How to Motivate Yourself to Study for the SAT

Last Updated on April 20, 2023

For better or worse, your SAT score will probably greatly impact your college admissions. The higher your SAT score, the more options you will likely have available when applying to schools. However, even though a high SAT test score can help you land admission to your dream school, it’s possible that you will lose interest in studying and lose sight of the broader picture.

So, if you’re wondering how to motivate yourself to study for the SAT, look no further! This article will present several techniques to help you stay motivated throughout your test prep.

How to Motivate Yourself to Study for the SAT

Here are the topics we’ll cover:

To start, let’s discuss the importance of enjoying what you’re doing.

Enjoy What You’re Doing

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to enjoy what you’re doing, whether it’s doing schoolwork, playing a sport, or, yes, even studying for your SAT! On the flip side, working hard and reaching your ultimate goal becomes nearly impossible when you take no pleasure in what you’re doing.

If you’re having trouble finding enjoyment in what you are doing, remember that the skills you gain in preparing for the SAT will be useful in everyday life, high school classes, and even (eventually) college classes. So, rather than looking at SAT preparation as a chore, consider it a chance to advance your talents and abilities. You can’t be a star athlete without drills and workouts; perfecting them is what makes for your outstanding performance on the field or court. The same thing goes for SAT preparation!


One of the most effective ways to be motivated is to enjoy what you’re doing.

Recognize the Importance of SAT Skills

Your SAT skills transcend the exam. Without a doubt, these skills will help you in school, work, and beyond. For example, performing well on the Reading section indicates that you can read a variety of information-dense passages, make sense out of them, and answer in-depth questions about what you’ve read. These skills will reward you nearly every day of your life, in college and beyond.

A solid score in the Writing and Language section is invaluable, too. Think about it: today, nearly every work activity involves writing. Emails, texts, reports, blogs, chats — the list is endless. Imagine how impactful and impressive your writing will be when you are an ultra-confident writer who is able to easily communicate even complex ideas.

There are also numerous advantages to improving your SAT math score. Your math proficiency enhances your data-driven decision-making abilities, which are essential in both your professional and your everyday life. A universe of opportunities can become available to you if your math abilities are great. So why not embrace and relish the SAT preparation process?

A universe of opportunities can become available to you if your math abilities are great.

Invest in Yourself

You are investing in yourself when you study for the SAT. You are making an investment in your knowledge, skills, and abilities. The time and effort spent are, above all else, an investment in your future.

We’ve already talked about how preparing for the SAT will improve your reading, writing, and math skills. However, getting a high SAT score is primarily intended to help you get into your chosen college. And getting into your chosen college can facilitate your finding a fantastic job and ultimately increase your earning potential over the course of your career.


Students who invest time and energy into getting great SAT scores are investing in themselves and their futures.

Don’t Listen to the Naysayers

You may know someone who has said, “I spent like 5 hours studying for the SAT and I got a 1520.” Yes, there are a few people who might truthfully have no need to study and who still get amazing SAT scores.

But it is far more likely that these people studied every day for months and don’t want to admit it. They want everyone to think that they are just naturally smart and that the SAT was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. They want you to think that they didn’t have to put in any real effort to score well. As a result, you might think that working hard isn’t necessary, or worse, that “what you score is what you score,” and so studying won’t make much difference.

You also may have heard people saying, “Don’t even bother taking the SAT. Many colleges don’t require it anymore.” While it’s true that many schools are test optional, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Say that both you and another applicant have similar GPAs, but you have a 1420 SAT score and the other person didn’t bother to take the SAT. Who do you think the college will choose for admission, or for an academic scholarship?

It’s critically important that you keep your perspective and not let others sway you. You know your abilities, your skills, your commitment level, and your goals. Don’t let others affect how motivated to study you are. You are forging your own path. Don’t let others derail you or drag you down with them.


Don’t let “negative Nancys” get in the way of your SAT preparation.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the psychological aspects of staying motivated, let’s discuss some practical strategies for increasing your level of motivation.

Practical Strategies to Increase Motivation

To help yourself stay motivated, you can put the following simple strategies into practice as soon as you begin your SAT prep.

1) Use Proper Study Materials

I can’t tell you how many students have come to Target Test Prep practically ready to give up on the SAT. Here is a typical scenario:

A student sets a target SAT score of 1500 in the hopes of attending a top university. He then jumps into a few SAT prep books and begins going through tons of practice problems. He watches video solutions of the questions he can’t figure out. He takes practice test after practice test, but he sees very little improvement in his score over a two-month period.

Although this student may be puzzled by his lack of improvement, it’s pretty clear what is happening here. Because he doesn’t have a real study plan, he has not been able to master the skills necessary to perform well on the SAT. Here’s the thing: this issue doesn’t just apply to SAT prep but to everything you do in life!

So, when preparing for the SAT, make sure you have study resources that will give you a clear road map outlining where you are and where you need to go. For instance, the TTP course is divided into missions with detailed instructions on what must be done and in what order. With such a study plan, our students can maintain a high level of motivation because they know they are always moving toward their target scores.


Following a detailed and structured study plan when preparing for the SAT will help you stay organized and motivated.

2) Join a Study Group or Be Active on SAT Forums

One of the great things about studying for the SAT is that most of your peers are studying for the exam while you are. Take advantage of that! Rather than climbing the SAT mountain all on your own, which may lead to isolation and demotivation, study with your friends and peers on occasion.

