspire to attend Harvard or an Ivy League university? Do you want to make up for a poor grade point average? Do you want to show your parents that you can outperform their expectations? Do you want to compete with your pals? Do you want to prove your 3rd-grade teacher wrong when she stated you’d never amount to anything?
All of this is OK. Anything that motivates you to work hard is a good reason to do so.
To overcome procrastination and laziness, you’ll need this. You’ll need this to motivate yourself to follow through on every strategy I recommend below. It’s all too easy to brush off failure and be sloppy about your flaws if you’re not motivated.
Beyond the academic rewards, I considered the SAT to be a pointless test that was limiting my life. I was furious at the exam authors who invented ruses to deceive students. I treated it like a video game, treating the SAT and the College Board as bosses to be defeated. I also wanted to outperform my brother, who had a near-perfect score.
Make a list of all the reasons you want to get a perfect grade and use it to motivate yourself during each study session.
Step 1: Do High-Quality Practice and Avoid Low-Quality Materials
The SAT is a strange exam. It’s not like any other test you’ve taken in school. Simple concepts are presented in unusual ways. This is precisely how the College Board makes the test difficult: it takes concepts that most students are acquainted with, twists them to make them new, and then expects them to make mistakes.
You’ll need high-quality practice materials to ace this exam. Because the SAT contains questions that are twisted in a specific way, you must train in that manner in order to learn the patterns.
The finest practice material comes directly from the College Board in the form of official SAT practice tests, as we’ve previously stated. I consumed every SAT practice test I could find while studying. I completed almost 15 full-length practice examinations and was brutal in identifying my errors, as I’ll explain later.
What you put in determines what you get out, just as it does with your nutrition and physique. Garbage in, garbage out. You’ll learn the wrong patterns if you practice on problems that aren’t representative of the SAT.
Using inferior materials is equivalent to practicing baseball by playing tee-ball. Yes, if you practice tee-ball for 1000 hours, you will become a tee-ball pro. But when a real baseball is thrown at you, you’re going to scare out— “Why is the ball moving so quickly? Why does it seem to be so close to my face? Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod,”
Then you get hit by a pitch.
To be frank, most of the books available on the market are trash. They boast about having a lot of questions, but they’re written by people who aren’t truly experts on the test. This means the questions don’t test concepts in the same way; the answers are sometimes ambiguous; the questions don’t trick you in the same way the SAT does.
Step 2: Focus on Quality First, Quantity Second
You now have a large number of materials.
Some students make it a point to read every single page of every book they own. They may not understand why they’re studying what they’re studying, but they certainly put in a lot of effort!
This is a terrible concept. You don’t want to slam your head against the wall and use raw force to solve your problem.
Improving your SAT score is all about quality over quantity.
It’s all too tempting to concentrate solely on getting stuff done because that’s the easy part. Understanding your flaws, as we’ll go over later, takes a lot of effort and awareness.
Consider this scenario: you’re learning to throw a perfect spiral on a football. You can pick up a football and toss it 1,000 times by trial and error, and you’ll make some progress.
Now imagine that you’re surrounded by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He corrects your technique after you throw the ball once. Move your foot back this way, then follow through with a certain action with your hand. You try again, and this time it goes much better.
I’m confident that if you threw 50 balls this way, you’d do better than 1,000 by yourself.
I’m not implying that Tom Brady is a tutor, but you do need one. You can be your own Tom Brady, and we’ll show you how below. However, you must ensure that you get the most out of your studies and that they are as efficient as possible.
Step 3: Be Ruthless About Understanding Your Mistakes
On the ground, this is by far the most significant strategy to succeed over other students when you’re actually studying.
There’s a reason for every mistake you make on an exam. You will make the same error over and over if you don’t grasp EXACTLY why you missed that question.
If you’re performing at the 700 level, you’re missing roughly 10% to 15% of all questions. This indicates that you have a pattern of errors that are lowering your score.
Here’s what you should do:
- Mark EVERY question that you’re even 20% doubtful about on every practice exam or question set you take.
- Review every single question you marked, as well as every erroneous question, while grading your exam or quiz. Even if you guessed a question properly, you’ll want to go over it again.
- Write down the gist of the question, why you missed it, and what you’ll do to avoid making the same error again. Separate portions by subject and sub-topic (reading—paragraphs vs. sentences completed, writing—sentence faults vs. paragraph improvement).
