What Is On The SAT®
The SAT Syllabus and Important Topics to Know
The first step toward SAT® success is getting yourself familiar with the test's content. With the discontinuation of the SAT Subject tests in 2021, the College Board® has introduced a few changes to the SAT syllabus. To make things easier for you, we will cover what to expect on the SAT – the key SAT topics and concepts. We will also discuss the optional SAT Essay syllabus for those who want to take the test as part of the SAT School Day program.
SAT Test Syllabus
While the College Board has announced the release of digital SAT in 2023 for international students and 2024 for U.S. students, there are no significant changes from the paper-and-pencil SAT in the key concepts and skills tested. However, depending on which version of the SAT you want to take, there are some important things to remember about the topics and content domains.
The paper-and-pencil SAT comprises three tests:
- Writing and Language
- Math (no-calculator and calculator sections)
However, if you are taking the test on SAT School Day, you might have to take an additional SAT essay test in addition to the three tests listed above.
SAT Reading Test Syllabus
SAT Reading is a component of the SAT’s Evidence-Based Reading and Writing(EBRW) section. There are five passages on the Reading test, and each passage is followed by 10-11 multiple-choice questions (MCQs), making a total of 52 questions in the section. You will have 65 minutes to finish it.
What is on the SAT Reading Test
The Reading Test assesses your comprehension skills, vocabulary knowledge, and ability to recognize implicit meanings in sentences. This test includes three critical reading sections:
- Reading comprehension
- Sentence completions
- Paragraph-length critical reading
The passages on this test include four independent and one pair of passages that you will have to read together. Each passage, including the paired set, is 500–750 words long. The passages consist of excerpts taken from the following types of texts:
- 1 passage: American or world literature
- 1 passage or a pair of passages: U.S. founding document or the Great Global Conversation
- 1 passage: Economics, psychology, sociology, or another social science topic
- 2 science passages (or one passage and one passage pair): Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics
- 2 passages: Based on one or more informational graphics
These passages are targeted to measure your overall reading, comprehension, and analysis skills in different ways. We’ve enlisted the skills below that you will require to perform well on the SAT Reading Test:
- Identify or provide evidence
- Interpret the information
- Determine the key points
- Make assertions
- Examine writing styles
- Determine the purpose of a detail
- Define vocabulary through difficult scenarios
- Use graphics to analyze data
Stressed about what to expect on the Reading Test? Prep smarter with our article on How to Approach SAT Reading Questions.
Top SAT Reading concepts to prepare for
To help you prepare for SAT Reading, here are the five most recurring concepts you will likely see throughout the test:
- Reading Comprehension
- Main Idea
- Making Inferences
- Interpreting data and graphs
To learn more about these concepts, visit our page on the top 5 concepts to prepare for SAT Reading.
SAT Writing and Language Test Syllabus
The Writing and Language Test includes four passages, each with 11 MCQs. This makes a total of 44 questions on the Writing and Language test, and you will have 35 minutes to complete it.
Each passage on the test is 400–450 words long, and it may cover a broad range of topics, including careers, the humanities, science, social studies, and history. These passages have different difficulty levels, from easy to average to hard. Each passage on this test comes with a different format and purpose. Some passages may include charts, graphs, or infographics along with the text you must understand to answer the questions associated with that passage.
Let’s explore the types of passages you will encounter on this test:
- At least one is a non-fictional narrative passage, which means it describes events in the form of a story
- The remaining passages can either be argumentative, or informative and explanatory
What is on the SAT Writing Test?
The SAT Writing and Language test consists of passages with grammatical errors. These errors can include faulty punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, and organization. You will be asked to edit passages and eliminate errors in grammar, improve sentence structure and flow, strengthen an argument, and/or add vital information to the text. You do not need prior subject knowledge to answer these questions, but you must read carefully to avoid mistakes. To do well on this test, you need to know how words are used in context and the basics of standard English grammar and usage.
Some passages will include graphs to show information, and you might be asked to use the graph to find mistakes in the passage.
