About the SAT Test

What you should know about the SAT

TLearn what you need to know about the SAT exam.he SAT exam is the most popular college entrance exam. Millions of students are tested every year, and colleges take a close look at your scores when deciding whether or not you will be admitted. The maximum score on the SAT exam is a 2400, with a 1500 considered "average."

Frequently Asked Questions about the SAT

What is covered on the SAT Exam?
How much time should I spend on each question?
Are some questions worth more points?
Can I skip between sections of the test?
How do they score the SAT?

 

The SAT exam is divided into ten sections testing three content areas:

Math 

 

 

 

How many questions?

3 sections -70 minutes total
20 questions - 25 minutes
18 questions - 25 minutes
16 questions - 20 minutes

What do they test?  

Number and Operations
(Pre-Algebra)
Algebra I and II
Geometry (no proofs)
Basic Statistics
Charts and Graphs

How do I answer?

Multiple-Choice 
Fill-in-the-Grid

What's my score?  

200-800

 

Critical Reading 

 

 

How many questions?  

3 sections -70 minutes total
24 questions - 25 minutes
24 questions - 25 minutes
19 questions - 20 minutes 

What do they test?  

Sentence Completion
(Vocabulary)
Reading Comprehension:
Short Passages, Long Passages,
and Comparing Passages

How do I answer?  

Multiple-Choice Only

What's my score?  

200-800

 

Writing 

 

 

 

How many questions?

3 sections - 60 minutes total
1 question - 25 minutes
35 questions - 25 minutes
14 questions - 10 minutes

What do they test?

Writing Skills: Style, Clarity and Fluidity,
and Word Errors
Identifying Grammar Errors
Improving Sentences
Improving Paragraphs  

How do I answer?  

Original Essay
Multiple-Choice

What's my score?   

200-800

 

Unscored?

On every exam, the test writers include one extra, unscored section where they try out new questions. It could cover Math, Critical Reading, or Writing.


First of all, don't be scared if your test has extra questions in your weakest subject area. Every test is scored on the same number and distribution of questions.


That said, do not, under any circumstances, leave a section blank because you think it's the unscored section. It's not worth the risk of leaving a scored section blank just to give your hand a rest.

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How much time should I spend on each question?

On average, you have 75 seconds to answer each Math question and about 42 seconds for each Writing question. Keep in mind, though, that questions at the beginning of a section tend to be easier, so you may want to save more time for the later questions. For the Critical Reading sections, you’ll need time to read the passages before you answer; depending on your reading speed, you should have about 30 seconds to answer each question. For the essay, you have 25 minutes to read the prompt, draft an outline, and write it all out.

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Are some questions worth more points?

Each question is worth the same number of points. After getting a raw score—the number of questions right minus a penalty for wrong answers—this is equated to a “scaled” score from 200 to 800 in each of the Critical Reading, Math, and Writing sections. A scaled score of 500 in each part is considered “average.”

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Can I skip between sections of the test?

No, you can only work on a section in its specific time. If you are caught skipping between sections you could be asked to leave the test.

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How do they score the SAT?

Official SAT scores are reported for Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. They range from 200-800, with 800 being considered the top score. A 2400 (800s in all three sections) is extremely rare; out of 1.5 million SATs last year, fewer than 300 earned a “perfect score.”

Now, a perfect score does not necessarily mean that the student answered every question correctly. The scoring process is rather complicated.


Part 1: The Raw Score

First, they calculate how well you performed on the multiple-choice and grid questions.

  • Every question you answer correctly earns 1 point.
  • Every question you leave blank earns 0 points.
  • Every multiple-choice question you answer incorrectly costs you an extra ¼ point.

Why the ¼-point penalty? Mostly, it’s a safe-guard against students who randomly choose answers without reading the question. The test writers want you to try to answer every question. If you’ve worked through the problem but are stuck between two choices, it’s generally worthwhile to guess.

The essay is scored by two readers, each of whom assign a point value from 1 to 6. Essays that do not address the prompt receive a 0 (this ensures that students won’t write out a draft before they take the test).


Part 2: The Scaled Score

After calculating every student’s raw score, the graders adjust the scores so that national results on any given test are consistent with previous exams. Without the scaled score, colleges could only compare students who answered the same questions on the same day. The scale is different every time, but here's a sample.
Free Downloadable SAT Score Conversion Table

Generally, answering 1 more question correctly results in a 10-point score boost.


Part 3: Factoring in the Essay

You might have noticed that the scaled score for Writing is only out of 80 points, not 800. That’s because we haven’t yet factored in the essay, which counts for roughly ⅓ of your score. To find your Writing composite score, match your raw multiple-choice score with your essay score.

Free Downloadable SAT Writing Score Table

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