Practice is the key to SAT mastery. No matter what preparatory course you take, what tutor you hire, or what study guides you purchase, all of your resources are for naught if you don’t devote significant time and effort towards practice exams.

Knocking out a healthy load of practice tests is particularly important for standardized exams. Why? Because standardization means that the test makers (a.k.a. the College Board) are bound by an obligatory adherence to consistency. As such, from year to year, while the precise questions vary, the core subjects and concepts are constant. Moreover, the style of questions is uniform. Translation: the more questions you see, the fewer curve balls can be hurled your way. With enough practice, you can familiarize yourself with the majority of possible question types, which will (1) improve your test taking abilities and (2) bolster your confidence come test day.

Another reason why practice tests are so important is that they are excellent learning tools. It’s one thing to know a concept, but it’s another thing entirely to put that concept into use. The more practice you get, the more comfortable you will be with the material. Additionally, if you are diligent with your post-practice test review of missed questions, you can effectively fill in knowledge gaps in a very targeted and efficient manner.

Point made: practice tests are extremely important. But how many should you take? What is the magic number to achieve SAT stardom?

Stop. Hold up. Before you read any further, recognize that results can vary wildly depending on education level, familiarity with the tested concepts, and overall test taking abilities. There might be some standardized test wunderkinds who can nail down stellar scores with little to no practice. Alternatively, some students may need to rack up a hefty number of practice tests before their scores begin to climb. So, this is a highly nuanced question. But if I were pressed to give general advice without a proper consultation or additional information, I would err on the side of excess. Basically, I would suggest taking as many as humanly possible.

Now, if you insist on pinning me down for a precise number, here it is: 15. That’s right, 15 practices tests is my minimum number. I took 15 practice SATs when I was a high school student, and if you plan right, you can do it too. And I didn’t take 15 tests while watching TV and eating ice cream. Nope. Instead, I replicated exam center conditions each and every time I sat down to take a test. Plus, I graded each one promptly and read through the answer explanations for all of my missed questions.

I’ve read a number of test prep sites that recommend taking four or five practice SATs during the course of preparation.  If you are sincerely shooting for excellence, this simply will not do you justice.  The reason why 15 is such a powerful and practical number is because it is around this point where you truly hit your stride.  I can’t precisely explain why, I can only tell you that I’ve witnessed it over and over again.  The tipping point generally occurs for students somewhere around the ninth or tenth test.  It is at this mark of progress that students begin to feel at ease with the test format.  After this point is reached, the remaining tests firm up any lingering weak spots and forge a stable and confident mindset.  It simply works.

If you have additional time to prepare for the SAT, I would push for even more practice tests. Say, for example, that you’re studying over the summer. In that case, I recommend squeezing in 25-30 exams. That’s approximately one every three days.

If you want to practice like a champion but don’t know where to locate the practice tests, there is an abundance of resources that can provide you with the requisite material. Below are four study guides that contain high quality practice SATs.

  1.  The Official SAT Study Guide – this book comes with an overview of each subject along with 10 full-length practice tests. These are the best tests you will find because they are authentic SAT exams.
  2.  Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide – this guide has five full-length tests along with strategies and key vocabulary words.
  3.  11 Practice Tests For The SAT – this book has a lot of practice problems that are really good representations of what you will find on the real test. It actually only contains 10 SATs (as one of the 11 practice tests is a PSAT).
  4.  Barron’s SAT – this book comes packed with a high quality diagnostic plus five full-length SATs.