Lean on others to help keep you motivated and on track. Consider starting a study group with other SAT students in your school. If you prefer to work with people virtually, try forming a discord group with other SAT students. In either scenario, working with other SAT students will certainly keep you motivated and on track to reach your SAT score goal.


SAT students who interact with each other in person or online generally help keep each other motivated.

3) Create a Study Schedule and Reward Yourself for Sticking to It

I usually advise SAT students to study between 7 and 10 hours weekly. While finding an extra 10 hours may appear easy to do, between all the school, family, and extracurricular activities you have, I bet it’s not really that easy. So, I propose creating a study schedule that will allow you to see when you can study and to hold yourself accountable for putting in the study hours.

Additionally, you need to reward yourself for consistent studying. For example, give yourself a cheat day once in a while, when you skip studying in favor of doing something relaxing and fun. Go to the movies, hang out with friends, get dinner at your favorite restaurant. Take a break from your SAT prep to clear your head and reset.


Build in an occasional “cheat day” into your study schedule. Do something that will allow you to relax and reset.

Now, let’s discuss how anxiety can affect your SAT motivation.

Anxiety Can Be a Big Source of Low Motivation

Anxiety is an obstacle that many SAT students face.

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you know how paralyzing it can be. Your drive to study will suffer if anxiety starts to creep into your SAT preparation. So, let’s talk about two of the most typical SAT-related anxiety triggers and how to deal with them.

1) You Haven’t Given Yourself Enough Test Prep Time

I can’t tell you how frequently I talk to SAT students who need to raise their scores by 150+ points in just one month of prep. For most SAT students, this is a losing battle. Regardless of the low odds of getting such a score increase in such a small amount of time, students continue to try, and in doing so, they become quite anxious. That anxiety turns into fear and keeps them from making any real progress.

If you’re in this situation, the best solution is to consider a later SAT date. Give yourself more time to study, and you’ll limit the anxiety that comes with your preparation.


If you need a significant SAT score increase, consider a later SAT date to give yourself ample time to prepare.

2) You Expect Overnight Success

One myth about SAT prep is that you can easily score 1400+ on test day by studying hard for a few weeks. Well, I have some sobering news: for most SAT students, this trajectory is impossible.

So, if you are new to the SAT, don’t expect to raise your SAT score by 200 points in just two weeks. If you have those types of expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Approach your SAT preparation methodically and gradually, instead of rushing the process. In other words, give yourself the time you need to succeed!


“Overnight success” is impossible for most SAT students, so don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic expectations.

Now, let’s discuss a few other key points to keep in mind in order to stay motivated to study when preparing for the SAT.

Don’t Burn Yourself Out

By now, you know that your SAT prep has to take priority in your everyday life. That said, you also have to avoid burnout.

Of course, all SAT students want to finish their prep “yesterday.” However, studying for eight hours a day, seven days a week, is not the best strategy. Keep in mind that maintaining the human brain is taxing on the body. There is a reason why three hours of SAT preparation will exhaust you more than eight hours of binge-watching your favorite show.

In a vacuum, could you study for eight hours a day and be OK? I suppose you could, but we are not in a vacuum! You’re also balancing other taxing tasks such as school, sports, job, family, and extracurricular activities. So, try studying in one-hour segments rather than doing marathon study sessions.


Study in one-hour segments instead of multi-hour marathon study sessions.

Discipline Trumps Motivation

Undoubtedly, there will be days when you simply don’t want to study. But if you have self-discipline, you won’t skip your SAT preparation even on a “bad day.” In other words, discipline takes precedence over motivation.

Every SAT student experiences difficult days when studying for the SAT is the last thing they want to do. They might ask themselves, “Does one day off really matter?” You must remind yourself that one day does matter. Even if studying is the last thing you want to do, force yourself to do it. I promise that your future self will thank you for having had such discipline.


If your motivation is waning, let your disciplined self drive you to keep making progress.

Visualize Your Success

One last lever you can pull to remain motivated is to visualize your success. Think about how it will feel to enter the testing room totally confident and ready to answer any question that gets thrown your way. Then think about what will have put you in that position: your hard work, discipline, and long study hours.

Ultimately, getting the SAT score of your dreams will be a big piece of your future success. So, imagine that success, and let’s get it done!

In Conclusion

Motivation is often the difference between mediocrity and greatness. Motivation doesn’t come immediately or naturally to many of us, but we can follow these guidelines to give us the impetus to do our very best:

  • Enjoy what you’re doing.
  • Recognize the importance of SAT skills.
  • Invest in yourself.
  • Don’t listen to the naysayers.
  • Use proper study materials.
  • Join a study group or be active on SAT forums.
  • Create a study schedule and reward yourself for sticking to it.
  • Give yourself sufficient prep time.
  • Don’t expect overnight success.
  • Don’t burn yourself out.
  • Discipline trumps motivation.
  • Visualize your success.

If you can follow these suggestions to stay motivated to study, the prize — a high SAT score, with all the benefits attached to it — will be just a few months away!

Motivation is often the difference between mediocrity and greatness.

What’s Next?

Now that you’re ready to score a knockout with your SAT performance, take a look at this blog about starting your SAT studying

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