Overview

This article comprehensively covers all aspects that a candidate, or in fact anyone interested, needs to know about the SAT exam. The SAT is a standardized exam used for admissions to undergraduate schools in the US. The SAT is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test created and administered by the College Board. SAT exam evaluates the written, verbal and mathematical skills of the candidates. SAT assesses how well the test-takers analyze and solve problems within a stipulated time frame, adding to the pressure producing a range of scores. Most of the colleges in the US require SAT scores for admission in the undergraduate courses. Apart from this, many schools also offer SAT scholarship money to students based on their SAT results. The SAT exam can be taken as many times as a student wants. There is no specific eligibility criteria set by the College Board, the body that conducts and manages the SAT exam. However, some notable schools like Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of California follow a “send all scores” policy, which means you have to submit all the SAT scores obtained along with the test dates till date. The SAT can be taken by students who are in high school. Students who want to apply for undergraduate studies abroad should have successfully completed their high school education to move to the undergraduate learning. The SAT exam cost for the academic year 2020 for the basic exam is $49 and $64.50 for the SAT with Essay.

SAT Sections and Scoring

The following table illustrates the SAT pattern :

SAT Pattern
SectionSection NameNo. of QuestionsTime Allotted (Minutes)
1Reading5265
1st Break: 10 Minutes
2Writing and Language4435
3Mathematics (No Calculator)2025
2nd Break: 5 Minutes
4Mathematics (Calculator)3855
3rd Break: 2 Minutes (in case you are writing the essay)
5Essay (Optional) 50
 Total154180 (230 with Essay)

The SAT is a 247 minutes long marathon with three optional breaks included. Your thinking and reasoning skills will be required throughout the test, as these are essentially required on the undergraduate course you aspire to study. The following are the sections on the SAT:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Math (No Calculator)
  4. Math (Calculator Allowed)

1)  Reading Section

The reading section comprises 52 Questions that have to be answered in 65 minutes, giving you approximately 70 seconds to answer each question. There are five passages of around 500-750 words, each with about 10-12 questions associated with each passage. It means one should devote not more than 12 minutes to each passage with five minutes left for reviewing the section.

One must try to read the passage slowly, absorbing the maximum information possible, and one should take notes of the important things mentioned in the passage. Make sure that the need to re-read the whole passage again should never arise, which might prove disastrous considering the time limit of the section. For some students reading the questions first before reading the passage might work better, and for some reading the passage first before seeing the question makes more sense. Which approach works better for you can be deciphered during your preparation phase, and one must stick to the approach comfortable to an individual. Don’t try experimenting with your approach on the final test day. Make sure that you do not devote more than 12 minutes to any passage in total. 

2)  Writing and Language Section

The writing section comprises 44 Questions that have to be answered in 35 minutes, giving you approximately 48 seconds to answer each question, which is much lesser than the Reading section. The section measures your knowledge and skills in revising and editing texts widely varied in purpose, subject, and complexity. The section requires you to be an editor and to fix the errors in grammar, punctuation, and organization of the sentence. There are four passages of around 400-450 words, each with 11 questions. It means one can devote an 8 minute time to each section with three minutes left for reviewing the section. The Subjects of the passage include one passage on a career-related topic, and one passage each in the humanities, history/social studies, and science. The passages vary in complexity, with some being relatively straightforward and others being highly challenging. So, one must ensure that you don’t spend a lot of time on the straight forward passages and try committing more time to the challenging ones.

3)  Math Section 

Math (No calculator) section comprises 20 Questions that have to be answered in 25 minutes, giving you 75 seconds to answer each question.

Math (Calculator) section comprises 38 Questions that have to be answered in 55 minutes, giving you approximately 87 seconds to answer each question.

Both the section of Math (No calculator and With Calculator) requires the same strategy. A two-pass approach works best for this section. Most of the questions are pretty straight forward and can be solved in less than a minute if you have good content knowledge, thereby providing additional time buffer for the tough questions. The Two-pass strategy ensures that you do not leave any doable questions unattempted. Every question is independent in the Math section, unlike the Verbal section, where the questions are related to the passage. So, one can get back to the questions left unanswered during the review time after you have attempted all the straight forward questions.

4)  Essay Section:

The Essay section consists of one passage between 650-750 words and you are allocated 50 minutes to complete the same. The essay section tests your reading, analytical, and writing skills. The purpose of essay writing is to assess your ability to analyze an author’s argument. Though the passage can be read in 2-3 minutes, one should devote at least 5-10 minutes in actively reading the passage underlying the thesis and take notes simultaneously about the supporting Evidence. Spend the next 5-10 minutes on drafting a rough outline of the entire essay as it will help you a lot in the final drafting of the essay. The remaining 30-35 minutes should be spent in actually writing the essay. Following the above approach saves you a lot of time as one need not go through the passage again and again.

Though there are four sections on the SAT. Broadly they can be categorized into two sections: Evidence-based Reading and Writing (EBRW), and Math. The range of scaled scores is 200-800 points in each section, making 1600 as the maximum achievable score. The SAT gives equal weightage to Verbal and Quant. It means one has to perform equally well on both the sections leaving no scope for any weak areas either in verbal or quant.

In case you are writing the optional essay, the essay score is totally independent and is not associated to your composite score in any way. The essay is scored on a scale of 2-8 for each of the three categories Reading, Analysis, and Writing. You receive three separate scores for the three categories.

PREPARING FOR THE SAT EXAM

At the start of one’s SAT journey, almost everyone encounters the dilemma, which SAT resource or coaching to choose? The right SAT method to prepare is the highest leverage choice you can make when it comes to bettering your scores. If you make the right decision, you might never have to worry about improving your SAT scores. Heading in the right direction can save you weeks of agony later on.

We at SAT Champ advocate the assimilation of knowledge in a phased manner without rushing through, giving prime focus on the understanding and application of concepts. Once a concept is taught, we ask the student to practice a couple of questions in ascending order of difficulty on the same idea to further strengthen his understanding. We ask the child to follow his independent thought process as to how will he approach the question? Many times, though, the problem is answered correctly, but it lacks the correct approach. We narrate the child a more efficient way to solve the same question, thereby further expanding his horizon. In this way, the student begins to enjoy the conceptual approach seeing its benefits both in terms of reducing problem complexity and significant reduction of the time spent in answering the problem. This approach, with time, paves the way for a child to focus on problem-solving rather than to cram. This step-by-step approach lays the foundation for a dramatic increase in his scores and overall approach to questions.

Our Alumni students all over the prestigious colleges around the world tell us how the change in their approach towards problem-solving is also helping them flare excellently in their respective courses too irrespective of the stream they chose. So, we highly recommend that you do provide us a chance to help us nurture your talent and maximize your potential.

Our point of view – SAT can be aced, but that surely requires the guidance of top SAT instructors, which can effectively make a difference in your SAT prep.

WHAT IS A GOOD SAT SCORE?

A good SAT score is a relative term depending on your existing score and the colleges you aim to target. However, generally speaking, any score above 1350 out of 1600 puts you in the 90th percentile, which is considered good if not excellent. The mean score of the SAT exam is somewhere around 1060 which means if you score 1060, 50% of students are ahead of your score and the rest 50% are behind. 

However, to know what a good SAT score is for a specific individual, it is always advisable to look at the average SAT score (mean) of the applicants admitted to the colleges or universities you are considering. 

WHEN IS THE SAT OFFERED?

The SAT exam is offered every year in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. The SAT is scheduled on Saturday mornings with the gates of the test centre closed by 8:00 AM. The test usually begins by 8:30 to 9:00 AM.