Everything you need to know about the SAT

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SAT Basics

The SAT Reasoning test (SAT), along with the ACT, serves as one of the major components of a student’s admissiondecision at the vast majority of American colleges and universities. The SAT has ten sections for a total of 3 hours and 45minutes, with nine of the sections counting towards a student’s score and one unscored experimental section. The SAT isscored on a 600-2400 point scale, with three subsections (Reading Comprehension, Math, and Writing) each receiving ascore from 200-800. The Writing section of the SAT includes a 25-minute essay which is included in a student’s score.

Who takes the SAT?

Students hoping to secure a seat at the vast majority of American colleges and universities. The SAT (or ACT) is requiredfor admission at over 90% of American colleges and universities.

What is tested on the SAT?

There are three main academic areas that are assessed on the SAT. In reading, students are measured in their ability toread for main ideas, understand tone, draw inferences, and define vocabulary in context. In math, students are assessedin their knowledge of concepts in arithmetic, geometry, and algebra (algebra I and a little algebra II). In writing, studentsare tested in their understanding of standard grammar usage and essay composition.

When do most students take the SAT?

Most students take the SAT at least two times during their high school careers. The majority of students take the SAT forthe first time during the spring of their junior year. If needed, students generally then will retake the exam during the fall oftheir senior year.

Where can I sign up to take the SAT?

Students must register for the SAT through the College Board’s website: http://sat.collegeboard.org/register

What is the cost to take the SAT?

The regular registration fee for the SAT is $52.50.

Why is the SAT important?

The SAT is important because it comprises between 25% to 35% of a student’s college admission decision. It is a singlefour-hour test that has a significant impact on a student’s collegiate prospects. By the end of junior year, severalcomponents of a student’s college admission – such as Grade Point Average and extracurricular activities – are relativelysettled. This leaves the SAT as one of the final opportunities for a student to either solidify an otherwise strong applicationor to bolster a weaker application.

How should I prepare for the SAT?

There are several ways that a student can prepare for the SAT. Students should gain familiarity with the structure of theSAT. The SAT, at nearly four hours, is the longest test most students will take to that point in time, and being aware of thisunique challenge is important. Students should also work to further develop the academic skills being assessed by theSAT. Understanding main ideas in a reading passage, working with triangles, and understanding subject-verb agreementare just a sample of the cross-curricular skills that are covered on the exam. Students should learn the particular way inwhich questions are asked on the SAT. As opposed to much of the math students experience in high school, questions onthe SAT are asked in a less straightforward way, which means that students must be particularly adept at identifying thecore concept being assessed in a given question. The easiest way for students to gain experience with the SAT is tocomplete a full-length practice exam under conditions similar to the actual test. This experience will provide results that caninform and focus student preparation.

Our approach to SAT Test Prep  

What about the Redesigned SAT?

In March 2016, the College Board will begin administering a Redesigned SAT that has significant differences from thecurrent version of the test. Some of the major changes to the Redesigned SAT include a switch to a 1600 point scale, theessay becoming optional, the elimination of the current guessing penalty, and a focus on a smaller set of academic skillsthat the College Board views as essential for college and career readiness.

More information about these upcoming changes can be viewed on the College Board website: https://www.collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat/redesign

SAT Sample Question
  • If t is 30 percent of u and u is 6 percent of v, what percent of v is t ?
  • A 1.8%
  • B 5%
  • C 18%
  • D 50%
  • E 180%
  • Answer: A

Is the SAT easier than ACT?

The SAT and the ACT assess many similar academic concepts, with differences in the ways that questions are asked, the rigor of the content, and theamount of time that students have to solve each individual question. Approximately 20% of students will have a SAT/ACT “test preference” – a test on whichthey naturally perform better – so it is important for students to gain experience with both tests before the end of junior year to know if they fall into thiscategory.

Which colleges receive my SAT scores?

Only the college(s) to which students choose to send their scores to will see them. Students can pick up to four schools to send scores to for no additionalcost when they register, but additional score reports are $10 each (via collegeboard.com’s “Score Sender” service).

Will colleges receive all of my SAT scores?

The College Board gives you an option called Score Choice which allows students to select one or more sets of scores that colleges will receive. Everycollege has a different policy concerning Score Choice – So it is important for students to check with their college counselor. Most colleges look at yourhighest individual 200 to 800 section scores. Some colleges only look at the SAT with your highest 600 to 2400 total. No colleges take the average of yourscores on different tests.

Can colleges view the SAT essay?

Yes. Colleges can view student essays.

Should students choose “C” if they do not know the answer?

Students should not randomly guess on the SAT. On the current SAT, a fraction of a point in deducted on most questions for an incorrect answer. If astudent is not able to eliminate any answer choices, then he or she school leave the answer blank. If a student can eliminate even one choice then theyshould guess, but “C” is no better a guess than any other answer choice.

Are some test dates easier than others?

There is no statistical advantage in selecting one test date over another. Students should choose test dates that make the most sense for their schedule andtheir preparation.

What is a good SAT score?

There is no one “good” SAT score. The quality of a score depends on the school(s) to which a student is applying. A good way to set a goal score is toresearch the school(s) to which a student is interesting in applying and find the average or 75th percentile score.

Can I take it easy on the experimental section?

One of the SAT’s 25-minute sections does not count toward a student’s score. This is called the “experimental section.” The purpose of the experimentalsection is to allow test writers to determine the difficulty level of future problems. However, there is no way for students to tell which section is theexperimental (until after the exam) so it important for students to approach every section with the same intensity.

SAT History
  • 1900 – Formation of the College Entrance Examination Board. This organization was established by university presidents to standardize the admissionprocess across 12 leading universities. The following year, the first College Boards, essay-only exams, were administered.
  • 1926 – The first multiple-choice SAT is administered to high school students.
  • 1937 – The College Board introduces Achievement Tests, now called SAT Subject Tests.
  • 1958 – Students are able to see their SAT results for the first time. Previous to this year, only high schools and colleges has access to the results.
  • 1994 – Antonym questions are removed from the SAT and calculators are allowed for the first time.
  • 2005 – Quantitative comparison and analogy questions are removed and the writing section is introduced to the test.
  • 2009 – The College Board introduces Score Choice.
  • 2014 – The College Board announces a comprehensive SAT/PSAT Redesign that will go effect in spring 2016.
Still have questions about the SAT?

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