Is The Real SAT Harder Than The College Board SAT Practice Tests?

Matt Larriva
Aug 07, 2022
Home » Blog » Is The Real SAT Harder Than The College Board SAT Practice Tests?

You want to know if you’re scoring 1400 on college board SAT practice tests, will you score 1400, 1300, or 1500 on the real SAT test.

Short answer:

You’ll do worse on the real SAT than on an SAT practice test.

Will you score 10x worse? Absolutely not.

You’ll probably do about 7% worse: your 1400 will come in around 1300.

Get SAT prep off your to-do list: Discover How Top Students Like You Get Killer SAT Scores

Two Reasons Students Score Higher On The College Board SAT Practice Tests

“They must be cheating…”

“The practice tests must be easier in content…”

“They must want you to fail…”

No. These are lazy reasons that we see all too often. Students love to get to the real SAT test and blame weak practice tests or a sneaky College Board for the gap in scores.

This is completely errant. It’s tempting logic because it is simple, and it takes the blame away from the test taker, but it’s not accurate.

In reality, there are two primary reasons for the score-to-score disparity between the practice tests and SAT test performance.

  • SAT practice tests aren’t taken in realistic settings
  • Students revert to old habits when they’re stressed

RELATED READING: What’s better, a 35 ACT Score or a 1550 SAT Score?

1. College Board SAT Practice Tests Aren’t Taken In Realistic Settings

student taking SAT practice test
Take your SAT practice tests in a realistic setting.

As I said, students do not take practice tests in realistic settings.

On one end of the extreme, students will take practice tests with many long breaks between sections, in the late morning after a night of good sleep, in the comfort and quiet of their home, where food and drink are plentiful, the bathrooms are close and clean, and ambient stress and noise is negligible.

On the other hand, the actual SAT is proctored at 8 AM in a strange classroom where you’re surrounded by strangers. You can’t have a coffee on your desk and you need to ask to use the restroom which is god-knows-where.

As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge…

The guy next to you is breathing heavily and the person in front of you mumbles when she reads.

You can’t quite see the clock, but it’s analog anyway. The SAT Proctor started the time somewhere between 8:52 and 8:55—35 minutes plus 8:55 is something like 9:30, you think. That means you’ve been going for 5 minutes so you maybe have 25 minutes left, but you can’t really focus on that.

If you can master your method application and you’re practicing in test-like environments, then the actual SAT test should feel very natural to you.

Why? Because it’s so cold and the light above you is flickering. You’re pretty hungry because your sugar levels just crashed, and you can’t have a snack till the first break which is when again?

So, you must take your practice tests in uncomfortable settings: think Starbucks (noisy, busy, distracting, uncertain bathroom situation) at 8 AM on a Saturday.

How To Take The SAT Practice Test The Better Way

RELATED READING: When to take the SAT: Ideal Timeline

Get SAT prep off your to-do list

The average student who studies for 8 hours will gain 90 points on the SAT. Power Play students gain 200 points in the same amount of time.

Get Your 200+ Score Increase Now ➡

Get SAT prep off your to-do list

power play sat test prep app preview

The average student who studies for 8 hours will gain 90 points on the SAT. Power Play students gain 200 points in the same amount of time.

Get Your 200+ Score Increase Now ➡

2. Students Revert To Old Habits When They’re Stressed

I’ve mentioned this paradigm multiple times but here are the basics:

The SAT math is not new math.

You’ve seen it before, in high school, and you learned a very methodical, long-handed way to come to a correct answer. What a good tutor teaches you is a better, more efficient, and less error-prone way to come to the same correct answer.

student stressed about SAT practice test
Don’t revert back to old habits when taking the SAT test.

Now the method the tutor gives you will be a little foreign to you. It’ll be like using the mouse with your opposite hand at first, and then with practice, it becomes completely natural.

When you get to the test you’ll have two methods:

  1. the old method
  2. and the new method

The new method still might be a little unfamiliar, so in the stress of the SAT test, you might revert back to the original method—the slower more error-prone one.

If this happens your score will go down from what it was when you took the College Board SAT practice tests, and you’ll be tempted to blame it on the actual SAT test instead.

Don’t be a victim of test stress

Remember, compared to the ACT, the SAT gives students 43% more time per question, so a few distractions shouldn’t derail your test-taking process.

Review the material before answering questions to prevent your brain from clearing your working memory with hormones meant to protect your brain from test stress. You’ll answer questions more easily and use your time effectively, especially if you’ve already practiced taking the SAT in uncomfortable settings.

If the idea of taking either the PSAT or SAT stresses you out, that’s fairly typical.

Research shows that 25-40% of students have test anxiety when faced with standard tests in their classrooms. Taking a major exam like the SAT only increases the pressure to get the best grade possible.

You may have chronic test-taking anxiety if you experience the following symptoms while thinking about or preparing for the SAT:

  • Your mood swings wildly
  • Your procrastination gets worse
  • You can’t sleep as well
  • You experience stomach aches closer to the test
  • You cry over small setbacks inside or outside of class

Working with your parents or teachers makes it easier to conquer test stress anxiety.

Identifying your triggers and practicing relaxation techniques will give you more control over your mindset when walking into the SAT. 

So the question stands – is the SAT hard? Yes, but with the right support and assistance, it’s not impossible to earn a top score.

Ace the SAT: It only takes 10 minutes a day with Power Play. Get Your 200+ Score Increase Now ➡

College Board Practice SAT Test FAQ

Set yourself up for SAT success

Read How Long Should I Study For The SAT for more SAT test prep tips and don’t sleep on our list of the top test prep books and study materials.

Happy studying!

Microlearning works: we’ve proven it.

The average student who studies for 8 hours will gain 90 points on the SAT. Power Play students gain 200 points in the same amount of time.

How it works:

  • Increases knowledge retention by up to 20%
  • Boosts confidence and reduces test-day anxiety
  • Maximizes engagement and daily improvement
  • Provides a healthier way to study than cramming

Microlearning works: we’ve proven it.

The average student who studies for 8 hours will gain 90 points on the SAT. Power Play students gain 200 points in the same amount of time.

How it works:

  • Increases knowledge retention by up to 20%
  • Boosts confidence and reduces test-day anxiety
  • Maximizes engagement and daily improvement
  • Provides a healthier way to study than cramming