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What is SAT and how can you ace it?

Ekta
Ekta
Last updated: Jul 27, 20228 min read
What is SAT and how can you ace it?

The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a standardized academic test in the USA, administered by the College Board and used for college admissions. It's one of many exams you might need to take to study in the USA

While all US high school students must take the SAT in grade 11 or 12, prospective international university students can also take it to gain acceptance into colleges (or universities) in both the United States and Canada and many institutions in Australia, the UK, and Singapore. 

It's a multi-subject, 3-hour test which measures students' abilities in three primary areas: Critical Reading, Mathematics (with and without a calculator), and Writing (though there is no essay section anymore). 

Though it's a US test, students can take the test overseas at a designated international test centre on a set test date. These dates and centres can be found on the official College Board website.

So that's a quick introduction to the SAT! We'll tell you everything you need to know about the SAT exam in the rest of this comprehensive walk-through.

Table of Content

SAT at a glance

SATScholastic Assessment Test
Conducting bodyThe College Board
Mode of ExamWritten
SAT Fee$55 (plus Non-US registration fee) approximately 6200-7000 INR
Score Range400-1600 points

What are the different types of SATs?

There are two general types of SAT exams:

  • Test for SAT Reasoning

Also known as the General test, the main objective of the examination is to evaluate the overall academic and cognitive ability of students. The SAT reasoning test assesses the candidates' reading, writing, and quantitative ability.

The total time allocated for the SAT reasoning lasts 3 hours and 50 minutes.

  • Test for SAT Subject

The SAT Subject Test is an hour-long exam that assesses an applicant's expertise in a particular area. It's worth noting that the SAT subject test has been suspended in the United States and is no longer required. 

Which type of SAT should international students take?

Applicants wishing to study abroad may choose to do either the SAT Reasoning Test or SAT Subject Test according to the requirement of a college/program. 

However, as a general rule of thumb, the SAT Reasoning Test (or General Test) is the most in-demand. Thus, international students would be best taking this exam.

 SAT eligibility: Who can take the test?

The SAT is open to anyone who wishes to take the exam at a registered test centre. Although the eligibility for the SAT exam has no established standards, below are some factors to understand before applying for this test:

Limitation of ageThere are no specified maximum or minimum age restrictions for the SAT examination to be eligible.    
Typically, students between 17 and 18 take the test, however. 
Background of educationNo minimal educational prerequisites are required for SAT.
Number of attemptsYou can take this exam as many times as you like.    
The College Board advises high school students to take the test twice in their junior year and once in their senior year.    
For international students, however, once should be enough.   
 
  • SAT facilities for students with disabilities

The college board gives some provisions for disabled students.

These students must notify the College Board about their condition, and the Services for Students With Disabilities Units will approve all requirements in advance. Such systems can be used for general SAT and subject testing if approved. 

Some of the most important facilities for students with disabilities attending the SAT exam are,

  • Provision for more breaks during the SAT exam.
  • Take additional time to conclude the exam.
  • Braille and extensive print tests are provided for visually impaired test users.

SAT syllabus

There are a total of 3 sections in the SAT exam syllabus, as mentioned earlier: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.

Segments3 (Reading, Writing and Mathematics)
Total questions154 multiple-choice questions
Time3 hours
Range of score400 -1600
LanguageEnglish
Examination MethodOffline in Test Centre

Reading

  1. This section has a total of 5 written passages of varying lengths.  
  2. Each passage in this section contains 10-11 questions (multiple choice)
  3. It seeks to assess the ability to grasp written language and understand the meaning. 
  4. The themes for passages or writings focus primarily on general topics that do not require you to know your subject beforehand. Some passages feature additional graphs and charts to evaluate your skills.

Writing

  1. The writing section aims to evaluate both vocabulary and grammar for the candidate.
  2. The writing component comprises four paragraphs with 10-11 questions for each passage. 
  3. A candidate should detect flaws, re-word marked sentences with better options, etc. 

Mathematics

  1. This phase consists of two sub-sections divided into 25 minutes without a calculator and 55 minutes with a calculator. 
  2. It comprises 58 questions spanning various basic mathematical principles, including algebra, statistics, geometry, arithmetic, probability, data interpretation, and problem-solving.

