SAT Tips from Student Who Aced the SAT

Posted on 25th February 2011 in Tampa SAT Preparation

Question and answer interview with Jacobi Vaughn, senior at Sault Area High School:

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Why did you take the SAT? What colleges are you applying for?

I took the SAT for my college application to Florida State and MIT. I originally took it in eighth grade as part of a gifted program and last year I wondered how much better I could do. Last year I also took the ACT (required in Michigan) and my scores on each were about the same.

How did you prepare for the SAT? Did you use a manual? Which one? Did you find the manual you used helpful?

I prepared for the SAT using the website Sparknotes. It has a great section of review information and practice tests for all portions of the test. It was immensely helpful for the SAT I and the two SAT II’s (Physics and Math 2) that I took.

Did you take a SAT prep course? If not, would you had taken one had you known it is available online?

I did not take a SAT prep course but one over the Internet would be of interest. I imagine that it would be useful as long as it wasn’t additionally stressful; junior year is already rather taxing for most people.

How did you prepare for the SAT the night before?

The night before the SAT I thought about cram studying but by then I realized that it would be pointless. I spent the evening having fun with my dogs and a little gaming and went to bed early.

How did you approach the actual questions? In other words, what test taking strategies did you use?

The main strategy I used was to read through the questions and gauge the approximate amount of time that it would take you to solve it (more useful on the math portions of course). For problems that would be quick (or even in-your-head calculations) I would do them and come back to the longer problems later. This assumes that the time, which is constraining but not impossible, isn’t an issue for you as it wasn’t for me (I’ve always been a fast test taker). On the essay, be sure to spend a few minutes planning and to write for the entire time (i.e., don’t finish early).

What subjects in school are particularly important to doing well on the SAT?

Math and English are the most obvious courses which would be useful with the SAT, but certain easier electives are also important as they relieve stress.

Experts say that learning vocabulary is an important prerequisite to prepare for the test. Having taking the SAT, do you agree? Explain.

Vocabulary is an important part of the reading portion of the SAT, but if you are an avid reader it shouldn’t be an issue. If you are not, you may want to consider a study-book or course for vocabulary or the SAT in general.

What section of the SAT seemed the hardest?

The hardest part of the SAT was the essay. Twenty five minutes is nowhere near enough time to compose an essay on anything. This is also the first section, so I would recommend trying your best but not expecting it to be perfect.

If you were take the SAT again, what would you do differently?

I would have brought food during the breaks. The test is rather long, and I was famished by the time it ended.

In thirty words, or less, what advice would you give students who are preparing to take the SAT?

You know that you are amazing, so show it to the world. Study, sleep, eat, but above all, don’t panic.

Jacobi Vaughn is a senior at Sault Area High School, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He is second in his class academically (he got an A- in art, or he’d be tied for first!). He plans to attend the University of Michigan next year and major in physics. His hobbies include reading, writing, video games, and philosophical debates.

Although Jocobi aced the SAT without tutoring, students interested in maximizing their scores should consider private SAT tutoring . Eric Anderson tutors the English and reading portions of the SAT for students in New Tampa, Odessa, Carrollwood, and Wesley Chapel, Florida. Contact him at 813.787.8959.

SAT Manual page showing critical reading passage and questions image

Tampa SAT Tutor’s Guide to Preparing for the SAT

Posted on 9th February 2011 in Tampa SAT Preparation

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” John Wooden, Hall of Fame basketball player and coach.

The SAT is a test used by colleges to help in the admission process. A high score is important not only to get into a school of your choice, but to be considered for a multitude of scholarships available to students.  Most students who score low on the SAT probably do so, not because of a lack of ability or “smarts,” but because they failed to prepare properly.

SAT Preparation: The Earlier the Better

Start preparations for the test early; don’t wait until the night before, or even a year before, according to Megan Dorsey, owner of and instructor at College Prep, LCC ( She says SAT test preparation should actually begin in middle school with learning vocabulary.

“Fifty percent of the test is based on vocabulary,” said Dorsey, who teaches SAT preparation classes in Sugarland, Texas and also online.

Dorsey said students should take their English classes seriously and not just learn the words for the “Friday test.” She suggests learning the vocabulary words “bit by bit,” rather than trying to cram later on, which isn’t effective.

SAT Manual page showing critical reading passage and questions image

A good manual is a must. The College Board and many other SAT prep companies produce good ones. Image created by Thant Zin Myint and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. See more of Thant's photos at

The College Board SAT Manual’s a Must

To study effectively for the test, you’ll need to pick up a copy of The Official SAT Study Guide: For the New SAT (2nd edition). This definitive guide on the SAT contains some questions used on previous SATs, which will give students a realistic take on what to expect on test day.

Take a SAT Prep Course?

An SAT test preparation course will offer prospective college students with a structured environment to prepare for the test. To find reputable courses, talk to your friends, a high school counselor, or your older cousin who has taken the test. What’s important, says Dorsey, is to find an instructor who is not only an expert on the SAT, but can impart the knowledge in such a way so the student can learn it.

Ultimately, says Dorsey, it’s the effort the student puts forth into prepping for the SAT. She compared a SAT prep course with getting a gym membership. You can have all the fancy training equipment, but it takes individual effort to get fit.

It’s Game Day!

Here are some tips for taking the test when that big day arrives:

  • Know where you’re to report and arrive early (thank God for OnStar, if you’ve got it!). There is nothing harder on the nerves than getting lost on your way to the SAT testing site or important college admission interview.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Cramming the night before like you do in high school won’t cut it with the SAT, and will probably be more to your detriment. Eat a good breakfast!
  • Know the instructions for each section of the SAT before hand. Answer the easy questions first. Place a question mark next to a question you think you know the answer to; return to it later if you have time.
  • Have a guessing strategy based upon the SAT’s design. You’ll be penalized for a wrong answer. “The SAT has a quarter-point penalty for each wrong answer, so a guess only pays off if you can eliminate one of the five answers. With four answers left, three are wrong and one is correct. If your guess is random, you will, on average, get three wrong and one right. You will lose .25 times three=0.75 points for each point that you gain. That’s not great, but it will raise your score,” said Tampa SAT Critical Reading and Writing Tutor Eric Anderson.  “Always guess if you can eliminate two or more answers,” said Anderson, the owner of, a private tutoring company that gives one-on-one SAT help to students in New Tampa, Odessa, and Temple Terrace, Florida.

Although a good score on the SAT is important, don’t neglect your classes to study for the SAT. Dorsey says colleges pay more attention to student grades than anything else. Your GPA is one thing you can’t change later on. In other words, the SAT is simply another tool to assist in the college admissions process.