SAT Test

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The SAT was originally developed through the efforts of the College Board, who launched the exam in 1926. The SAT began as the "Scholastic Aptitude Test." It then evolved into the "Scholastic Assessment Test," and went through several other name changes before finally becoming the "SAT." For many years, the College Board developed and released the SAT in cooperation with the Educational Testing Service.

The SAT is currently the most commonly administered college aptitude test in the US. For decades, the material of the SAT was intentionally written to test students' skills with college subjects and curriculum. However, as of 2016, the SAT's content is written to more closely mirror typical high school studies. The College Board has also made multiple changes to the test's scoring system over time. [1]

Function of the Test

SAT Study Guide

High school students usually take the SAT exam during their 11th and 12th grade years to prove they're ready to move on to college. As such, the test assesses the various skills students will need to thrive in college-level courses. The SAT not only gauges how well students understand their curriculum and the skills related to them, but also their ability to successfully find solutions to complex questions.

In order to gauge the preparedness of today's students in the most thorough possible manner, an individual student's SAT scores are often considered in conjunction with their overall grade point average. By examining how well they did throughout their high school career as well as on the SAT, colleges can gain a stronger sense of whether that particular student would be able to thrive. Through careful observation, educational specialists have verified this method of student evaluation as reliable on a broad scale, finding that students generally show the same level of performance during their first year of college as they do during their high school years. According to research, comparing SAT scores and high school grade averages revealed differences of up to 22 percent between these two sets of grades and the grades a student earned as a college freshman.

The SAT is recognized as the most widely taken college admission exam within the United States, and it has also gained traction throughout the rest of the world. Statistics verify that nearly 2 million students take the SAT every year [2]. However, evidence also suggests that the rate of SAT administration differs between United States regions. The ACT seems to be preferred over the SAT throughout the South and the Midwest. The SAT has a stronger test taking rate among students across the West coast and East coast.

Test Administration

SAT Flashcards

The SAT is available not only to students across the United States, but also on an international scale [3]. However, regardless of which country an SAT test taker may reside in, the test will always be given in the English language. The College Board writes each edition of the SAT with the assumption that all test takers can read and understand English.

The College Board offers students seven dates per year to take the SAT. Students can learn which SAT testing dates they can choose, as well as register for a specific date, on the College Board website [4]. Students can also use the official College Board website to access information regarding which SAT testing locations are available within their area, as well as make alternate arrangements if a site of their choosing loses its availability.

Students must pay a fee before taking the SAT exam. This fee can range anywhere between $52.50 and $101.50, with specific costs varying from country to country. Students from families struggling with economic hardship can request a waiver that eliminates the SAT testing fee [5], allowing them to take the test at no cost whatsoever. SAT fee waivers typically cover up to two testing dates, regardless of whether or not a student decides to take the essay portion of the exam. Students can set up their waivers with the help of a high school counselor.

Test Format

Test Environment

All SAT exams are administered during early morning hours. Every testing site will open at approximately 7:45 AM within that state's respective time zone. Students have a total of 15 minutes to arrive to their testing site and check in before they are considered late. Some form of picture identification and a registration ticket are required for checking in.

The test will begin at anywhere from 8:30 AM to 9:00 AM. Once the test has officially begun, students can no longer check in at their testing site and must petition to reschedule their testing date [6]. Rescheduling the test comes with a fee of around $46 to take the SAT without the essay component, and $60 to include the essay. Once all students have filed into the testing site on time, they will be assigned to a specific seat.

A supervisor will guide all test takers throughout the entire exam by reading instructions from the official testing guidebook. The supervisor will officiate the start and end of all portions of the SAT exam, as well as keep track of testing time and respond to any questions about testing instructions. Students can only work on a specific testing section as directed by the supervisor. Students cannot progress or go back to another portion of the test once the time for that section has run out; doing so may void the student's test.

Technological devices (such as tablets and phones) are not allowed to be out or on throughout the testing period. Students also cannot eat or drink during the actual exam, though they may do so during one of the test breaks; there are two breaks in all, one lasting five minutes and the other lasting 10 minutes. As a whole, the test will last between three and four hours in all, and will typically end at noon or 1:00 PM, depending on whether a student decides to take the essay portion of the exam[6].

