The SAT (formerly the "Scholastic Aptitude Test"; now officially known only as the "SAT") is a standardized college admissions examination widely used in the United States. It is maintained by the College Board. The examination has roots stretching back to 1901, when the College Entrance Examination Board issued its first college entrance examination. This first exam was was essay-only. In 1926, a new multiple-choice examination named the Scholarship Aptitude Test replaced the old essay-only test. A major revision occurred in 1994 in which antonym questions were removed and reading passages received greater emphasis. In addition, the use of calculators was allowed for the first time.
In 2005, the "New SAT" (officially the "SAT Reasoning Test") was launched. The largest change was the addition of a new writing section and mandatory essay to the examination, changing the maximum possible total score from 1600 to 2400. This revision also removed certain content such as quantitative comparison and analogy questions and introduced additional mathematics content.
Function of the Test
The SAT is one of two major standardized college admissions tests in the United States, the other being the ACT. Scores from these examinations are considered alongside many other application materials such as school transcripts, personal essays, letters of recommendation, and other documents. Students typically take these examinations during their junior and/or senior years of high school.
Historically, the SAT has been popular with the admissions offices of universities on the east coast and west coast, whereas the ACT has been more popular throughout the midwest and mountain states. Whether a student chose to take the SAT or the ACT was largely a question of geography. However, in the 21st century, the picture has become much more muddled. A growing number of colleges and universities have made the SAT an optional rather than mandatory component of their application process, and others have begun accepting scores from the ACT in addition to (or in lieu of) scores from the SAT.
In 2012, more students in the United States took the ACT than the SAT for the first time, and large numbers of students now take both examinations rather than choosing one or the other. In 29 states, fewer students took the SAT in 2013 than in 2006. The ACT's lead has been widening. In 2013, about 1.8 million students took the ACT, whereas only 1.5 million took the SAT.
The SAT is offered at least seven times per year in the USA and six times internationally: October, November, December, January, March (USA only), May, and June. The registration deadline is approximately one month before the exam date. The fee to take the SAT in the United States is $52.50, but fee waivers are available for economically disadvantaged students. The exam is typically administered on-site at high schools, though some universities also host SAT test sessions.
Students receive their results approximately two to three weeks following the test date. There do not appear to be any restrictions on the number of times a student may retake the SAT. In fact, the College Board reports that "at least half of all students" take the SAT two or more times, and that students' scores typically improve on retesting.
Students with disabilities who require special testing accommodations must submit an official request and receive approval from the College Board in order to receive the accommodation. These accommodation requests are typically due about two months prior to the intended test date.
The SAT takes place at many schools and facilities all over the country. Admission typically requires a printed admission ticket provided when a student signs up for the SAT. The total test time is three hours and forty-five minutes. Bringing snacks is recommended, as three short breaks are provided between sections. Number two pencils and erasers are expected, as well as an acceptable calculator graphing or scientific calculators are recommended.) Electronics, timers, and recording devices are not allowed during the entire testing period. 
The SAT is divided into three major domains: Reading, Math, and Writing. The three domains are divided into three sections each, making a total of nine timed sections. The Reading section contains one 20 minute section and two 25 minute sections that contain passage-based reading questions and sentence completion questions. Math has one 20 minute section and two 25 minute sections made up of 44 multiple choice questions and ten questions in which the test taker must "grid in" their answers. Writing contains one ten minute section and one 25 minute questions having to do with improving sentences, indentifying sentence errors, and improving paragraphs. There will also be one 25 minute essay. 
- Sample Mathematics Questions
- A number N is multiplied by 3. The result is the same as when N is divided by 3. What is the value of N?
- A. 1
- B. 0
- C. -1
- D. 3
- E. -3
- A teacher has 3 hours to grade all the papers submitted by the 35 students in her class. She gets through the first 5 papers in 30 minutes. How much faster does she have to work to grade the remaining papers in the allotted time?
- A. 10%
- B. 15%
- C. 20%
- D. 25%
- E. 30%
- The average of 3 numbers x, y, and z is 23. The average of three numbers a, b, and c is also 23. What is the average of all six numbers a, b, c, x, y, and z?
- A. 11.5
- B. 23
- C. 34.5
- D. 46
- E. 5.25
- If the statement “All of Joan’s daughters have brown eyes” is true, which of the following statements must also be true?
- A. If Lupe has blue eyes, then she is not Joan's daughter.
- B. If Sandra has brown eyes, then she is Joan's daughter.
- C. If Carmella is not Joan's daughter, then she does not have brown eyes.
- D. If Laura is Joan's daughter, then she has blue eyes.
- E. If Walter is Joan's son, then he has brown eyes.