The passages on the Writing and Language Test assess specific skills required for college readiness. Let’s look at the skills on the SAT Writing and Language test below:
- Expression of Ideas
- Development, organization, and effective language use
- Standard English Conventions
- Sentence structure, conventions of usage, and conventions of punctuation
Looking for more? With our tips and tricks on How to Approach Writing and Language Questions, you can bid adieu to your SAT prep worries.
Top SAT Writing and Language concepts to prepare for
The Writing and Language Test includes seven writing concepts. Let’s look at what these are:
- Parallel Structure
Check out our blog to learn more about SAT Grammar and parts of speech that will be tested on the SAT Writing Test.
SAT Math Test Syllabus
The SAT Math Test includes two components: no calculator and calculator. The No-calculator part comprises 20 questions, and you will have 25 minutes to finish it. Following a five-minute break, the calculator part of the Math Test is administered, and you will have 55 minutes to answer 38 questions.
What is on the SAT Math Test
The Math Test will assess you based on four primary mathematical topics. You will be asked to create, use, interpret, or solve algebraic or mathematical equations and problems for every topic. Let’s have a look at the Math Test topics below:
- ~19 questions
- Linear expressions, equations, inequalities, and functions
- Solve linear equations, inequalities, and linear systems
- Interpret linear functions
- Variables and constants, Graphs and word problems
- Draw connections between algebraic and graphical representations
- ~17 questions
- Quantitative reasoning will be stressed. It involves ratios, percentages, rates, graphs, and tables
- These tasks may require numerous steps or equations and probabilities to evaluate graphs, tables, and data
- ~16 questions
- Nonlinear expressions are emphasized. To perform well, a comprehension of the structure of an expression is important. You’ll answer word problems, employ quadratic equations, and analyze complex functions
- These problems involve graphs and equations. You’ll factor equations, apply basic algebra to rational and polynomial expressions, and simplify
- ~6 questions
- Expect questions from geometry, complex numbers, and trigonometry
- These are word problems
Top SAT Math concepts to prepare for
The SAT Math Test topics are designed to measure your knowledge of fundamental concepts and skills. Let’s look at the concepts first:
- Algebraic concepts, which focus on linear equations and systems
- Problem-Solving and Data Analysis, both of which require you to analyze, interpret and deduce information from graphs, charts, and deduce the solution
- Passport to Advanced Math problems, which focus on non-linear equations, exponential expressions, and word problems
- Geometry and Trigonometry
- Problems with complex numbers
These concepts require you to master specific skills essential for you to be college-ready. Let’s learn what these skills are:
- Fluency and flexibility to apply formulas and solve problems accurately and strategically
- Inspect and reorganize the information in a problem and solve it
- Demonstrate understanding of mathematical concepts, operations, and relations
- Determine the crucial elements of real-world problems, analyze those and derive a solution
We recommend you to go through the concepts and skills in detail and learn how to approach the question types so nothing catches you by surprise on test day.
Optional SAT Essay
You’ll have 50 minutes to read a paragraph, identify the author’s main point, and back it up with evidence on the SAT’s Optional Essay test. You need to show that you understand the author’s point of view by examining how the whole work is pieced together. You are not required to complete the Essay portion of the test, but there are a few things to remember before making your final decision.
If you want to get into a particular institution, you should consider their policy on submitting test scores. You will have to take the SAT Essay if any colleges you’re interested in require it. If you wish to highlight your writing skills, providing a strong essay score can help your application stand out.
Now that you know the topics, concepts, and what to expect on each section of the test, you can create an effective and targeted study schedule. Want help with creating a dedicated study schedule for your SAT? Check out our SAT Study Guide.
Knowing just the syllabus is not enough! Taking practice tests along with a dedicated study schedule is your key to SAT success. UWorld’s SAT Prep Course has thousands of practice problems for each SAT test covering all question types, to help you prepare confidently for the high-stakes exam. Use our performance tracking tools to see which topics and question types need the most work, and prepare smarter!