It’s not enough to simply consider it and go on. It is NOT ENOUGH TO READ THE EXPLAINATION FOR THE ANSWER.
You have to think HARD about why you specifically failed on this question.
By taking this structured approach to your mistakes, you’ll now have a running log of every question you missed, and your reflection on why.
Everyone who wants to get to an 800 on a section has different weaknesses from you. It’s important that you discover for yourself what those are.
Go Deeper—WHY Did You Miss It?
Now, what are some common reasons that you missed a question? Don’t just say, “I didn’t know this material.” Always take it one step further—what specifically did you miss, and what do you have to improve in the future?
Here are some examples of common reasons you miss a question, and how you take the analysis one step further:
Content: I didn’t learn the skill or knowledge needed to answer this question.
One step further: What specific skill do I need to learn, and how will I learn this skill?
Incorrect Approach: I knew the content, but I didn’t know how to approach this question.
One step further: How do I solve the question, and is there a general rule that I need to know for the future?
Wrong Guess: I was stuck between two answer choices, and I guessed wrong.
One step further: Why could I not eliminate one of the last answer choices? Knowing the correct answer now, how I can eliminate it? Does this suggest a strategy I can use for the future?
Careless Error: I misread what the question was asking for or solved for the wrong thing
One step further: Why did I misread the question? What should I do in the future to avoid this?
Is this a difficult task? It is—you must consider why you are falling short and comprehend yourself in a manner that no one else can. However, few students actually put forth the time to conduct this analysis, and this is where you will get an advantage.
I had notebooks full of practice questions that I’d missed at the conclusion of my studies, and I could thumb through them like flashcards while eating breakfast.
Adopt a no-mistake-left-behind approach when it comes to your errors. Allowing one to slide by could result in you making the same error on the real SAT.
Here’s another useful trick when reviewing mistakes: ask yourself “Why?” five times?
This is a revolutionary technique developed by Toyota to figure out the root cause of manufacturing problems.
The point is that when you ask yourself “Why?” five times, you’ll dig deeper and deeper to understand what the underlying cause is, and how to fix it.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you miss a Reading passage question. Everyone does this.
Starting point: I missed a Reading question about the big picture summary of the passage.
- Why? I picked the wrong answer choice, out of the two I had left.
- Why? The wrong answer choice had a phrase that was in the passage, but otherwise the meaning was wrong. I got tricked.
- Why? I didn’t fully understand the passage when I was reading it.
- Why? I read the passage too quickly.
- Why? I was scared about running out of time.
Wow—you see how a single question can give you a TON of information about where you went wrong? Now you have a lot of opportunities to improve—on how you read passages, how you eliminate answer choices, and how to process big picture questions.
Again, very few students actually have the discipline to go through this reflection. And this is why YOU’RE going to get a better score
Step 4: Look for patterns in your flaws and drill them down to perfection.
Now that you’ve started keeping track of your blunders in a notebook, you’ll be able to start looking for patterns in your flaws. This could be a single grammar rule or a content area, such as math circle problems. It could also be a personal habit, such as misreading the passage or ignoring the incorrect response.
Focusing on your deficiencies is critical since you only have so much time to study, and you need to use it wisely on the topics that will help you develop the most.
I’ve dealt with pupils that enjoy drilling their strong spots just because it feels good. Of course, this is a waste of time—you have to face your demons and pick at your weak spots, which is unpleasant and challenging.
I kept note of my blunders in an Excel spreadsheet while studying for the SAT and MCAT. For example, I discovered that I routinely missed Reading passage questions concerning inferences because I read too deeply into what the author was saying. I then concentrated on drilling those specific types of questions until I had established my own approach to answering them.
For example, back when the SAT placed a greater emphasis on vocab, I had to memorize thousands of vocab terms, any of which could appear on the test. I came up with my own strategy for studying SAT vocabulary words, which I call the Waterfall Method. This strategy requires you to review terms you don’t know 10 times more than words you do know, resulting in efficient studying. You don’t need to use this for the New 2016 SAT, but it may be useful for any class that requires flashcards, such as foreign language, history, or English.
When you’ve identified your area of weakness, you’ll need to identify tools to help you drill that topic. If you’re having trouble with trigonometry questions, you’ll need to practice with a lot of SAT Trig questions. If you have trouble with subject/verb agreement, you should practice with grammar questions.
