Essentials about SAT Exam Applicants Should Know

If there is even a small thought in your mind that you might one day apply to college, it is crucial for you to everything you can about the SAT and the impact it has on your application.

What exactly does SAT stand for? The SAT (or the Standardized Admissions Test) is one of two admissions tests used in the United States. The SAT is run by the same board the oversees the PSAT and the AP program.

The SAT test was an adaptation of the Army IQ test and was first administered in 1926. That said, it didn’t become commonplace until 1933, when the then president of Harvard University began using the test as a way of assessing potential scholarship recipients because he felt strongly that the test was a reasonable method of measuring intellect. This would be the driving force behind the growing popularity of the SAT which would soon become the standard method of testing for all college applicants.

To date, more than 300,000 American students have taken the SAT test.

In 1959, a new contender for standardized admissions testing was introduced – the ACT. Though not nearly as popular as the SAT, the ACT maintained a stronghold in the Midwest and mountain states and even outpaced the SAT in 2010.

What is the Purpose of SAT Exam?

The purpose of the SAT as a method of standardized testing is to provide students with a means of showing potential schools how prepared they are for post-secondary education by giving the school a way to measure key skills such as computational ability, reading comprehension and expression. Since the test is administered across the country and has been completed by hundred of thousands of students, it also enables schools to view data that would indicate how one particular test taker might measure up against other students.

If you plan to apply to a college or university in the United States, you will almost always need to write the SAT or the ACT and be asked to submit your test scores along with your application. In fact, depending on which schools you decide to apply to, the score you receive on the SAT could make up for 50% of the admission decision.

When Do You Take the SAT?

Interestingly, more and more states are making compulsory for high school students to write the SAT before they even graduate. These states include Delaware, New Hampshire and Michigan. Make sure you don’t miss your SAT registration deadline and it’s wise to begin your preparation well in advance, during summer or even spring. Typically, a registration deadline is a month or three weeks before the actual test, so don’t forget to register for SAT in due time.

Basic Information about the SAT

For applicants it is important to know how long is the SAT. There are ten different sections in the SAT, the first will always be the essay portion. This will be followed by two reading components, two math components, and a single experimental component. Students will be given approximately 25 minutes to complete each section.

Next, there will be a 20-minute reading section, a 20 minute math section, and a 10 minutes writing section. The SAT is almost entirely multiple choice, with the exception of the essay section, the 10 grid in questions and the 25 minute math portion. The total duration of the entire test is up to 3 hours 50 minutes.

Here is a table that outlines the overall format of the SAT subject test.

Area or TopicSectionTotal number of Questions
Critical Reading2 x 25 minute components

1 x 20 minute component

48 passage based questions

19 sentence completions

Math2 x 25 minute components

1 x 20 minute component

44 multiple choice questions

10 grid in questions

Writing1 x 25 minute essay

1 x 25 minute component

1 x 10 minute component

25 sentence improvements

18 locating sentence errors

6 paragraph improvements

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SAT Score Range

There are two major sections in the SAT test – Evidence Based Reading and Writing and Math. Going into the SAT test, you should know that you can earn a scaled score ranging from 200 to 800 in each section – for a total completed score of up to 1600.

The average SAT score ranges from 200 to 800 is determined based on the ‘raw’ score that a test taker earns in each of the sections. Raw score simply refers to the number of questions that were answered correctly. Skipping or answering a question incorrectly does not add or remove from the raw score.

The raw score is determined through a process known as ‘equating.’ Equating doesn’t’ mean benchmarking or curving a score based on other test takes on the same test date, instead it allows for minor variances in SAT test dates to ensure that scores represent the same level of ability over multiple test dates. This means that if one version of a test taken one month turns out to be substantially more difficult for students than another version of the test taken in another month, then the raw score conversion an be adjusted so that a 600 scaled score is still net.

Given that the formula used during the equating process will change from test to test in order to ensure that all scores are equal, it is impossible to calculate how a raw score is converted into a scaled score. However, the board disclosed raw score to scaled score ranges so that students can have a better understanding of what raw score they need to achieve in order to obtain a specific scaled score.

If you are worried about an upcoming SAT or need a little preparation help, here are a few practice tests to guide you: http://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice/full-length-practice-tests