In 1926 the first SAT was taken, and in 2016 it was redesigned. Originally created by the College Board to assess one’s aptitude for learning, over the years the SAT has been used to test and rate one’s knowledge.
There are four sections on the SAT:
- Writing and Language
- Math, which consists of two subsections (with a calculator and without)
- Essay, which is optional
According to the College Board, these sections work together to determine what you learned in high school. The goal is to ensure you have the required reading, writing, and math skills necessary to be successful in college and help you to get into the best college that fits your needs.
On the exam, each test section will appear only once. The questions are all multiple choices and the number of questions, and how much time you have to complete each section, varies. See the following table for more on the SAT test sections:
|Reading||Writing & Language||Math||Essay (Optional)|
|# of Questions||52||44||58 total
No calculator = 20
Calculator = 38
|Time Allotted||65 mins||35 mins||80 mins total
No calculator = 25
Calculator = 55
Resources for Before and After College
SAT vs ACT
Both the SAT and ACT are accepted by most colleges in the U.S. and they also both include the same core sections of Reading, Writing, and Math along with an optional essay. However, there are many differences between the two.
It takes three hours to complete the SAT without the essay and three hours and fifty minutes with it. Without the essay, it takes two hours and fifty-five minutes to complete the ACT and three hours and thirty-five minutes without it.
|Section||SAT Questions||SAT Time||ACT Questions||ACT Time|
|Writing, Language (SAT), and English (ACT)||44||35||75||45|
You will have less time per question on the ACT than the SAT as you are given fifty seconds per question for the ACT and one minute and 10 seconds on the SAT.
The SAT questions appear in the following order:
- Math (no calculator)
- Math (calculator)
- Essay (optional)
Plan on spending at least four to five hours at the testing center for paperwork, instructions, testing, and breaks.
Register to Take the Test
Testing for the SAT is offered seven Saturdays of each year; however if your religion prevents you from testing on a Saturday than Sundays are also available. You should register three to four weeks before the test date. The latest you can register is two to three weeks before the test date. You can check the current test schedules on the SAT website.
You can register for SAT testing online on the College Board website or by mail. To register online you will need to create a profile, select a testing center location, choose a test date, pay the registration fee, and enroll. To register by mail you will need an SAT Paper Registration Guide that you can obtain from your school. Complete and mail in the guide before the deadline for the testing date you select.
The SAT registration fee is $43 without essay and $54.50 with it. Late registrations will cost an additional $28. You can pay online by credit card or send a check if you are registering by mail. Financial assistance is available for those who can’t afford to pay registration fees. For more information on obtaining a registration fee waiver visit the College Board website.
What Score Do You Want?
All students are encouraged to set score goals that will help ensure you score enough to get accepted in the college of your choosing.
Scoring in reading, writing, and language are combined for an evidence-based reading and writing (EBRW) score of 200 to 800, for math, all subsections combined is 200 to 800 as well, and the essay will have three separate scores that include reading, analysis, and writing - each on a scale from 2 to 8. The SAT overall scores range from 400 to 1600 based on the sum of your reading/writing and math scores combined. Remember, reading and writing scores together should be between 200 and 800 and math should also be between 200 and 800.
Accepted SAT scores vary between colleges and universities. Some schools may consider a score of 1400 fairly high, whereas others (usually top-ranked schools) may see it as low.
Below is a list of some of the top schools in the U.S. and their SAT score ranges for students. These are the scores required in order to get into a good college. Each school will contain the average SAT score along with 25th and 75th percentile scores for students interested in enrolling. These percentiles are the percent of students who scored at or below these thresholds. Hence, both the 25th percentile and the 75th represent the top and bottom SAT scores of the middle 50% of applicants, which is the average score. Most universities accept students in the 75th percentile or above (scores higher than the middle 50%).
|School||25th Percentile SAT Score||75th Percentile SAT Score||Average SAT Score|
Knowing What to Study
Studying for the SAT should begin at least four to six months before testing, considering that your score has a huge impact on which colleges will accept you. Start by testing your skills to find out where your weak points are so you can develop a study plan. You will find some free practice tests on the College Board’s website.
Once you know what you need to work on to improve your chances of a higher score, develop a study plan spending the most time on what you scored low on in the diagnostic tests and set goals for yourself on how much you want to improve. After studying for at least 30 days, you should retake the diagnostic test to see where you have improved and redo your study plans again to work on the things you still scored low on. You should continue this path until you feel you are prepared to do well on the SAT. Before taking your SAT, take another practice test to see how far you have gotten in your studies.
Retaking the Test
You can take the SAT test as many times as you want; however, taking it too many times may make schools think you failed to improve your skills and are not able to study productively. Besides that, you will have to pay the required registration fee each time you register. It is recommended that you take the test no more than 5 times.
