What is on the SAT®?

What is on the SAT?

Are you preparing to take the SAT? If so, the following overview can help you know what to expect on your test day and enable you to adequately prepare for the SAT beforehand, so you hit your target score.

SAT Test Sections

The SAT is comprised of four sections. These are Reading, Writing and Language, Math, and an optional Essay. The Reading section has 52 questions, and you have 65 minutes to complete this section. The Writing and Language section has 44 questions, and you have 35 minutes to complete the section. The Math section is broken into two categories – calculator and no calculator – and has a total of 58 questions. You have 80 minutes to complete the total Math section. If you do the essay, you’ll be given 50 minutes to finish it. 


The Reading section uses multiple-choice questions. It includes one classic or contemporary literature passage, one or two passages from a U.S. founding document or another historical document, a passage on a topic related to social science and one or two passages on topics related to foundational science concepts. Informational graphics are also used throughout this section of the test. 

Some skills that you will need to master the Reading section include being able to identify ideas that are either stated directly or implied in the text and the ability to understand words in context. The ability to understand and locate data in graphs is also a must.

Writing and Language

The Writing and Language portion of the test also uses multiple-choice questions. Like the Reading section, it requires students to be able to understand words in context. Other skills needed to ace this section of the exam include grammar skills, literary skills, and a working knowledge of standard English conventions.

In this portion of the test, you’ll be tasked with reading passages and then editing them to correct grammatical errors, improve sentence flow, sharpen an argument, and/or add important details to the text. Some passages use graphs to convey information, and in some cases, you’ll be asked to use the graph to identify errors in the passage. You don’t need prior knowledge of the subjects at hand to answer the questions, but you do need to read the passages carefully to avoid making mistakes. 


The Math section is divided into two parts. One part allows for the use of a calculator and the other does not. Both sections include both multiple-choice questions and “grid-in” questions where you’ll have to provide your own answer.

The Math test includes questions from four main areas of math. These are Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math, and Additional Topics in math. The last section (Additional Topics) includes questions pertaining to geometry and trigonometry. Thankfully, the formulas you’ll need in order to solve geometric equations are provided on the SAT itself. Even so, you should still practice using the formulas so you’ll know how to do so when taking the test.


The Essay section, which is optional, requires test-takers to read a passage of text, analyze it, and write a written response. You’ll need to be able to explain how the author builds his or her argument in the passage you read. While many test-takers avoid this portion of the SAT, it’s well worth considering doing it even though it may not improve your overall SAT score. Providing a written essay with your college or university applications will show these educational institutions that you have the writing skills needed to excel in your chosen field of study.

Getting Ready

Now that you know what to expect from the SAT, it’s time to make sure you have the skills needed to do well on this test. Using SAT practice questions such as the ones provided by UWorld’s SAT QBank can help you get a better idea of what the SAT will look like and which weak areas need attention before your test day comes around. Once you know which areas you need to study the most, you can make an effective study plan to shore up your weak points and improve the areas where you already do well.

The SAT is a valuable tool for admissions officers who are looking for college and university students who can master the study material in their chosen field. If you want to further your education at a reputable educational institution, getting a good score on the SAT is the way to go. Thankfully, it’s not as hard as it may initially seem. Get to know the SAT, take practice tests, and utilize the UWorld’s 1,800+ practice questions to see which subjects you need to review, and then prepare yourself for the exam by shoring up your weak areas. Your investment of time and hard work will pay off in the long run.

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