About The SAT®
Your Complete Guide To The College Board® SAT Test
The SAT® is a standardized test created and administered by the College Board® to help high school students get into four-year colleges and earn academic scholarships. The SAT is a multiple-choice timed test that measures your overall college readiness.
What does the SAT stand for? Originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the full form of the SAT was later changed to the Scholastic Assessment Test. However, as this test has evolved over time and grown in popularity, the SAT is no longer considered an acronym.
If you are in your junior or senior year of high school and are planning to go to college, then the SAT is a test you can’t miss. In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about the SAT paper-and-pencil and digital tests – including the benefits of taking the SAT, and its format, and scoring system.
What is the SAT used for?
The SAT has become one of the most standard ways through which universities measure your potential as a prospective student. Although a small percentage of private schools don’t look at SAT scores to review a student’s potential, most colleges consider the SAT test as a benchmark in the face of inflated high school GPAs. Now more than ever, there is an intense need for standardized testing to help colleges identify talented students and provide a common vantage point to compare all applicants. And because it is impossible to fake a standardized score, the SAT has gained immense popularity among most colleges to help administer their admissions.
Who can take the SAT?
All high school students are eligible to take the SAT. The College Board has not set an age limit for students to take the test. However, there are a few other factors to consider before registering for the test. To learn more, refer to the SAT eligibility requirements page.
When is the SAT held?
The SAT is administered nationally seven times a year, on Saturdays in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. However, if you are taking the SAT outside of the U.S., Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you might have to take it on different dates. Refer to the complete list of SAT dates and schedule for 2022-2023.
When do you take the SAT?
Most students take the SAT for the first time in the spring of their junior year. In addition, you can even take the SAT after high school. One of the major advantages of the SAT is that you can retake it as many times as you want. Many students take the SAT more than once to improve their scores and get a superscore. Check out our page on retaking the SAT.
So, in what grade do you take the SAT? The College Board recommends taking the SAT in your 11th or 12th grade of high school. There is no age limit for taking the SAT, but it is recommended that you take the PSAT 8/9/10 (Preliminary SAT) in your 9th and 10th grades to prepare yourself for the SAT.
Paper vs Digital SAT
Because of the SAT test's popularity among educators and students worldwide and to cater to the changing global education system, the College Board has announced a fully digital SAT that will be administered globally. The SAT will switch to a fully digital format in 2023 for international students and in 2024 for all students across the globe.
The College Board digital SAT test will be taken online through the Bluebook® testing app. The digital version of the SAT is shorter than the paper-and-pencil version, with fewer questions, but the scoring structure of the two testing interfaces has not been changed. This change is expected to improve the test's quality, security, delivery, and accessibility for students worldwide. Our guide to the digital SAT is here to answer your queries about the new testing interface, format, question types, and other changes.
Depending on which format of the SAT you take, it may consist two to three separately timed tests with varying timings.
Format of the SAT
The table below shows the number of questions and the time allotted for each of the component tests on the paper-and-pencil SAT:
|Component Test||No. of Questions||Time per test|
|Reading||52||1 hr 5 mins|
|Writing and Language||44||35 mins|
|Math||58||1 hr 20 mins|
The paper-and-pencil SAT test consists of three component tests, namely, Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Each component assesses you on different skill sets and consists of various question types. Let’s explore each component test and learn about what the SAT test consists of.
The Reading Test consists of five short passages with 10 – 11 multiple-choice questions for each passage. The Reading Test assesses you on three aspects:
- Recognize implicit meanings in sentences
The Writing and Language Test consists of four passages followed by multiple-choice questions. There are 11 MCQs for each passage. This test assesses you on the following skills:
- Edit and improve grammar errors
- Word choice
- Sentence structure
The first section does not allow you to use a calculator. But you can use a calculator in the second section. Each of these sections is separately timed. Below is the the list of topics you will be tested on:
- Nonlinear expressions
- Complex numbers
How does paper and pencil SAT scoring work?
The scoring system of the SAT is distributed across two sections. The first section includes two tests, the Reading Test, and the Writing and Language Test. These two tests, combined, form the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (EBRW). The second section consists of the MathTest. In short,
The table below shows the score distribution for the paper and pencil SAT:
|No. of Questions||Total Raw Score||Scaled Score|
|Writing and Language||44||44|
|Total Scaled Score||1600|
If you want to know more about the paper and pencil or the digital test, refer to the SAT Test format page. Our guide to the SAT Syllabus is here to help you with a detailed description of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests.