Most students take the SAT twice to improve their overall score. You should consider taking the first SAT around March of your junior year and the final SAT at the beginning of your senior year. This should give you plenty of time to study in between and improve your score greatly the final time you test. Even if you score very high the first time you take the SAT, you should still check your answers to see which ones you got wrong, then study on those subjects for a few months and retake the SAT again. Regardless of how many times you take the SAT, you can use your highest scores.
Accommodations for Those with Disabilities
If you are a student with disabilities who needs certain accommodations to take the SAT, you can apply for assistance yourself or your school can apply for you. Your school may request assistance on your behalf by submitting an accommodation request through the SSD College Board’s online system. Contact your school for specific instructions on applying for special accommodations. To apply for accommodations yourself, without the assistance of your school, you must obtain a Student Eligibility Form from your school, then complete and submit it. You can find specific instructions on the College Board website.
If your application is approved, you will receive an eligibility letter with an SSD code that you must enter during the registration process. You should also remember to bring the letter of eligibility with you to the testing facility for the test day. If your request for accommodations is denied, you will receive a letter explaining why. The steps you can take next depend on the reason for denial. To find out what steps you can take next go to the College Board Denial Page.
In partnership with the College Board, the Khan Academy app is the same prep program available on the Khan academy website, only you can use this one on the go. The app is free to download, and you can use it without even creating an account. It provides equitable, SAT prep to help open the doors to college as well as other links to more online websites and resources.
College Board’s New SAT Daily Practice
This app allows you to connect to your Khan Academy course to personalize your practice while scoring your exams with the “scan and score” feature. Another great feature available with this app is the SAT question of the day, which has optional explanations and hints to help you gain a better understanding of the focus.
Magoosh Test Prep Focus: Study Timer App
As you continue to study for SAT time management is very important. You don’t want to take too much time on one subject and neglect another. The Magoosh study timer app is like a test prep stopwatch that helps you to time your studies and focus on the most important areas.
The Princeton Review Essential SAT Vocabulary Flashcards
With these SAT Vocabulary flashcards, you can learn familiar words, formulas, terms, and prompts that may also be on the SAT. Included in the deck are 500 flashcards and 50 bonus cards that cover need-to-know and frequently-used terms in the exam, as well as practice questions from all its sections.
There are many practice tests, both online and off, that you can take to test your skills and knowledge. Khan Academy can assist you in creating your study plan. Creating a study plan will help make a path that you can follow. The following are 5 practice tests designed by the makers of the real SAT where you not only get the questions and answers but also explanations of the answers, so that you will be able to fully understand each concept.
It's very important to reach your full potential when taking the SAT, as scoring high can also help get you a nice scholarship to help pay your way through college. So, you’ll want to use all the resources you can to help get you the best score.
Resources to help you study for the SAT can be found all over the web. There are apps, documents, tutorials, videos, programs, diagnostic tests, books, and more. Books are extremely helpful for the SAT since you can use them to study privately, anytime you like and, if need be, you can go over the same content again and again until the light bulb finally clicks on.
However, you can take all the time you want to study and never learn anything if you don’t know what to study and how to do it correctly. The following are just some of the many books out there to help you study for the SAT
SAT Prep Courses & Study Groups
Joining a study group like SAT Prep group is another great way to prepare for the SAT where you can study with a group of students who are also working to get the highest SAT score. Working with a group allows you to share viewpoints on a variety of subjects pertaining to the test, as well as to discuss strategies. Exposure to different perspectives can help trigger the comprehension of hard to understand concepts. Everyone has their own way of explaining things, therefore listening to others views may make things clearer and easier to understand.
Your high school may also offer SAT prep courses that you can take where you will be taught everything you need to know to pass with flying colors.
When all else fails and you still are unable to improve your knowledge of certain subjects, you can always turn to a tutor. A private SAT tutor focuses on your weak points and helps you to gain the skills and knowledge you need to better your SAT score. These professionals use specific strategies and work with you one on one to help you gain a better understanding of subjects that are otherwise hard for you to follow.
You will learn at a pace that is convenient and appropriate for you in a safe environment where you can ask questions and can admit which areas are more confusing for you. Tutors are specifically trained to identify your problem areas and address them. Study point is a good place to start as they have SAT tutors available to help.
Here are 10 of the best websites with SAT prep resources.
