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About the SAT

The SAT is a standardized test that colleges use to evaluate applicants. Over two million students take the SAT every year and it is used by nearly every college in America for evaluating a student’s college preparedness. It is designed to measure a student’s ability to understand and process elements in three subjects: reading, writing, and math. SAT scores are calculated based on a student’s performance relative to other test-takers, and have proven to be an indicator of collegiate success.

Test Format

The SAT consists of four required sections:

Section Number of Questions Time
Reading 52 questions 65 minutes
Writing and Language 44 questions 35 minutes
Math – No Calculator 20 questions 25 minutes
Math – Calculator 38 questions 55 minutes
Essay (optional) 1 question 50 minutes

When you register for the SAT, you indicate whether you will be taking the SAT with or without the essay. Some high schools and colleges require the essay. Others don’t. It is wise to research schools beforehand in order to decide if you want to take the SAT with Essay. The College Board publishes a list with up-to-date essay policy information for U.S. and international colleges. If you don’t see a college you’re looking for, contact them directly. If you are uncertain as to whether the colleges you will apply to require the essay, we recommend taking the SAT with Essay to be safe.

The Reading Section

The Reading section measures your ability to understand and analyze written material. The reading section always has five passages, each accompanied by 10-11 corresponding questions.

The passages vary in genre, purpose, subject, and complexity. Some passages will include informational graphs, such as tables, graphs, and charts. You will be expected to understand both the graphics and any connections/relationships between the information in graphics and the information found in the passage.

The Writing and Language Section

The ability to write well is a critical skill, both in college and in the workforce. The Writing and Language section is designed to test two components of the writing process:

The Math Sections

The math sections measure a student’s ability to reason quantitatively, solve mathematical problems, and interpret data presented in graphical form. The math required for these sections is typically covered in the first three years of American high school education: Arithmetic, Algebra and Functions, Geometry, and Data Analysis.

The Essay Section

The SAT essay asks students to analyze a passage of writing and explain how the author built a persuasive argument, supporting that explanation with evidence from the passage. Two different graders will read and score the SAT essay according to three dimensions: reading, analysis, and writing. Each grader will award 1-4 points per dimension, and then the two scores for each dimension are added. Each of the three dimension scores students receive ranges from 2-8 points. The SAT essay is optional, but highly recommended since many colleges require an SAT score with the essay.