How to Study for the SAT with a Busy Schedule

Last Updated on May 10, 2024

The SAT is an exam taken by high school students across the globe. Although some colleges have gone test-optional, the SAT is generally needed for college admission. Because most high school students taking the SAT have demanding schedules, I often find myself answering the question of how to study for the SAT effectively with a busy schedule. This article will provide some tips on how to be efficient when studying for the SAT, so that you will be ready on exam day.

Here are the topics we’ll cover:

Let’s first discuss how it’s important to make SAT studying a main priority.

Tip #1: Make SAT Studying a Priority

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we’re all busy! Nevertheless, success on the SAT requires putting in a decent number of study hours. To put in those study hours, SAT studying must be a priority. Even if you can study for just 30 minutes on some days, as long as you don’t have enormous gaps between study sessions, you’ll always be moving forward.

Also, if it will help get you organized, create a study calendar. When considering when to study, map out your school schedule, extracurricular activities, and other commitments. Then, on your busy days, you can fit in some SAT studying during a free period instead of before or after school. The overall point is to try to fit in SAT studying every day, but ensure that you make a flexible study schedule that will work for you!

TTP PRO TIP:

Study for the SAT daily, and create a study schedule to help you meet that goal.

Tip #2: Be Realistic About Your SAT Timeline

You’ll be starting off on the right foot by being realistic about how much time to prepare for your SAT you need. Remember, unrealistic expectations will make your preparation feel rushed, leading to anxiety. Ideally, you want to be done with the exam well before your college applications are due.

I know that you have enough in your life to worry about. I don’t want the SAT added to the list. So, give yourself the time you need to study for the SAT, and the entire prep process will be smooth and stress-free. You may want to check out our article about how long to study for the SAT.

TTP PRO TIP:

Give yourself ample time to study for the SAT.

Tip #3: Create a Study Schedule That Works for You

High school students have a variety of demands on their daily schedules. For example, some students play sports, others volunteer at church or community events, and others may have part-time jobs. All of these activities lend themselves to varying schedules. So, when it comes to an SAT study schedule, you must come up with something that works for you.

Specifically, the schedule should lay out the hours you need to study each day. For example, do you have the motivation and drive to wake up early before school and fit in an hour of SAT prep? Or do you have some time immediately following your school day before beginning an extracurricular activity? Or are your weekends open, allowing you to do most of your studying then?

Let’s look at what a sample weekly study schedule could look like:

Monday: 1 hour of studying from 4 to 5 p.m.

Tuesday: 45 minutes of studying during a free period

Wednesday: 1 hour of studying from 4 to 5 p.m.

Thursday: 45 minutes of studying during a free period

Friday: 30 minutes of studying from 6 to 6:30 a.m.

Saturday: 1.5 hours of studying from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Sunday: 1 hour of studying from 8 to 9 p.m.

Above is just one example of a study schedule, but as you can see, SAT studying occurs at various times throughout the week. The key is making a study schedule that fits your lifestyle, so you can find the time to get in your SAT prep.

TTP PRO TIP:

Create an SAT study schedule that works for you!

Tip #4: Break Up Your Study Sessions If Necessary

A common theme in this blog is that you are busy! So, it may be beneficial in certain circumstances to break up your studying into shorter, more manageable study sessions. A benefit of shorter sessions is that they will help you keep your focus and also prevent you from burning out. So, if you have just 20 to 30 minutes to study, do all you can in that time frame, and then return to your SAT materials later in the day. This type of studying will still help you improve your SAT score.

TTP PRO TIP:

Break up your study sessions into smaller chunks when necessary.

Tip #5: Use Weekends for Longer SAT Study Sessions

Although we briefly showed how the weekend could fit into your SAT study schedule, I recommend doing longer study sessions on Saturday and Sunday if you have the time. For example, if there are certain weekend days when you do not have any set activities, why not put in 2 hours of SAT studying? Yes, I realize that there are many other things you’d rather be doing, but remember, the more you study now, the sooner you’ll get to your SAT score goal.

The weekends are also great because you likely will have a much clearer head, with little school-related stress, allowing you to focus on your SAT prep.

TTP PRO TIP:

If possible, try to fit in at least one longer SAT session on Saturday or Sunday.

Use Weekends to Take SAT Practice Tests

While you won’t have to worry about this initially, you’ll begin taking the official College Board SAT practice exams after getting through the “learning phase” of your SAT prep. Since those exams will be mentally taxing and take a decent number of hours, take them on a weekend when you have the time to complete them in just one sitting. That way, you can get the most accurate score possible, and thus know where you stand. Additionally, use the extra weekend time to review your incorrect and correct answers from each practice test.

TTP PRO TIP:

Use the weekends to take SAT practice exams.

Tip #6: Study on the Way to School

If you are driven to school or take the bus, use that time wisely. Pull out your SAT flashcards, or use a flashcard app, to get some studying in. Remember, you can use flashcards for both the reading and writing and math sections. Or even better, if you are using an SAT online course, you can log in and get through a few practice questions or review your error log.

Of course, if you are driving yourself, then do not try to look at flashcards or work on the TTP app!! The good news, though, is that there is still something you can do. Take the flashcards you’ve made and turn them into audio flashcards.

