Big dreams of college in your future? The SAT is one of the most widely accepted college-entrance exams out there. Find out how to master the SAT and make your applications shine!
The SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to evaluate a student’s academic strength and college readiness.
Administered by the College Board seven times each year, this test is a key component in admissions decisions. The SAT evaluates a student’s academic knowledge and ability in math and evidence-based reading and writing.
However, just because a student excels in school does not mean he or she will do equally well on this test. Understanding the test format, establishing a timeline and disciplined study schedule, and developing exam-specific skills are all critical for success!
Currently, the SAT is administered only as a pencil-and-paper test; there is no computer-based format. However, there are big changes on the horizon! The College Board has announced that starting in 2024 the test will be administered only online. It will also be shorter and employ adaptive testing (where the difficulty is adjusted as the test progresses based on real-time performance).
In the current format, the majority of the questions on the test are multiple choice, except for 13 free-response questions in the math sections.
Students are allowed to take the SAT as many times as they like, and most students sit for the exam at least two times. It is offered nationally every year in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June.
Most high school students take the SAT during the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year in anticipation of college application deadlines in the fall and winter of senior year.
In its current format, the SAT has four timed sections: Reading, Writing and Language, (together referred to as the Verbal) and two Math sections (one with a calculator and one without). The entire test lasts three hours, not including one 10-minute and one 5-minute break. The optional essay portion of the test was discontinued by the College Board in 2021.
|Sub-Section||Total Testing Time||Number of Questions|
|Writing & Language||35 minutes||44|
The Reading Comprehension section tests a student’s ability to critically read and evaluate five passages from three different genres: literary narrative, science, and history/social science. There is one pair of related texts where the student must draw connections between the two written works. There are 52 multiple choice questions (10 or 11 per passage) to be completed in 65 minutes.
These questions challenge students to find the central idea and themes, cite textual evidence, interpret words and phrases in context, summarize, and understand relationships.
Which choice best describes what happens in the passage?
A) A peaceful carriage ride is described.
B) Neighborhood gossip is shared amongst friends.
C) A woman’s troubles are related to a trusted advisor.
D) Politics are debated between rivals.
It can be reasonably inferred that Leonce is
A) someone who Edna respects.
B) someone who has controlled Edna.
C) a close friend of Dr. Mandelet’s.
D) another medical professional.
Which choice provides the best evidence that Priya no longer views her grandfather’s stories as silly?
A) Lines 22-24 (“Priya laughed…one”)
B) Lines 30-31 (“Priya humored…mean”)
C) Lines 78-79 (“An elephant…things”)
D) Lines 92-93 (“Do you…asked”)
The Writing and Language section presents four passages for a student to read and correct possible grammatical errors and weaknesses. It assesses how well the student can revise and edit to improve the expression of ideas and correct errors in sentence structure, usage, and punctuation. There are 44 multiple choice questions (11 per passage) to be completed in 35 minutes. They measure skill in the following areas: command of evidence, words in context, expression of ideas, and standard English conventions.
Students evaluate a section of text and determine if a change is needed. Here is what a question testing standard english conventions looks like:
Directions: Select the answer choice that best addresses the underlined portion of the sentence.
The teacher, counselor, or principal are proctoring the standardized test.
A) NO CHANGE
B) is proctoring
C) have been proctoring
D) were proctoring
The Math sections test a student’s ability to solve a variety of math problems with and without a calculator. They are also often wordy, requiring active translation before problem solving. About 80% of the questions in the math sections are multiple choice, and the remaining 20% are student-produced response questions where the student is required to arrive at a solution without the aid of answer choices.
Math No Calculator is the first, and shorter, math section. There are 15 multiple choice questions and 5 student-produced response questions for a total of 20 questions. Students are given 25 minutes to complete this section.
Heart of algebra constitutes the largest part of this section, and focuses on linear equations, systems of equations, inequalities, and absolute value.
Math with Calculator is a longer math section and focuses more on data analysis. It permits students to use a calculator to answer these 30 multiple choice and 8 student-produced response questions.
a = 26 + 0.3x
b = 18 + 0.5x
In the equations above, a and b represent the price per square foot of Alex’s and Bernice’s houses, respectively, x months after they each purchased them. What was the price per square foot of Alex’s house, in dollars, when it was the same as the price per square foot of Bernice’s house?
When your student takes the SAT, he or she will be given a total scaled score between 400 and 1600. The total score results from adding together the two scaled scores in the Verbal (200-800) and the Math (200-800).
Where do these scaled scores come from? First, a student receives a raw score. There is no penalty for wrong answers, so the raw score is simply the result of the number of questions answered correctly. The College Board then applies a complex and mysterious process called equating. This corrects for slight variations in different test dates to ensure scaled scores reflect the same level of ability across different test administrations.
The score report can be a little overwhelming to look at, but the score most people care about is the total score at the top of the page. The raw scores, individual section scores, comparison percentiles, cross-test scores, and subscores are also included. Click on the image for information on how to understand the different sections of an SAT score report.
The SAT is a long, competitive, and challenging exam that takes a lot of preparation and practice. It requires students to demonstrate advanced understanding of common concepts. In verbal, this means reading a text and seeing into the deeper meaning and purpose of the writing. In math, this means accurately and carefully executing complex math problems in a limited time. And as it is a comprehensive test on verbal and math concepts and skills acquired throughout high school, every learner’s starting place and path forward in preparing for the SAT is unique. Having a trusted company, such as the Tutorverse, to guide your student through his or her individual process is invaluable.
Some test preparation companies and tutors may say to start with a “cold-read” diagnostic test. With the SAT, most students have already had some experience with this test in the form of the PSAT, taken in 9th or 10th grade. Taking yet another test, without any initial instruction, can be disheartening and negatively impact confidence. Instead, we recommend that students have a few meetings with a tutor, or attend some instructive small-group classes, before taking the “diagnostic.” This allows us to more meaningfully decide a course of action tailored to a student’s specific skills, knowledge, and ability.
We have experienced tutors, teachers, mentors, and consultants who can help you evaluate your student’s needs, execute a plan, reevaluate to make best use of limited time available. Let us help your student navigate this daunting path forward and emerge victorious!
Ready to get your SAT prep started? Check out our live-taught, in person or online SAT bootcamps!
The SAT bootcamp is also available in an on-demand format, so your student can get access to the same great materials but complete the work on an individualized timeline.
For students taking the SAT on August 27, 2022.
Score your best on the SAT with our 18-class, 5-test course. Exclusive materials, expert teachers, and informative benchmarking helps you make the most of your time.
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