- College Board - SATs and PSATs resources
- Khan Academy - In partnership with the College Board, online learning program with study resources
- SuperTutor TV videos - video learning tutorials
- College Panda - series of math books
- SAT Quantum videos - math books
- 1600.io videos - explain all 8 tests in the Official Guide
- Ultimate Guide to the Math SAT - math books
- Erica Meltzer Series of verbal books
- Ivy Global All-in-one guide for learning strategies - Some strategies to help you learn
- UWorld Online adaptive learning program
- USA Test Prep SAT's
Tips for Studying
The SAT is probably the most important test you will ever take in your life. In fact, your academic life depends on it since you have to have a good score to get accepted into a good college. Its importance means that you are likely to study like you never studied before, while utilizing the many resources available to assist you. Here are 7 of the best study tips to help you out:
If You Already Understand It, Skip It
If you begin studying for the SAT three months before the test, keep in mind that three months can go by very fast and you have a lot of ground to cover in that time. It is important that you use your time wisely and only work on what you need to learn rather than review what you already know. You can take a diagnostic test early to get into the right headspace.
Know Your Mistakes - You can’t fix it if you don’t know It’s broken
After taking a demo test, go over your answers carefully while paying special attention to the mistakes you made. It’s important to figure out where you went wrong so that you can steer clear of the same mistakes while taking the real SAT.
Memorize Math Formulas
Even though the math section of the SAT provides a list of formulas for you to reference, you don’t want to waste time checking back often to use them; therefore, you should memorize as many of the formulas you will need as possible.
Know the SAT Rules of Grammar
You probably know a lot about grammar, but what you may not know is that the SAT uses specific grammar rules that may be different than what you were taught; therefore, make sure you memorize the SAT grammar rules. This article can help you learn the SAT rules of grammar.
Use Diagnostics to Test your Improvements Frequently
Studies show that taking sample tests to prepare for the SAT, is one of the most highly effective methods of study. Test your skills regularly by taking practice tests. This not only helps to point out your weaknesses but will also help you find out if you are studying effectively and actually improving or if you need to change your study plans.
Don’t let all the Resources Overwhelm you
Yes, there are plenty of resources, tools, programs, apps, books, information, and more out there to help you prepare for the SAT, but you only need a few that you are comfortable with. Don’t try to use programs that are hard to understand, stick with what works for you and you will do fine.
Juggle your Time Accordingly
Study every chance you get, even if it means just listening to some tutorial videos on your way home from school, using earbuds while shopping, cleaning, or other. In addition, say goodbye to the Facebook games or play store apps that you usually play in your spare time, since you no longer have time to spare, at least not until after you are satisfied with a good SAT score.
Day of the Test: What to Bring
Let’s start with the day before the test. Make sure you:
- Eat a well-balanced meal
- Take a hot bath (this can help to relax you)
- Have your clothes ready
- Set your alarm
- Have a checklist ready for things to remember
- Get a good night’s sleep
When the big day comes, try to stay calm, the more relaxed you are the easier it will be to think clearly. Whatever happens, don’t make it so that, when the day of testing comes, you regret not studying more.
Dress comfortably and eat a good nutritious breakfast. Get your checklist out of things to take with you and check it before leaving. Here are some things to take with you:
- Your admission ticket
- Number two pencil with good erasers
- Some scrap paper
- Snacks to munch on during breaks
- Bottled water
- Any prescribed medication you may need
- Your identification
- Accommodation approval (if you have)
- Waiver (if you have)
- A watch for your breaks and to monitor your pace
- Your glasses (make sure you clean them well)
- A calculator
Finally, here are some test tips to follow:
Use the process of elimination to get the answer right
The SAT questions are all multiple choice with 4 possible answers to choose from. Before even thinking about the correct answer, eliminate the ones you know are wrong to narrow your choices down.
If you get stuck on a question take a guess then go back to it later
The old test would penalize you for getting an answer wrong, but the new SAT only gives you points for correct answers and does nothing if you get any wrong. This is why you should try to guess, and odds are you will get at least some of these answers correct. Try to limit each question to 30 seconds for the writing section and be sure and mark the questions you need to go back to.
If you have answered all the questions with time left to spare recheck your answers.
When you finish the test, you will feel calmer and relaxed, which will allow you to think better making it easier for you to spot errors you may have made.
Monitor your pace to stay on track
One of the most important things about the SAT is that you set an appropriate pace to follow where you have so much time to spend on each question. For example; if you have 50 minutes to complete 25 questions, you can take two minutes to answer each.
Make sure you read the whole question completely before selecting the best answer
Questions are usually more straightforward rather than tricky, so don’t try to read between the lines to find the correct answers. Also, every word in the question may be there for a reason, so nothing should be overlooked. Use common sense and remember that most times, if you’ve studied the subject, your first impression is usually the right answer.
Have a Good Attitude and Be Confident
Keeping your spirits up can help you stay focused and not get trapped in negativity, which will make it hard to think. If you studied like you were supposed to, you should have no doubts or reason to worry. You got this!
You will receive your test scores in 23 to 29 days of school day testing and within two weeks for colleges, unless you take your test in June, which can then take five weeks.