Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

About SAT
Exam Structure Exam Dates & Details Results & Scores

About SAT

The SAT Reasoning Test (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a non-profit organization in the United States, and was once developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). ETS now administers the exam. The College Board claims that the SAT can determine whether or not a person is ready for college. The current SAT Reasoning Test takes three hours and forty-five minutes and costs $45 ($71 International), excluding late fees. Since the SAT's introduction in 1901, its name and scoring has changed several times. In 2005, the test was renamed to the "SAT Reasoning Test" with possible scores from 600 to 2400 combining test results from three 800-point sections (math, critical reading, and writing), along with other subsections scored separately


Exam Structure

SAT consists of three major sections:

Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing.

Each section receives a score on the scale of 200–800. All scores are multiples of 10. Total scores are calculated by adding up scores of the three sections. Each major section is divided into three parts. There are 10 sub-sections, including an additional 25-minute experimental or "equating" section that may be in any of the three major sections. The experimental section is used to normalize questions for future administrations of the SAT and does not count toward the final score. The test contains 3 hours and 45 minutes of actual timed sections, although most administrations, including orientation, distribution of materials, completion of biographical sections, and eleven minutes of timed breaks, run about four and a half hours long. The questions range from easy, medium, and hard depending on the scoring from the experimental sections. Easier questions typically appear closer to the beginning of the section while harder questions are towards the end in certain sections. This is not true for every section but it is the rule of thumb mainly for math and sentence completions and vocabulary.

Critical Reading

The Critical Reading, formerly verbal, section of the SAT is made up of three scored sections, two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section, with varying types of questions, including sentence completions and questions about short and long reading passages. Critical Reading sections normally begin with 5 to 8 sentence completion questions; the remainder of the questions are focused on the reading passages. Sentence completions generally test the student's vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure and organization by requiring the student to select one or two words that best complete a given sentence. The bulk of the Critical Reading questions is made up of questions regarding reading passages, in which students read short excerpts on social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, or personal narratives and answer questions based on the passage. Certain sections contain passages asking the student to compare two related passages; generally, these consist of shorter reading passages. The number of questions about each passage is proportional to the length of the passage. Unlike in the Mathematics section, where questions go in the order of difficulty, questions in the Critical Reading section go in the order of the difficulty of the passage. Overall, question sets towards the beginning of the section are easier, and question sets towards the end of the section are harder.


The Mathematics section of the SAT is widely known as the Quantitative Section or Calculation Section. The mathematics section consists of three scored sections. There are two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section, as follows:

• One of the 25-minute sections is entirely multiple choice, with 20 questions.

• The other 25-minute section contains 8 multiple choice questions and 10 grid-in questions.
This part has no penalty for incorrect answers since the student guessing is limited.

• The 20-minute section is all multiple choice, with 16 questions.

• New topics include Algebra II and scatter plots. These recent changes have resulted in a shorter, more quantitative exam requiring higher level mathematics courses relative to the previous exam

Calculator Use

With the recent changes to the content of the SAT math section, the need to save time while maintaining accuracy of calculations has led some to use calculator programs during the test. These programs allow students to complete problems faster than would normally be possible when making calculations manually. The use of a graphing calculator is sometimes preferred, especially for geometry problems and questions involving multiple calculations.


Page 1 & 2 of an SAT essay. This student received a 7/12 from two judges, one giving 3/6 and the other giving 4/6.

The writing section of the SAT, based on but not directly comparable to the old SAT II subject test in writing, includes multiple choice questions and a brief essay. The essay subscore contributes about 30% towards the total writing score, with the multiple choice questions contributing 70%. This section was implemented in March 2005 following complaints from colleges about the lack of uniform examples of a student's writing ability.



Exam Dates & Details

The SAT is offered seven times a year in the United States, in October, November, December, January, March (or April, alternating), May, and June. The test is typically offered on the first Saturday of the month for the November, December, May, and June administrations. In other countries, the SAT is offered on the same dates as in the United States except for the first spring test date (i.e., March or April), which is not offered. In 2006, the test was taken 1,465,744 times.
Candidates may either take the SAT Reasoning Test or up to three SAT Subject Tests on any given test date, except the first spring test date, when only the SAT Reasoning Test is offered. Candidates wishing to take the test may register online at the College Board's website, by mail, or by telephone, at least three weeks before the test date.

The SAT Reasoning Test costs $45 ($71 International).

For the Subject tests, students pay a $20 Basic Registration Fee and $9 per test (except for language tests with listening, which cost $20 each). The College Board makes fee waivers available for low income students. Additional fees apply for late registration, standby testing, registration changes, scores by telephone, and extra score reports (beyond the four provided for free).

Candidates whose religious beliefs prevent them from taking the test on a Saturday may request to take the test on the following Sunday, except for the October test date in which the Sunday test date is eight days after the main test offering. Such requests must be made at the time of registration and are subject to denial.

Result & Score

Students receive their online score reports approximately three weeks after test administration (six weeks for mailed, paper scores), with each section graded on a scale of 200–800 and two sub scores for the writing section: the essay score and the multiple choice sub score. In addition to their score, students receive their percentile (the percentage of other test takers with lower scores). The raw score, or the number of points gained from correct answers and lost from incorrect answers (ranges from just under 50 to just under 60, depending upon the test), is also included. Students may also receive, for an additional fee, the Question and Answer Service, which provides the student's answer, the correct answer to each question, and online resources explaining each question.


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