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Most Frequenly Asked Questions about the SAT


About the SAT

Registering for the SAT

Preparing for the SAT

Taking the SAT

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About the SAT

The SAT I is a standardized examination designed to measure students’ abilities in three areas: reading, writing, and mathematical reasoning. Many colleges and universities consider SAT scores an important factor in judging the quality of applicants. Colleges value the SAT because it provides a level playing field for applicants to demonstrate their abilities. Since grading standards vary from one school to another, one student with a 4.0 GPA may not necessarily match another student with the same GPA. Thus, many schools rely on the SAT as a fair metric by which to judge a student’s abilities against another's. As a result of the intensely competitive nature of the application process for the best schools, an impressive SAT score is all the more desirable because a superior test score could potentially provide an applicant with that extra edge needed to succeed. Any student seriously considering any of the most prestigious universities in the United States must recognize the SAT as an important element of the application process. A less-than-outstanding SAT score will not necessarily nullify an applicant’s chances of acceptance, since other factors including GPA, extracurricular activities, and application essays are also considered; however, an outstanding score certainly helps. For two of the three areas (Reading and Writing, and Math) tested by the SAT, a scaled area score (ranging from 200 to 800) is determined, giving a maximum possible total score of 1600. The essay score is reported separately, with three subscores in reading, analysis, and writing ranging from 1-4 for a total out of 12. In March 2016, the format of the SAT changed significantly. The test has been simplified: instead of nine subsections with twenty or twenty-five minutes each, the SAT is now composed of four longer sections plus the optional essay. The emphasis on general reasoning and abstract knowledge and application has been replaced with an emphasis on applied reasoning and analysis of provided evidence. The good news is that the changes made to the SAT in March 2016 have made significant improvement a more achievable goal. Armed with serious diligence and commitment, you have a greater chance than ever before to do well on the SAT, and we at Ivy Global are prepared to equip you with the skills and strategies needed to maximize your results.

The current version of the SAT was rolled out in March 2016. It is composed of the following sections and is 3 hours and 50 minutes long (including the optional essay):

  • 100-minute Evidenced-based Reading and Writing section
    • Reading Test (65 minutes, 52 questions)
    • Writing and Language Test (35 minutes, 44 questions)
  • 80-minute Math section
    • No-calculator section (25 minutes, 20 questions)
    • Calculator section (55 minutes, 38 questions)
  • Optional Essay-writing section (50 minutes)
The SAT is scored on a scaled of 400-1600. The changes have been designed to generate more subscores, which give a clearer picture of your abilities. The SAT also focuses more on skills in critical thinking and analysis with less focus on vocabulary. In math, there are more concepts (such as trigonometry). The essay is now optional and will involve analyzing a text and writing an essay based on your analysis.

SAT II Subject Tests are subject-specific exams that often supplement the SAT or ACT. There are currently 20 different subjects available, and most, though not all, universities require 1 or 2 subject exams. The only school that currently requires 3 subject test scores is Georgetown.

The SAT Reasoning Test takes about 4 hours to complete and measures your general math, reading, and writing abilities. The SAT Subject Tests (SAT II) are multiple choice tests on common subjects you would study in high school, such as Biology, Math, Literature, or World History. There are 20 different Subject Tests, each takes only one hour to complete and is scored on a scale from 200-800. Many highly selective US colleges require applicants take two Subject Tests for admission, though they can often choose to take any ones they like.

The highest possible SAT I Reasoning Test score is 1600. For each of the SAT II Subject Tests, the highest possible score is 800.

The SAT is an integral part of the admissions criteria. Colleges utilize the SAT score in combination with the student's GPA and school rank to determine the student's "academic index," an indicator of the student's academic success and potential. In assessing students from less prominent high schools, admissions officers give the SAT extra weight. Students who are concerned that their school average and rank might fail to accurately depict their academic potential should view the SAT as an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

Registering for SAT

You can register for the SAT at the College Board website. Before registering, you will need to create a login with the College Board.

The SAT is administered 7 times a year—January (ends in 2017), March (U.S. only), May, June, August (begins in 2017), October, November, and December. See SAT Dates.

The SAT test costs USD $52.50 per time.

Preparing for SAT

It’s never too early to start preparing. Students sometimes start preparing as early as grade 8. Younger students can prepare by enhancing fundamental academic skills like reading comprehension and writing. In particular, one of the best ways to prepare is to read a large number of books at an early age. We also encourage self-study by purchasing a few SAT preparation books.

Study time for the SAT varies significantly from student to student. The first step should always be to complete a diagnostic exam in realistic test conditions. Based on the results from this test, the student should determine a reasonable study schedule to improve on his/her weaknsses. Typically, the majority of students will need to dedicate at least 60 hours to maximize performance on the SAT.

School Type Examples Estimated SAT Scores
Most Selective Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT 1500-1600
Very Selective UPenn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Chicago 1430-1530
Selective Emory, Duke, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Rice 1370-1500
Top NYU, Boston University, USC, Michigan 1370-1500

Taking the SAT

The College Board places no limitations on the number of times a student can take the SAT. Most students take the exam two or three times to ensure their scores are representative of their abilities.

There is no guessing penalty. Students taking the test are encouraged to guess on all questions that they would have otherwise left blank.

On test day, make sure to do the following things:

  • Eat breakfast! The SAT takes many hours to write.
  • Bring snacks for the breaks between sections, and keep a bottle of water with you, as this is the only thing you are allowed to drink during the test.
  • Bring the correct supplies: at least two number two pencils (no pens or mechanical pencils), a good eraser, and an approved calculator.
  • Wear multiple layers, so that you can put on or take off clothing to adjust to the temperature of the testing room.
  • Don't forget to bring your picture ID and SAT admission ticket.

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