Test Structure

The SAT exam focuses on four subjects in all [7]: The Essay, Mathematics, Writing, and Reading. The Mathematics part of the SAT further splits into two subsections: one where students can use a calculator to solve equations, and one where they cannot. The SAT spans a total of 154 questions, not counting the essay prompt. Additionally, almost every part of the exam (excluding the essay) features several multiple-choice questions, as well as their own unique time limits.

The SAT Essay will generally last about an hour and features one prompt. The Mathematics test has 58 questions total and spans 80 minutes; it is also unique in that its questions are not entirely in multiple choice format. Some questions will require test takers to write their answers into a grid. Furthermore, 38 questions on the Math portion can be answered with a calculator, while 20 questions must be worked out without the aid of a calculator. The calculator part of the Math section is 55 minutes long, and the calculator-free part has a 25-minute span.

The Writing section of the SAT will span a total of 35 minutes and features 44 questions. The Reading portion is 65 minutes long and possesses a total of 52 questions.

Sample Questions

More free SAT practice test questions.

Test Content


The Essay part of the exam is less concerned with test takers' ability to build a persuasive argument, and instead seeks to evaluate how well they can evaluate a piece of written text. Students will be presented with a reading passage, which they must assess from the viewpoint of how the author establishes and develops their own stance through their writing [8].


The Mathematics subtest focuses on four distinct subjects: Additional Topics in Math, Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis[9].


The Writing part of the SAT expects test takers to play the part of a proofreader, examining written passages for grammatical and structural errors. More specifically, it wants to test students' knowledge of Standard English Conventions, Command of Evidence, Expression of Ideas, Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science, and Words in Context[10].


The SAT Reading exam works similarly to other reading tests, in that test takers will have to read and analyze text selections from various genres. More specifically, the Reading part of the SAT will feature two reading selections about scientific subjects, one literature piece, one passage relating to the social sciences, and one or two passages involving world and US history. The Reading exam seeks to evaluate test takers' comprehension of Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science, Words in Context, and Command of Evidence [11].


The SAT splits off its scoring system into two parts: the section scores and the overall score [12]. The Essay score is also included, provided that the test taker finished the Essay portion of the SAT. Test takers can earn anywhere between a 2 and an 8 on the essay. Test scores for the Mathematics, Writing, and Reading parts of the SAT range between 10 and 40. The individual sections of the exam (Mathematics and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) each receive scores that may fall between 200 and 800. The test taker's score is decided based on the sum of each section score. 1600 is the highest overall score anyone can earn on the SAT as of the newest rewrite, while 400 is the lowest possible score.

Distribution of questions on the current SAT[13]
Section # of
Time limit
Scaled score range
Reading 52 65 200-800
Writing and Language 44 35
Math 58 80 200-800
Essay (optional) 1 50 2-8
Total (including essay) 155 items 3 hours 50 minutes 400-1600

Test takers may receive their scores at different return rates, depending on the time of year they completed the exam [14]. Tests taken in June and August have a six week return date. Meanwhile, tests taken in March, May, October, November, and December have a return date of two weeks. Essay scores come back to test takers the fastest, taking five days on average. Students can receive their scores over the phone (with payment), through the mail, or view them online.

Students have the option to retake the SAT if they find themselves dissatisfied with their score. Many students take the SAT more than once as they prepare to apply to college. Doing so will involve going through the registration process again and setting up a date. However, the majority of students find that their scores have improved upon completing a retest.

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

Related Tests


  1. ^ Changes to SAT Scoring 8 March 2018
  2. ^ SAT test taker results 7 March 2018
  3. ^ International Dates 9 March 2018
  4. ^ Registration 9 March 2018
  5. ^ Fee Waiver 9 March 2018
  6. ^ a b Rescheduling 9 March 2018
  7. ^ Inside the Test 9 March 2018
  8. ^ Essay Specs 9 March 2018
  9. ^ Math Specs 9 March 2018
  10. ^ Writing/Language Specs 9 March 2018
  11. ^ Reading Specs 9 March 2018
  12. ^ Score Structure 9 March 2018
  13. ^ New SAT scoring 9 March 2018
  14. ^ Getting Scores 9 March 2018