SAT Prep and Khan Academy: They Won’t Tell You What You Need to Know

When the College Board overhauled the SAT in 2016, they did more than change the content and scoring: they also tried to make third-party prep and resources obsolete. In preparation for the new SAT, College Board announced a partnership with Khan Academy, a free educational resource company. With this partnership, students gain access to SAT-style practice exercises and instructional videos written by the SAT writers—all free of charge. Khan Academy for SAT prep is undoubtedly a valuable resource, but it does not replace SAT tutoring, and, for most students, will not produce the same results as third party prep targeted at helping you beat the test.

What Khan Academy for SAT does well…

Khan Academy for SAT is a valuable, though not all-sufficient, resource.

  • KA provides free practice exercises written by the test-makers.
    • This means that all questions are in proper test format and test the concepts that you need to know.
  • There’s a lot of practice on here. Unless you dedicate all of your time to working through it, you shouldn’t run out.
  • There are different levels of mastery, so you can see the question types with which you struggle and excel.
  • You can link your CB and KA accounts.
    • If you have taken the PSAT or SAT before, this pulls records of these tests into KA, adjusting your mastery levels accordingly.
  • It’s free.

…And why that’s not enough

Here’s the thing. The SAT tells you that you already have all the skills you need in order to ace the test. On one hand, sure, maybe you have covered all the content on this test in school before (though, in my experience, most students haven’t, or if they have, they don’t remember it all). But that’s not enough.

At their core, the thing that standardized tests tell you is how good you are at taking standardized tests. Taking the SAT is a skill separate from getting straight A’s in school. Just because you can do the latter well doesn’t mean you can naturally do the former well too.

Here’s what the SAT and Khan Academy won’t tell you:

  • They won’t teach you strategy.
  • They won’t explain how to approach the specific sections, passages, and question types.
  • They’ll tell you to approach questions in the “correct math class way,” not in the way that is easiest or best for you.
  • They’ll give you access to practice with all of the content that shows up on the test, but they won’t distinguish between how important all of it is.
    • Looking at KA, you’d think knowing how to work with the equation of a circle is just as important as knowing how to work with systems of equations. Spoiler alert: it’s not!
  • They won’t tell you how to put your calculator to its best use.
  • They can’t give you the hints and tricks that you only get from a thorough understanding of the way this test is written.
    • That insight only comes from tons and tons of inquisitive practice and study—the kind that students usually don’t do on their own, but that good SAT tutors have done and are there to tell you about.

So should you use Khan Academy for your SAT prep?

Yes, most students will benefit from SAT practice on Khan Academy, but it is not your one-stop shop for acing the test. KA can be used to supplement your prep, which should be focused on learning strategy and working through full practice tests along with content mastery (only the last of which KA can help you with). And if you’re looking for somebody to help you get the most out of Khan Academy and other resources, we know some people who can help with that.