For example, recording yourself, you could say “quadratic formula,” then pause for 10 seconds, and then recite the quadratic formula. Audio flashcards are perfect for when you’re driving, walking, or doing chores.

TTP PRO TIP:

If possible, put in some study time on the way to school.

Tip #7: Study During Your Free Periods

Depending on your schedule, free periods are a great time to put in some SAT studying. I’m sure you usually spend some of that time hanging out with your friends, but if you can use that time for your SAT prep rather than for social endeavors, you will more efficiently get to the finish line. However, studying during this time will take some discipline. You will likely need to go to the library by yourself and remove distractions. If you can do that with as many free periods as possible, you will put a nice dent in your SAT studying.

TTP PRO TIP:

Study for the SAT during your free periods.

Tip #8: Work with a Study Partner or Study Group

Since you have such a busy schedule, you must maintain high motivation to study for the SAT. This is important because you don’t want any hours or days going to waste because you “just don’t feel like studying.”

Thus, if you are working with a study partner or are in a study group, you are more likely to stay on track with your study schedule and make steady progress in your preparation. It can be easy to become distracted or procrastinate when studying alone, but having someone to hold you accountable can help you stay motivated and focused.

Beyond focus and motivation, having a study partner (or multiple partners) can make the process more enjoyable. Studying can be lonely and tedious, but having someone to work with can make the experience more enjoyable and less stressful. In addition, you can motivate each other, share tips, and even provide emotional support. That way, you will hopefully keep working hard until test day.

TTP PRO TIP:

Work with a study partner or join a study group to keep you motivated and on task.

Tip #9: Dial Down Non-Essential Activities

I’m sorry to say that SAT studying will take a decent amount of time, from beginning to end. So, to find the time to keep up with consistent SAT studying, you likely will need to temporarily reduce the number of “non-essential” activities in your life.


To do this, list everything you do that fills your time during the week. Then order those items from least essential to most important. Once you have your list, eliminate the least important activities from your schedule. Doing so will give you more time for SAT preparation!

TTP PRO TIP:

Temporarily eliminate any non-essential activities in your schedule.

Tip #10: Prepare with Organized and Effective Prep Materials

While we have discussed some impactful tips above, you may struggle to prepare effectively for the SAT if you do not have great prep materials. While some students grab the latest SAT prep book, I recommend finding a course that provides a thorough and organized SAT study plan, so you do not need to guess what you should do each time you study. If you are wondering what is available, do a quick Google search, or better yet, check out the Target Test Prep SAT Course.

TTP PRO TIP:

Use SAT prep materials with a detailed study plan.

Lastly, let’s discuss a common issue: how to balance SAT studying and homework.

How to Balance SAT Prep and Homework

So, we have mentioned that you cannot just stop your regular academic or extracurricular activities when preparing for the SAT. After all, you can’t let your high school GPA fall just because you are studying for the SAT. Thus, you need to find the proper balance between keeping up with your homework and SAT studying. This is where your study schedule will come into play.

Each day, you need to have your homework and SAT prep schedules carefully mapped out. For example, you may prefer to get your SAT studying done in the morning or during your free periods, and then do your homework in the evenings. Whatever the schedule is, make sure that you plan it out, so you know when you’ll be studying for the SAT and when you’ll be doing your homework.

TTP PRO TIP:

Have a schedule detailing when you will study for the SAT and when you will do your homework.

In Summary

In this article, we have offered a variety of tips for effectively preparing for the SAT when you have a busy life. Here they are:

  1. Make SAT studying a priority.
  2. Be realistic about your SAT timeline.
  3. Create a study schedule that works for you.
  4. Break up your study sessions if necessary.
  5. Use weekends for longer study sessions and SAT practice tests.
  6. Study on the way to school.
  7. Study during your free periods.
  8. Work with a study partner or study group.
  9. Dial down non-essential activities.
  10. Prepare with organized and effective prep materials.

Following these tips will give you a definite boost in your SAT preparation, making it more efficient and successful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Do I Make a Study Schedule for the SAT?

On the macro level, a good online course will help you create a study schedule for the topics that are tested on the SAT. On the micro level, it is essential for you to schedule each study session. Use a calendar to schedule each session and to keep yourself accountable.

Is Studying for the SAT Daily Good?

In a perfect world, daily SAT study is the ultimate goal! However, there may be other demands on your time that keep you from studying on some days. While this situation is not optimal, if you are following a good study schedule and keeping a realistic study calendar, you can miss a day of studying here or there without disrupting your entire SAT study plan.

How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice for the SAT?

There is no single correct answer to this question. Your unique situation must dictate the amount of time you commit to studying. Just make sure that your study schedule is realistic so that you can stick to it and finish your studying in time for your SAT test day.

How Do I Force Myself to Study for the SAT?

Hold yourself accountable for your SAT studying by making a realistic study schedule/calendar and making a commitment to abide by it.

What Is the Most Effective Way to Study for the SAT?

Concentrate on studying one topic at a time. All good online SAT prep courses provide a plan focused on studying one topic until you achieve mastery.

What’s Next?

When you have a life with competing priorities, preparing for the Scholastic Aptitude Test can be incredibly stressful. It might be easy to lose sight of the end goal, and your motivation might wane along the way. To keep your eyes on the prize, read this article about staying motivated during your SAT prep.

Good luck!

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