The SAT – What to Expect

The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test used for college admissions. It was formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the SAT I. Published by the College Board, a non-profit organization, the SAT is administered seven times a year. Currently, SAT scores range from 600 to 2400, and the test is divided into three equally weighted sections: critical reading, mathematics, and writing. Understanding the material that will be on the test and how it is laid out is critical to your success. You may want to consider taking a SAT practice test or a SAT prep class to make sure you do well.

In the critical reading section, formerly known as the verbal section, you will be expected to answer multiple-choice questions designed to test your vocabulary and reading comprehension. There are two types of questions: sentence completion and those based on reading passages. Sentence completion questions ask the test-taker to select an appropriate word to complete a sentence. The reading passages are varied in nature; they range from narratives to passages from the social sciences. Questions about the passages test the student’s ability to identify the important aspects of the passage. There is another form of this type of question where the student is asked to compare two shorter passages and answer questions about them.

The math section includes both multiple-choice questions and grid-in, or fill-in-the-blank, questions. Calculators are permitted, but not all calculators are allowed. This section tests on a variety of topics, including, but not only, basic number theory, geometry, and algebra. There are ten grid-in questions which require you to write and bubble in your answer.

Finally, the writing section is comprised of an essay and multiple-choice questions. The essay, which makes up 28% of the writing score, is scored by two graders on a scale of 2 to 12. You are given a prompt, or a subject, to write the essay. Multiple-choice questions in the writing section test your ability to identify sentence errors and edit writing.

Another important aspect of the SAT is time limits. Overall, you have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the SAT. The SAT format is as follows. There are two 25-minute and one 20-minute critical reading sections; all critical reading sections are multiple-choice. The writing section consists of one 25-minute essay and two multiple-choice sections, one 25 minutes long, the other 10 minutes long. The mathematics portion is comprised of two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. There is also a 25-minute “variable section” which is used to normalize scores. Being aware of the time limits is critical to succeeding on the SAT.

Taken together, all of these factors make the SAT stressful and intimidating. Often, SAT prep courses are a good way to help you prepare for the rigors of the exam. There are many options available–online and in person. Online SAT prep courses offer flexibility and the ability to retake sections you have difficulty with. In-person SAT prep classes or tutoring offer structure and a classroom environment, which some people prefer. No matter what you choose, make sure your course offers a score increase guarantee and uses official College Board SAT practice exams so you can make the most of your investment.