Many students find it difficult to do all of things well since they must do so all at once:
- Make use of practice questions.
- Determine your flaws.
- More practice questions can be found here.
- Recognize whether you’re progressing or not.
- Continue to tweak your strategy.
Every effective study strategy is built on this foundation, yet it requires a lot of mental work to master. This is exactly why we created PrepScholar: we wanted to create an online prep program that would take care of all the heavy lifting so you could focus on studying. We discover your deficiencies in our PrepScholar software and automatically organize your quizzes by skill so you can focus on learning rather than higher-level activities like monitoring your own development.
By the way, any content-level tactics that guarantee you results should be viewed with suspicion. By content-level, I mean tactics that instruct you on how to approach a certain problem. You must concentrate on what works best for you at your level. People, for example, use different approaches to reading material. Some students choose to read the chapter first and then respond to the questions. Some students skim over the questions first, then return to the passage. I know what works best for me, but that doesn’t always mean it will work for you.
You’ll need to gather strategies for your shortcomings and then put them to the test to discover if they work for you. The scope of this text does not provide specific strategies for each weakness, but we will provide examples later.
Step 5: Eliminate Careless Errors
These types of mistakes are by far the most frustrating. You know the content, you know how to solve it, but because of a misreading of the question, you don’t get the question right. This can already disqualify you from an 800 on Math.
In my own SAT, I made careless errors because I was trying to finish early and save time for the end, so I would rush through questions too quickly. I hated myself every time I made a careless error. But when I focused on the two things below, I was able to claim back my lost points.
#1: Double-check that you’re answering the right question.
The SAT is designed to ask you tricky questions. You might find the area of the square, but the question actually asks for the perimeter.
Always underline what the question requires you to solve for to avoid this. Don’t stop working until you’ve found the right answer.
Another option is to write in your scratch area what the query is looking for. If it asks for seconds rather than minutes, put “= seconds” and circle it before beginning your task.
This may appear to be more labor, but having a solid, failproof system is the only way to fight thoughtless errors.
2: Choose the “No Change” option with caution.
In grammar questions, choosing “(A) NO CHANGE” is a common casual blunder. That’s because the question appears grammatically correct to you when you read it because the grammar rule doesn’t strike a bell.
If this happens, double-check the other answer options to ensure that NO CHANGE is the best option.
You should double-check for grammar rules like Subject-Verb Agreement and Misplaced Modifier, which are easy to overlook. You’ll be able to uncover patterns in your grammar rule deficiencies by studying your blunders. You can then create your own system for grammatical rules that you frequently overlook, such as Subject-Verb Agreement, by identifying the subject and verb and ensuring that they are same.
Step 6: Create Fantastic Study Habits
You’ll likely spend at least 200 hours studying for the SAT if you’re strongly driven and aiming for a good score.
It’s your job to make the most of every hour you have.
Learning how to study more efficiently can save you a lot of time.
Consider this: if you can discover certain ways to increase your study efficiency by 20%, you will essentially gain 40 hours back in your life.
Here are my top study habits tips, all of which I practice myself.
Habit 1: Create a Schedule and Force Yourself to Stick to It
It’s important to have a plan. You need to understand when you’re going to do what, and then you need to follow that plan.
Here are questions to ask yourself:
- How much time do I have until my next test?
- How much time will I spend studying every week?
- How many practice tests should I take before then? When will I take them?
- During each week, what specific times and days will I be studying?
- What will I actually be studying each day? Why?
- How should my schedule change based on the info I receive from practice tests?
Habit 2: Eliminate All Distractions
You have so many distractions at your fingertips—Snaps, texts, YouTube, games, and more.
All of these are super fun and super easy to consume for hours on end.
All of these will improve your SAT score by ZERO.
You are NOT STUDYING if you look at your phone every three minutes while studying. The brain is horrible at multitasking, and it takes minutes to regain full concentration every time you lose focus.
I understand how appealing it is to keep up with all your pals are up to. There is a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out). You don’t want to miss a good laugh or be late for a juicy story.
The problem is that, in the long run, these minor interactions don’t make much of a difference. Consider the last time your friendship depended on you responding to a text within three minutes.