- Sample English Questions
- Given the price of going to a movie, a ticket usually costs around $10, more and more people are renting films to watch at home.
- A. a ticket usually costs
- B. which is usually
- C. which usually costs
- D. which can be usually
- E. a ticket costs
- (A)During the Renaissance, (B) both the visual arts and literature (C) did enjoy a great (D) infusion of new themes and technical advances. (E) No error.
- Anthony was a __________ individual, whose ___________ eyes always gave the impression that he had recently lost something dear to him.
- A. gleeful .. laughing
- B. hot-headed .. flashing
- C. tall .. glinting
- D. lugubrious .. mournful
- E. malevolent .. squinting
- Sample Reading Comprehension Questions
- Questions 1 and 2 are based on the following passage:
- The grey clouds had been threatening rain all morning. Farnham shuffled down the street from the lounge, staring absently at the ground before him, his colorless clothes blending into the background of dirty concrete and broken stone walls. Those who saw him could barely conceal their reaction to his countenance: eyes would narrow or be averted, nostrils would sniff suspiciously, shoulders would be raised as if the rain had already begun to fall. He was a regular on these sidewalks, stumbling home in the colorless morning after a night made still more somber by its strained and failed reach for animation.
- Farnham's walk is described as a "shuffle" or "stumble." These words establish which aspect of his personality?
- A. His sense of humor
- B. His resiliency
- C. His short temper
- D. His melancholy
- E. His restraint
- The reaction to Farnham of people who saw him on the street indicates that they were
- A. commiserative
- B. sympathetic
- C. mistrustful
- D. altruistic
- E. affectionate
The SAT comprises four sections: a Critical Reading section, a Writing section, a Mathematics section, and an Essay section. The content of the exam is presented in the table below:
|Distribution of questions on the current SAT|
|Section|| # of
| Time limit
|Scaled score range||Subscores|
|Total|| 1 essay,
|3 hours 45 minutes|| 600-2400|
(plus essay score)
The Critical Reading and Mathematics sections each receive a scaled score between 200 and 800. The Writing section receives a scaled subscore between 20 and 80 and the Essay section receives a subscore between 2 and 12. The Writing section and Essay section together receive a single scaled score between 200 and 800, of which the writing section counts for approximately 70 percent and the essay section counts for approximately 30%.
Guessing is penalized on the SAT. Whereas correct answers yield +1 raw point, incorrect answers yield -¼ raw points, such that four incorrect answers will fully negate one correct answer. Answers left blank simply receive 0 credit.
There is no single "passing score" on the SAT or any of its subsections. Individual colleges and universities that accept the SAT are free to determine their own score cutoffs.
In 2014, the scores of college-bound seniors corresponding to the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles were as follows:
|SAT Percentiles, 2014|
In spring 2016, the "Redesigned SAT" will be launched. This major revision removes the mandatory essay section, though an optional essay prompt will be provided. In addition, although the Reading test and the Writing and Language test will remain separate sections of the SAT, these sections will receive a single collective scaled score from 200-800. The revised examination is presented below:
|Distribution of questions on the Revised SAT|
|Section|| # of
| Time limit
|Scaled score range|
|Writing and Language||44||35|
|1||50|| 2-8 on each|
of three traits
|Total|| 1 optional essay,
| 3 hours
(plus 50 minutes
for optional essay)
Another noteworthy change in the Revised SAT is that guessing will no longer be penalized.
Answers to Sample Questions
Mathematics: 1;B 2;C 3;B 4;A English: 1;B 2;C 3;D Reading Comprehension: 1;D 2;C
- College Board: History of the Tests December 1 2014
- The New York Times - Tamar Lewin - Testing, Testing: More Students Are Taking Both the ACT and SAT December 1 2014
- The Washington Post - Nick Anderson - SAT usage declined in 29 states over 7 years December 1 2014
- College Board: Register for the SAT December 2 2014
- College Board: U.S. Services and Fees December 2 2014
- College Board: SAT Fee Waivers December 2 2014
- College Board: Score Availability December 2 2014
- College Board: When to take the Test December 2 2014
- College Board: Services for Students with Disabilities December 2 2014
- College Board: Calendar December 2 2014
- http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-test-day-checklist SAT Test Day] 17 November 2014
- SAT Test Content 17 November 2014
- College Board: Overview: Current SAT vs. Redesigned SAT December 1 2014
- College Board: Understanding Your Scores December 1 2014
- College Board: How the SAT is Scored December 1 2014
- College Board: 2014 College-Bound Seniors Total Group Profile Report December 1 2014
- College Board: Redesigned SAT December 1 2014