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The SAT: What It Is & How To Prepare

13 May, 2022

If you are a high school student or a parent of a high schooler, then the SAT is a hot topic. It is an important test that can greatly impact the future of a student and their education. We’ve addressed all your questions so you can feel confident in navigating the SAT from start to finish!

What is the SAT?

The SAT is a comprehensive test used as a key component in the university or college application and admission process. The test was originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test but has since come to be referred to as the SAT. It is a fully multiple-choice exam used to demonstrate the student’s level of knowledge. The SAT test is therefore one of the most important exams for students to shape their future.

What does the SAT cover?

The SAT is split into sections. Evidence-based reading, writing, and math. For evidence-based reading, you will read short passages before being prompted with questions about the reading. Math is also split into two sections, one where calculators are prohibited and one where they are allowed.

When is the SAT taken?

The SAT is typically taken by high school students in their junior or senior year of high school, sending their SAT scores to colleges to which they are applying. High school juniors often take the test in the spring while seniors take it in the fall. They should give themselves ample time to test and get the results before applying to schools. It is recommended to take the SAT in the spring of junior year because every student is eligible to retake the test for an improved score. Taking it sooner rather than later will give the opportunity to choose to retake with time to spare!

How long is the SAT?

The SAT is taken over the course of 3 hours with 154 questions to answer. It has a hard start and end time for each section. In addition to these 3 hours, students will be given a ten-minute break and a five-minute break. Tip: Be sure to eat a well-rounded meal beforehand and pack a snack and water bottle. You’ll want to feel your best and have all your brainpower for these hours of testing.

How is the SAT scored?

Each section of the SAT is scored on a 200 to 800-point scale. Since the total SAT score is the sum of the scores from the reading section and the math section, a perfect SAT score is1600. According to College Board’s 2020 SAT Annual Report, among the 1.5 million 2021 high school graduates who took the test, the average SAT score was 1060. Looking at it in sections, the average score for Reading and Writing was 533, and the average for Math was 528.

Tip: When applying to colleges, look for the average SAT scores for acceptance online to help see where you fall. For example, this list from opuscollegeprep.com shows the average SAT scores at 50 of the top universities in the United States. Knowing this information can help you decide where to apply or if they should take the SAT again for the chance at an improved score.

How to register for the SAT?

You can register for the SAT online at CollegeBoard.org. Be prepared to provide a photo for identification and pay a registration fee of $55.

Math and the SAT

With math being a subject in school that often causes anxiety, it’s natural to feel nervous heading into the big exam. But there is no need to worry! The College Board website lists the different types of math questions to expect on the SAT so you can come fully prepared in this SAT Math Test Overview, summarized below:

Heart of Algebra

Focuses on linear equations, systems of linear equations, and functions. These questions ask you to create equations that represent a situation, solve equations and systems of equations, and make connections between different representations of linear relationships.

Passport to Advanced Math

This section focuses on the math needed in disciplines such as science or economics and for career opportunities in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The Passport to Advanced Math area requires familiarity with more complex equations or functions, which is needed for calculus and advanced courses in statistics.

Problem Solving and Data Analysis

Testing quantitative literacy, this section focuses on using ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to solve problems in real-world situations, including science, social science, and other contexts. It also includes describing relationships shown graphically and analyzing statistical data.

Additional Topics

The SAT Math Test also contains several questions in Additional Topics in Math, including geometry, trigonometry, radian measure, and complex numbers.

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Written by Mathleaks

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