SAT® Test Format & Sections
Time Break-down, Question Types And New Digital SAT Structure
Are you planning to take the SAT® soon and curious about the SAT test format? This comprehensive guide will help you understand how the test is divided, question types and answer any questions related to the SAT sections and their duration.
How Is the SAT Structured?
The current SAT, which is a paper and pencil test, consists of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math tests, lasting for three hours. However, with the commencement of the SAT going digital, several significant changes have been put forth in terms of format, question types, and duration of the test. So, whether you choose to take the paper and pencil version of the SAT or the digital one, we have got your back!
Paper and Pencil SAT Test Format
The SAT is a three-hour test that consists of three separately timed tests with a total of 154 questions. These tests are:
- The Reading Test
- The Writing and Language Test, and
- The Math Test (A Calculator and a No Calculator sections)
The Reading, Writing and Language Tests consist of only multiple-choice questions (MCQs), while the Math Test includes MCQs and ‘grid-in’ questions required to produce your own responses. The table below shows the number of questions for each section and the time allotted to answer those:
|Paper SAT Test Component||No. of
|Writing and Language||44||35 mins|
|Math||Without Calculator||20||25 mins||50%|
|With Calculator||38||55 mins|
During the test, you will get a couple of small breaks to freshen up and have refreshments. Use these breaks to keep yourself from becoming fatigued and to stay focused for the upcoming tests.
How is each section scored on the SAT?
The Reading, and the Writing and Language tests are grouped together into one big chunk called the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section by the College Board®. This is done to provide separate subscores for the Reading, Writing and Language sections. The Math Test, on the other hand, is scored separately and is also known colloquially as the Math section. The final SAT score is the sum of these test scores and is presented on a scale of 400 – 1600. You can learn more about how your SAT is scored in our SAT scoring guide.
Each SAT test is meant to assess a different set of skills to see if you are ready for college. Students are tested not only on their English and math skills but also on how good they are at social sciences and sciences. These skills are scored and presented in the form of “cross-test” scores on your SAT score report.
- The Reading, and the Writing and Language Tests assess your ability to examine hypotheses, rectify errors, and recognize expressions
- The Math Test checks your aptitude for interpreting data and working with algebraic equations
Now that we have covered the overall SAT structure, let’s learn more about the format of each test component and the kinds of questions you can expect.
SAT Reading Test Format
The Reading Test is worth 25% of the total test score. It contains a total of 52 questions to be answered from five passages in 65 minutes. The five passages include four standalone passages and one paired set that needs to be read together. Each of these passages is about 500 – 750 words long and can include a variety of topics. The table below lists the topics you can expect from the Reading Test passages:
|Type of passages||No. of Passages|
|Works of Fiction||1|
|Great Global Conversation or the U.S. founding documents||1 or 2|
|Works of psychology, economics, sociology or any other social science||1|
|Scientific Works to examine the concepts of General and Earth Sciences||2|
Each passage on the Reading Test will assess a specific set of skills reflecting your college readiness. Based on the skills being assessed, you will get three types of questions throughout this test.
Below is the list of question types you can expect on the Reading Test:
- Comprehending Evidence
- Understanding Context of Words
- Analysis in Science and Social Studies
SAT Writing and Language Test Format
The Writing and Language test makes up 25% of your SAT test score. It has a total of 44 questions to be answered from four passages in 35 minutes. Each passage is 400 – 450 words long, followed by 11 MCQs that require you to find and fix errors and omissions in a given passage. The passages can be presented in a variety of formats and serve various purposes. They could cover topics in science, humanities, history, social science, and careers, among other things. You will come across the following types of questions in the Writing and Language Test:
- Development questions
- Organization questions
- Effective Language Use questions
SAT Math Test Format
The SAT Math Test covers a variety of math topics and accounts for 50% of the total SAT score. This portion of the SAT test has 58 questions that need to be completed in 80 minutes. The Math Test is broken down into two parts—a “calculator” portion and a “no-calculator” portion—and includes two types of questions: MCQs and grid-ins. Most of the questions on the test are MCQs, while the grid-ins ask you to write the answer.
The first portion of the Math Test is the no-calculator portion, where you will get a total of 20 questions (15 MCQs and five grid-ins) that need to be completed in 25 minutes. In the second portion, which is the calculator portion of the test, there are 38 questions (30 multiple-choice questions and eight grid-ins) and you will have 55 minutes to complete it.
The questions for the Math Test are based on the following four topics:
- Heart of Algebra
- Problem Solving and Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math
- Additional Topics in Math
Out of these four topics, algebra has the highest number of questions on the test and is considered the most important. Prepare and practice for your SAT with UWorld’s SAT Practice Test at an affordable price and achieve your dream score!