The most important thing to remember when preparing for the SAT is that the test is designed to help colleges screen applicants. When you take a test in school, it’s generally in your teacher’s best interest for you to do well. Your success reflects on the effectiveness of the teacher’s skills, and on the school itself. But if everyone did well on the SAT, the test would be useless. In the same way, if no one did well, it would be equally useless. So the questions are written in such a way that they not only test your skills, but also your ability to think, to look at things from different perspectives, and to avoid falling into traps. This is where many people get tripped up — even students with exceptionally good grades. Your goal, obviously, is to get the highest score you can. That means you have to be one of those people who doesn’t get tripped up.
Sharpening your skills in reading, math, and writing is important. Developing test-taking strategies is also essential. But you have to do both. Focus on either one exclusively (skills without strategy or strategy without skills), and you’re headed for trouble on the SAT.
It’s like trying out for the baseball team. The coach is looking for players who can catch, hit, and run. But good baseball players also need to understand how the game works. Not just how to throw, but where. Not just how to steal a base, but when to steal — and when not to. Skills and strategies. Either one without the other, and you’re sitting in the stands.
As you prepare for the SAT, do as many practice tests as you can get your hands on. The best book is the College Board‘s Official SAT Study Guide, because it has real SATs. If you still need more help, check out these books, too.