The SAT exam syllabus is divided into three different sections. These are reading, writing, language and math.
Table of Contents
The exam has a set structure and you have different time limits to complete each section. Most answers are given in multiple choice. However, students require short written answers in one of the math parts.
Generally, students take the SAT exam as part of an undergraduate application for a chosen college or university. The exam is run by the College Board organisation and student’s scores are used by higher education institutions to measure someone’s readiness for undergraduate study.
To help you get prepared for the SAT exam in 2022, we provide a complete overview of the test content. Furthermore, we provide some tips and advice about how to study and learn the SAT pattern and content.
SAT exam syllabus and pattern
First, our guide shows you how the current SAT exam is structured. In addition, we provide details about the different types of questions for each section on the exam.
Students are given a specific time limit for each exam section when taking the test. Overall, you have three hours to complete the exam, with different times for each part.
The table below shows exactly how the SAT structure looks.
|Test Section||Number of Questions||Task Type||Time Limit|
|Reading||52||Multiple choice only||65 minutes (1 hour and 5 minutes)|
|Writing and Language||35||Multiple choice only||35 minutes|
|Math||80||Multiple choice and written answers||80 minutes (1 hour and 20 minutes)|
|Total||154||N/A||180 minutes (3 hours)|
You are given five separate passages of around 500-700 words in the reading section of the SAT exam. Then, you answer sets of 10-11 questions on the subject topics of each text.
Each passage has a different theme or topic in the SAT exam syllabus. After reading the text, students must show their understanding and evaluation of each text.
Below is a list of the different text types in the reading part.
- 1 x text from a fiction book or passage.
- 1-2 x passages from a topic of global interest (e.g. a famous speech or document).
- 1 x text from a social science document. This subject can include history, economics or psychology.
- 2 x science passages covering earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics.
Reading question types
Once you have read each short passage, you will have to answer a series of questions about the text. The SAT reading section has a variety of question types that assess students’ understanding of the given passage.
All answers are provided in multiple-choice format and each question covers the following categories.
- Understanding the Author’s use of Evidence: Here, you are asked to pick the correct answers that show how the author used evidence to form an argument. You might have to pick the correct phrase or section in the passage as part of this answer.
- Meaning of Words in Context: In this section, questions ask you to select words or phrases from the context in the text. Also, you might have to show how a specific word or phrase is used by the author to shape their tone and intention.
- Analysis of non-fiction: Topics for this section generally include history, social studies, and science. You will examine the argument and evidence in the text and answer questions about the given data, argument and impact of the text.
Writing and language test
Students read four separate texts for the writing and language section. You then answer 11 multiple choice questions about each text.
In this part of the test, you identify grammar and punctuation mistakes in the passage and try to fix any errors. Each passage is around 400 to 450 words long and the topics of each text vary.
For example, one text could be a narrative about history, social science or science. However, another could be an argument or theory. In addition, some texts can contain graphs and graphics.
Writing and language question types
This part of the exam has two different question types looking at both the content and the structure of the text. These are
- Expression of the writer’s ideas: Students respond to questions about how strong and well-argued the writer’s message is. Through these questions, you identify how good the author’s structure, language and evidence is.
- Use of grammar and punctuation: Here, you identify any mistakes in the text. The mistakes could be around sentence structure, incomplete sentences or incorrect punctuation use.
Lastly, the math section of the test is structured into three different parts.
- Algebra (19 questions): Solving equations and using formulas to answer questions.
- Analysing data and solving problems (17 questions): Answering questions about given data and showing understanding of math in context.
- Advanced math (16 questions): Answering questions on complex equations by using math formulas, sums and expressions.
In addition, some questions cover further math subjects. Here, questions on further subjects, like geometry and trigonometry are covered. Students answer six questions for this section.
It also has a calculator and non-calculator part and a written answer section, known as the ‘grid in’.
The table below breaks down the exact math part structure, including question types and timings for the calculator and non-calculator questions.
|Calculator or Non-Calculator||Number of Multiple Choice Questions||Number of Grid in Questions||Total Time|
How to prepare for the SAT exam
Once you are familiar with the SAT exam syllabus, you can start getting prepared for the exam.
Overall, you have many different options to choose from when preparing for the SAT including exam guides and past papers. In addition, many resources and study guides are available online for free to help you practice for the SAT exam.
Here, we share some of our best tips and advice about how to get ready for the SAT exam.
Set a target score
A good starting point before registering for an SAT exam date is to identify your preferred college, university or course. Luckily, many online search tools exist where you can filter through different courses that suit your needs.
Also, many of these tools show what SAT scores you require to get on to a course. Once you know the results you need, you set a target score for your SAT exam.
Then, you can study and take practice tests to work out areas that you need to improve on, etc.
Use college board exam guides
Another useful resource you can download and read for free are the SAT study guides from the College Board.
These test guides provide clear and easy details about the SAT information. This includes a breakdown of each test section on the syllabus and advice on how to study for each section.
But, the documents also have important information about what to do on test day, including resources to bring with you. A section about how to answer questions and fill out the exam paper is also provided.
Practice past questions
If you want to practice the SAT exam questions and sections, you can download eight different practice papers from the College Board website. Alternatively, many schools and colleges have past papers available too.
When using past papers, students have various options on how to practice. First, you can take the exam under timed conditions to recreate a real test environment. Or, you can work through the questions at your own pace to understand the different sections and content.
Once you have finished your practice test, you can mark it and find out your SAT score by using the provided mark sheet and score guide.
Also, before taking the test, make sure you have the following resources and equipment available.
- A pencil.
- An eraser.
- A Calculator.
- A timer.
- A printer (if you want to practice the test with physical paper).
1. What subjects are on the SAT exam?
The current SAT exam syllabus covers reading, writing and language and math. In reading and writing, sections cover various subjects, like social sciences, history, psychology and science. The math section covers algebra, data, problem-solving and advanced math.
2. Are SAT exam sample papers available?
Yes, you can access example papers and example questions through the College Board website. These resources are free to download and use. Before you start a practice paper, make sure you have access to the equipment listed above.
3. What is the SAT exam eligibility?
Students of any age with any previous educational experience can take the SAT exam. Although, the test is generally used by students who want to get on to an undergraduate course. Students can use the test score as part of a college or university application.
4. Is the SAT difficult?
The SAT tests a student's ability to think and respond at an undergraduate level. With preparation and practice, students can become familiar with the course content and apply this on test day.