How Important is the SAT?
If you are wondering whether it is important to take the SAT, below are a few pointers to help you out:
- The SAT is essential for four-year colleges
You can't apply to most four-year colleges without SAT test scores. Most schools, especially the Ivy Leagues, won't let you apply without a certain minimum SAT score. A high score will ensure that you are considered by the best colleges across the country.
- The SAT score boosts your chances of receiving college funding
As college tuition is expensive, a high SAT score can mean scholarships, thus reducing the financial burden. Having a good SAT score is a must if you wish to receive any kind of aid or scholarship to fund your college education.
- SAT score reports can be more reliable than high school transcripts
Because the SAT is an international standardized test, a good SAT score tells colleges that you have taken a uniform, timed test and proven your merit. In addition, your SAT score report gives colleges a good way to judge how college-ready you are, especially if you went to a high school they don't know.
- Your SAT scores help colleges find you
When you register for the SAT and opt-in for the Student Search Service, your name is shared with colleges. This opportunity allows colleges to contact you based on your SAT test scores, grades, and academic interests.
- SAT scores affect college placement
Some colleges use SAT scores to place students in classes that are appropriate for their reading, writing, and math skill levels. Scores can also be used to determine whether students can benefit from advisors or academic support in college.
Why Should You Take the SAT?
We understand that high school can be rigorous, and you might be wondering whether studying for an extra admission test could burn you out. Because preparing for the SAT requires you to walk that extra mile, we often hear students ask, Is the SAT worth taking? If you are asking the same question, let’s take a look at the reasons:
- Boost your college applications
The SAT score report is a way for college admissions officers to see how far you've evolved academically throughout high school and gauge your overall college readiness. With a good SAT score, admissions officers will give your application more weight than others.
- Make up for a lower GPA
Most colleges prefer SAT scores over high school transcripts during the admissions process. SAT test scores can show colleges your academic potential if your GPA falls short.
- College Course Placement
Some colleges will use your performance on the SAT test for college course placement to determine which level of courses you fit into. If you submit exceptional scores on the SAT test, you may be able to skip introductory-level courses.
- You get more time per question on the SAT
The SAT gives you more time per question compared to other tests like the ACT® (American College Testing). So, if you are planning to take a standardized timed test that doesn’t make you race against time, the SAT would be ideal for you.
- Your state or high school might require the SAT
Some states require students in high school to take the SAT on SAT School Day. If you are a resident of any of these states, you might end up taking it even if the college you are applying to does not require it for admission.
Is the SAT Hard?
Whether the SAT is hard or easy, it is a matter of what your strengths are. The SAT tests you on your reading, writing, analytical, and mathematical skills, which is a way to assess your college readiness. There are a few factors to keep in mind that could affect your SAT performance:
- Lack of study schedule
It can be hard to balance your high school studies with SAT preparation, and most students falter on this. Since the SAT is a timed test, you need a dedicated study schedule to help you plan out how to prepare.
- Time Constraint
Although the SAT offers you more time per question than the ACT, it is still a timed test where you need to manage your time effectively to be able to answer the questions. Time management could be a tricky factor that can make or break your SAT score.
- The Reading test could be challenging
The SAT Reading Test is believed to be the most difficult to improve on compared to the other sections. You will need to practice reading passages from different genres, analyze them and answer questions.
- Practice is key
Study-practice-repeat! Taking practice tests will help you identify the areas you are struggling with, and evaluate your time-management skills.
The SAT is one of the most crucial tests that can determine your career. Plan, focus, and work hard towards your target score. If you are looking for a premium practice test that offers you detailed answer explanations and SAT test-like questions, you can check out UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. Our practice test also lets you know how you did in comparison to other students preparing for the test. Try a free trial and see how you did!
After you start studying with us, you can say goodbye to guessing.
Our guide to the SAT test format can help you plan your study schedule in advance, so that you don’t have to rely on exhaustive cramming sessions right before the test.
The detailed SAT syllabus guide will help you focus on the important topics and tell you exactly what to study for the test so you avoid studying too much or too little.