If you text back an hour later, you will not be missing out on anything essential. Maybe you’ll call me an old man and say I don’t understand, but a friend who becomes upset with you because you don’t respond within a few minutes doesn’t strike me as a good friend.
I once sat next to a girl who was attempting to learn chemistry in a coffee shop. She’d peek at her phone every few minutes, chuckle, then respond to a text. I’m not kidding when I say she read two pages in an hour.
Instead, here’s what you need to do:
- Go to a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Wear earplugs if it helps.
- Turn your phone off or leave it another room.
- Don’t listen to music where you actively have to listen to words.
- Don’t study with friends. It’s more fun but everyone does a crappy job of studying.
- If you’re using a program like PrepScholar on a web browser, use tools like StayFocusd to keep yourself off of distractions.
Treat this seriously. One hour spent studying at full concentration is better than three hours at 50% concentration.
Habit 3: Have a Positive Mindset. Your Job Is to Grow.
When you’re attempting to achieve a flawless 1600 SAT score, making mistakes will upset you. I was the same way, and I was always berating myself for making stupid errors or forgetting something I should have remembered.
The essential thing is to turn your irritation into opportunities for learning and progress.
Every blunder should be viewed as an opportunity to learn. Every blunder shows you exactly where you’re weak and what you need to do to improve.
You are permitted to be upset, but not to the point of becoming paralyzed. Instead, focus on improving rather than achieving a set score as your primary goal.
Step 7: Improve Your Speed to the Point Where You Always Double-Check Your Answers
Now that you’re aiming for the highest possible score, you’ll want to finish each part ahead of time so you can double-check your answers. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 5 minutes to finish the portion. As you improve on the SAT, you’ll be able to do this more easily since you’ll be able to answer each question in less time.
I always finished each portion of the SAT with 5-10 minutes to spare. Any questions that I felt I needed to revisit and double-check would be marked. I had enough time to double-check all of my replies.
The questions that eat up the most time are the ones that you get stuck on. It’s quite easy to become engrossed in a question for five minutes, upset that the SAT is deducting a point from your score. This is a temptation to avoid. If you’ve spent 30 seconds on a question and can’t see how you’ll get to the solution, circle it and move on. You’ll have time to return to it at the end. You should focus on the other questions for the time being.
How can you efficiently double-check? It varies depending on the section. In math, you should try to re-solve the problem in a different approach as rapidly as possible. You’ll be allowed to re-enter the answer to some questions. Others will simply require you to double-check the steps you took the first time.
In writing, double-check that the sentence contains the error you believe it has. Make sure you aren’t missing anything in the question when selecting No Error answer options.
When it comes to reading, make sure there isn’t another option that is better than the one you choose. Make sure you throw out four incorrect responses when answering passage questions. Put the words back into the blanks in sentence completion questions to make sure they fit exactly.
As you improve on the test, you’ll have more time remaining. Make sure you have at least 5 minutes remaining after each part to double-check your answers.
Even if you’re stumped on a question, be calm during the test.
Step 8: During the test, don’t get caught up in your own thoughts.
If you’re aiming for a flawless 1600, you’ll be under a lot of pressure during the exam. You’re well aware of the limited margin for error.
This means that it’s easy to stress yourself out if you’re having problems with a question. “No way! I’m having a hard time with this arithmetic problem. If I don’t get this correctly, I’ll lose my 800 in math!” This will make you nervous, which will make you less likely to respond to the question, which will make you even more apprehensive, and so on. This vicious spiral has the potential to drag you down for the rest of the exam.
During the test, it’s critical to maintain mental control. You, like a professional athlete or performer, must be confident in your abilities. You’ve already put in a lot of effort and learned the majority of what the College Board has to offer. You don’t want to mess up any more of the test right now.
So it’s just one question that you’re hesitant about, and it has no bearing on your overall performance. Try your hardest and clear your mind before moving on.
Is it Possible for All of This to Work?
These are the concepts that I employed to excel in academics, as I can attest from personal experience. You’ll do fantastic in your classes and in college if you follow these rules. I’d be hard-pressed to find a single high-achieving student who doesn’t agree with the advise given above.
If you’re not aiming for 1600, this advice still applies. You can utilize these strategies to boost your learning from 1200 to 1500.
- The Official SAT Study Guide PDF
- Download Complete Official SAT Practice Tests
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