This is the first in our SAT Myth Busting series, where we’ll debunk pernicious legends of SAT prep that are leading unsuspecting students astray. (By the way, pernicious is an SAT vocab word)
Myth #1: you need to take full-length practice tests to prep for the SAT
Other test prep companies tout full-length practice tests as key components of their test prep packages. When you’re preparing for the SAT, the conventional wisdom goes, you need to stimulate the conditions of the real test as much as possible. If you’re an anxious student, practice tests might seem like a good way to make the SAT seem a little less scary. And if you’re the parent of one, practice tests seem like the only barometer of whether the money you’re spending on test prep is actually getting results.
Well, Edupath is here to tell you that practice tests are a waste of everyone’s time (well, everyone except for the test prep companies that use them to make money off of test-takers and their parents). We don’t offer full-length practice tests, and we don’t recommend that you take them, except for in certain limited circumstances.
We think taking the SAT is like running a marathon; that’s why we call our program “training” and not “prepping” or “studying.” Any runner will tell you that running a marathon breaks you down. It’s a colossal undertaking of adrenaline and endurance that leaves you weak, exhausted, and more susceptible to cold and flu. That’s why most runners training for marathons never run the full 26.2 miles until race day. Instead, they do shorter sessions of high-quality, specific training, like tempo runs, intervals, and fartleks (don’t laugh—that’s really a thing!).
Only a foolish runner would train for a marathon by doing a bunch of marathon-length runs before race day. But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you take multiple practice tests before the SAT. It doesn’t help you build key skills, and worse, it breaks you down.
That said, practice tests are good for two things:
1. Assessment: taking a practice test is a good way to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are to help focus your studying. But if you’ve taken the PSAT, you already have this information, and probably don’t need to take another practice test.
2. Endurance: Sure, you need endurance to get through a 3+ hour test. But when you’re working on endurance, you’re not building any of the concept area muscle you’ll need to really succeed on test day. And again, if you’ve taken a PSAT, you have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to stay focused on a test for a long period of time. If you have a particularly hard time staying focused, you might want to take one practice test, but don’t overdo it!
A final word for parents: with Edupath’s Parent Dashboard, you don’t need practice tests to make sure your test prep investment is paying off in score increases. It’s the only feature in the industry that lets you see your teen’s score improvement in real time.