Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the SAT Test

What is the SAT?

Many college and universities require their applicants to take a three-hour and 45 minute standardized examination called the SAT, commonly referred to as the SAT test. Consequently, most of you as high school juniors and seniors will take this test as part of the college admissions process. The SAT purports to evaluate student's reading, writing, and mathematical reasoning abilities. As a result, you will actually get three scores, a critical reading score, a math score and a writing score, each of which will lie between 200 and 800. For each part of the SAT test the median score is 500, meaning that about 50 percent of all students score below 500 and about 50 percent of all students score 500 or above.

When Do I take the SAT test?

Most students take the SAT twice, once during their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year.

Click here to see the next SAT test date

How do I sign up to take the SAT?

Your school guidance office should have copies of the Registration Bulletin, which provides information on how to register for the SAT test by mail.

If you cannot obtain the bulletin at your school, you can obtain copies from:

    College Board SAT
    P.O. Box 6200
    Princeton, NJ 08541-6200
    Or Call - (609) 771-7588

You can also register for the SAT on-line. To take advantage of this service, go to:

What Does the SAT Test?

The critical reading sections of the SAT test your reading skills and your vocabulary. One goal of the SAT exam is to determine whether when you read a passage you understand what the author is saying and can make valid conclusions based on the text. Another goal is to determine if the level of your vocabulary is sufficiently high for you to be able to read college level texts. These sections contain two types of questions: sentence completion questions and critical reading questions.

The quantitative sections of the SAT test are less a test of your knowledge of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra than they are of your ability to reason logically. What many students find difficult about these questions is not the level of mathematics - much of the exam is based on topics in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry taught in middle school. Most topics taught in high school are not included and almost every question is based on mathematics that is taught by the ninth grade. Rather, the difficulty lies in the way the test-takers must use the mathematics they already know as they reason through the solutions.

What is the format of the SAT test?

The SAT is a 3¾-hour exam, divided into 10 sections - three Writing Sections, three Critical Reading sections, three Math sections, plus an experimental section:

writing skills - 1 question
time: 25 minutes
1 essay
mathematics - 20 questions
time: 25 minutes
20 standard multiple-choice
critical reading - 24 questions
time: 25 minutes
8 sentence completion
4 reading comprehension (2 short passages)
12 reading comprehension ( long passage)
writing skills - 35 questions
time: 25 minutes
11 improving sentences
18 identifying sentence error
6 improving paragraph
mathematics - 18 questions
time: 25 minutes
8 standard multiple-choice
10 grid-ins
critical reading - 24 questions
time: 25 minutes
5 sentence completion
4 reading comprehension (paired short passages)
15 reading comprehension ( 2 long passages)
mathematics - 16 questions
time: 20 minutes
16 standard multiple-choice
critical reading - 19 questions
time: 20 minutes
6 sentence completion
13 reading comprehension ( paired long passages)
writing skills - 14 questions
time: 10 minutes
14 improving sentences

Although the SAT test consists of ten sections, your scores are based on only nine of them. There are six 25-minute sections (three writing skills, three math and three critical reading), two 20-minute sections (one math and one critical reading), and one 10-minute writing skills. The tenth section is another 25-minute section in any of the three question types. It is commonly referred to as the "experimental" section and used to test out new questions for future exams. However, because this extra section is identical in format to one of the other sections, there is no way to know which section is the experimental one, and so you must do your best on every section of the SAT test.

There are four types of questions in the writing skills portion of the SAT test.

  • Essay question - You will be given a statement or statements followed by an assignment relating to that statement.
  • Identifying sentence error - These will ask you to find an error in the underlined section of a sentence. You do not have to correct the sentence or explain what is wrong.
  • Improving sentences - Here you will be presented with five different versions of the same sentence; you must choose the best one.
  • Improving paragraphs - You will be given a flawed student essay followed by six questions. You then must decide which answer choice best rewrites and combines portions of two separate sentences, decide where in the essay a sentence best fits, or choose what sort of additional information would most strengthen the writer's argument.

There are two types of questions on the critical reading portion of the SAT test.

  • Sentence completion questions - These ask you to fill in the blanks. Your job is to find the word or phrase that best completes the sentences meaning.
  • Critical reading questions - Here you'll be given either short reading passages of a dozen or so lines, or long reading passages of 50 lines or more followed by a number of questions. They ask about the passage's main idea or specific details, the author's attitude to the subject, the author's logic and techniques, the implications of the discussion, or the meaning of specific words.

There are two types of questions on the mathematics portion of the SAT.

  • Multiple-choice questions - The first few of these questions in each section are quite easy; they are followed by several medium difficulty; and the last few are considered hard.
  • Grid-in questions where the answers to the questions are entered in a special grid. Grid-ins also proceed from easy to difficult. A a result, the amount of time you slend on any one question will vary greatly.

How is the SAT test scored?

You will receive three separate scores based on the familiar 200-800 scale for each of the exam sections: critical reading, math, and writing. The score for the writing section will be derived from two subscores: one based on a multiple-choice score of 20-80 and another on an essay score of 2-12. The essay will be graded independently by two readers in about two minutes, reading it very quickly to judge it as a whole. (The College Board calls thisa process holistic scoring.) Each reader will assign a score of 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest possible score. The two scores will then be combined giving you a total essay score of 2-12.

To see what the test-makers say about what characteristics distinguish essays at the various scoring levels, Click Here.

How do I prepare for the SAT test?

Barron's Test Prep has everything you need to prepare for the SAT test online. You can take complete practice tests, each section in turn, or create customized SAT practice exams of a specific question type. When you are finished with your SAT prep test, you'll get immediate feedback and scores, including answers with full explanations. Instant results pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses and let you know where you need to practice most. All information is saved in a personal database for future use and can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection.

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