SAT exam pattern

SAT examination structure includes two primary components,

  • Evidence-based reading and writing 
  • Mathematics
SectionTotal no. of questionsTime allotted
Reading5265
Writing4435
Math (without a calculator)2025
Math (with a calculator)3855

SAT preparation tips

With the proper preparation, the SAT can be made accessible. We'd always recommend giving yourself plenty of time to prepare — at least 6-8 weeks. 

For the best tips to get ready, check out our article. The only SAT prep guide you need to follow! For the time being, here are a few quick tips:

  • Practice Tests

We suggest at least one paper-based practice test to make the actual SAT format easier. Luckily you can take a free online full-length practice test on the College Board website!

The complete test gives you a realistic feel of the length of the test and where you tend to get tired or cognitively hindered.

  • Brush up your skills

Mix your SAT preparation with a general building of skills. 

Long articles and scientific research to prepare for the reading test can be read and summarised. Read writing pieces or essay papers and be careful how the writer builds the argument.

  • Know the format

Even the most intelligent people can get caught out by an unfamiliar format. If you know the SAT structure (or pattern), you'll know what to expect on the day.

Related articles: How to ace your SAT Exam

When should you take the SAT?

Given the university application schedule, you should attempt your first SAT examination around September or October if you wish to apply. This will give you room for error if you need to resit the test in April or May to get a  better score.  

The SAT is administered seven times a year in the United States: March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. 

However, the number of times the test has been taken overseas is subject to each specific country for international students. It's always best to search for your nearest test centre on the College Board website to find available test dates. 

SAT registration

You can register for the SAT online on the College Board website. Click here to find the SAT registration page

Registration for online SAT may take up to 30 minutes. The registration procedures can be paused by candidates and finished later on the SAT website. 

The applicants must follow the following steps to register online for SAT.

  • Sign up for your free account at the College Board.
  • Give your complete legal name and additional details to identify. Make sure it's the same name and photo ID data.
  • Create a profile.
  • Provide the details about your school, studies, etc. 
  • Explore locations of test centres and dates of SAT exam.
  • Upload a photo that satisfies specific requirements.
  • Check out your ticket and print it.

SAT results and scores

After sitting the exam, test results take up to two weeks to be released. However, taking the SAT in June can take up to five weeks. You'll get an email to let you know that your score has been released, and you can check it by logging into your College Board:

  • Visit the website of the College Board.
  • Login using the password and ID.
  • Click My Organizer to get the SAT scoring.
  • Click on Access My Scores and input your password and username.
  • Go to My Test scores.
  • Your scores on the screen will be shown.

With Score Choice, candidates may submit their Score Reports to the universities.

What's a good SAT score?

There's no common good or bad score on the SAT. However, In 2020, the overall average was 1081 (out of 1600). 

1200 is considered a strong score, while 1400 should get you into most colleges. 

FAQs

Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

Both tests have become an increasingly prevalent choice for students and generally test students along the same criteria. Choosing which one to take depends on a few factors, including where you're based and the requirements of the college you wish to attend.  

For a deeper look at this, check out our article SAT vs ACT: Which should you take? 

Is 1200 a good SAT score?  
Yes, 1200 is a strong score and should see you gain entry into most colleges.

What is the highest SAT score?  
The maximum possible SAT score is 1600. The lowest score for SAT is four hundred.

Is there an age limit for SAT?  
There is no specified age limit for SAT attempts. However, SAT applicants are generally between 17 and 19 years of age.  

Do SAT scores expire?  
SAT scores technically never expire. However, some schools limit the time between taking and applying, but this is usually five years.

Do I need a passport for the SAT exam?  
Students should ensure that they have a valid passport on the test day.

How to find SAT scores?  
Check the College Board's official website and log in to the SAT's student ID and password. Follow the instructions to check your account using your SAT registration number. Click the 'Details view' CTA. To examine the SAT results click on the "Download Report" button.

How many points is each question worth on the SAT?  
You are given one point for each question you successfully answer on the SAT. For guessing or skipping, there will be no penalty.

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Ekta

Ekta is a Content Manager at Edvoy

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