The most important thing to remember about the SAT is that it doesn't measure intelligence. It can't possibly measure your future success in college. The SAT measures one thing, and one thing only: how good you are at taking the SAT.

That's good news! It means you don't have to be a genius to improve your score. You simply have to understand how the exam works.

Here are three SAT tips to help you be a smart test–taker:

Know the order of difficulty.

SAT questions can be divided into three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard. The questions in the first third of each section are easy, those in the second third are medium and those in the last third are hard. (The only exception is the Reading Comprehension passages, which do not follow this order.)

Every question on the SAT is worth an equal amount. So spend your time making sure you get the easy and medium questions correct and tackle the hard questions if time remains. Rushing through the test to get to the hardest questions will only drag your score down.

Look for wrong answers instead of right answers.

Don't know the right answer? It happens. But if you know which choices are definitely wrong, you will significantly improve your chances of getting the question right. This is called process of elimination.

Each question has five possible choices. Eliminate one or more possibilities, and your chances of guessing correctly are 25% or better. An incorrect guess will cost you only a quarter of a point. A correct guess will add an entire point.

Let's say there are 8 questions where you eliminate 1 choice and guess among the remaining 4 choices. Statistically, you will guess correctly 2 times and incorrectly 6 times. You are rewarded 2 points and penalized 1.5 points. You just earned .5 points from guessing. Congrats–you've improved your score!

Make the test booklet your own.

You paid for that test booklet, personalize it. Scratch work is extremely important on the SAT. Don't be embarrassed about it—writing in your test booklet will help you keep your mind on what you're doing.

  • Mark up geometry diagrams. Keeping track of your work directly on the page will help you avoid careless mistakes.
  • For sentence completion, you will need to come up with your own word or two to help you answer a question. Write it down! Trying to keep track of information in your head can lead to confusion and errors.
  • When you use process of elimination to eliminate a wrong answer, cross it out! Don't leave it there to confuse you if you have to choose between two remaining answer choices.
  • When you answer a question but aren't entirely confident in your choice, circle the question or put a big question mark next to it. That way, if you have time to go back at the end of the section, you can find the question easily and quickly.