The SAT is one of the most important tests that you can take to further your education. This guide will
help walk you through what the SAT is, how your scores are calculated and used, and how to prepare for
the SAT. Gaining a better understanding of what this key piece of the higher education puzzle is will help
you in determining the best way to set yourself up for success.
- What is the SAT?
- When can you take the SAT?
- Who should take the SAT?
- Where can you take the SAT?
- Why is taking the SAT important?
- What are the different sections of the SAT?
- How many times can you take the SAT?
- Should you retake the SAT?
- How is the SAT scored?
- What is a Superscore?
- How do colleges use your SAT score?
- Studying for the SAT.
- When should you begin studying for the SAT?
- How to set up and ideal study setting?
- How do you prepare for the SAT Math section?
- How do you prepare for the SAT Reading/Writing section?
- Why are SAT practice tests important?
- How to hire a tutor to prepare for the SAT
What is the SAT?
The SAT is a standardized test for students seeking entrance to higher education. Most colleges and
universities in the United States, and around the world, use the SAT as a benchmark for the selection of
the incoming freshman class.
The SAT measures skills in three core areas: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing.
Developed in 1926 by the College Board, the exam is intended to assess a student’s readiness
(https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/inside-the-test) for college. The way that it’s set up it
tests your ability to analyze and solve problems under a strict time limit.
When can you take the SAT?
SAT testing is offered (https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines)
nationally in the United States 7 times per year: March, May, June, August, October, November, and
For international students, the SAT is offered 4 times per year: March, may, October, and December.
The test is administered on the first Saturday of the month listed. Testing begins promptly at 8 AM.
Arrive early because the test administrators shut the doors, and being even minutes late means you
forfeit your spot.
Additionally, there are states (https://blog.prepscholar.com/which-states-require-the-sat) which offer
testing as part of the school day.
There is no age requirement or grade level requirement to determine when you can take the test. You
can take the SAT as early as your freshman year of high school. Unless you are on track to graduate high
school by your sophomore year, it’s better to wait to take the SAT.
It’s recommended that you take the test at least twice.
For the most effective outcome, the standard is taking the test for the first time during your junior year.
Once your scores have been returned, you then have the opportunity to focus on areas for
The second time would be during your senior year of high school.
This wouldn’t be your last chance to take the SAT and get the score that you’re after, though. The SAT
also doesn’t have a limit to the number of times you can take it.
For many students, the best time to take the first attempt would be in the Spring of their junior year of
high school. Which would give you the advantage of being able to study over the summer, and retake
the test in the fall.
Who should take the SAT?
When applying for admission to a college or university, many require your SAT score to be submitted
along with your GPA. If you’re planning to pursue the path to higher education, plan on taking the SAT.
Where can you take the SAT?
Thousands of high schools and colleges administer SAT testing across the country. However, not all
locations offer testing for every test date, and seating may be limited.
You can find out from the high school you attend if they offer testing during the school year. If your high
school doesn’t require it for graduation, or offer it, you can find a test center
(https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/find-test-centers ) near you by visiting
collegereadiness.collegeboard.org and clicking on the registration tab.
There you will find a downloadable PDF which lists all the available SAT testing sites across the country,
listed in alphabetical order by state, and further broken down by city. The test months are shown for
There is also a hotline that you can call, in the event there are no testing locations near you. The number
to call is 866-756-7346.
Why is taking the SAT important?
Taking the SAT is an integral part of getting into the degree program you want at the college you want.
- Everyone needs to be able to read, write, and do math. That is what all three tests focus on
testing ability and skill in. The scores are not an end in themselves, however. They are an
important piece of the larger puzzle. The do not offer you happiness in life, success in your
career, remuneration for your efforts, etc. But they are what colleges use to gauge success at
their institutions. -Robert
The SAT measures the skills and knowledge that have been shown to be important for success
(https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/about/benefits) in college and your career.
It’s been proven through many studies that a college degree significantly increases your employment
prospects and your earnings potential. One study found that with a bachelor’s degree, the potential for
earnings was 84% higher than those with only a high school diploma. That’s fairly good incentive to take
the SAT and do the best you can.
What are the different sections of the SAT?
The SAT test consists of four sections:
For English the test covers Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (https://satmarketplace.com/satwriting-and-language-mastering-the-art-of-word-economy/). This includes comprehension, grammar
usage, expression of ideas, words in context, and standard English conventions.
The Math portion consists of a section that you can use a calculator, and a section where you cannot.
Algebra, advanced Math, problem solving, and data analysis are covered.
There is also an essay portion, which is optional. This section of the test adds a half hour to the test
time, and the scores are not included or combined with the composite score of the total test. However,
including the essay portion of the SAT allows administrators to get a better picture of your reading,
analysis, and writing skills.
How many times can you take the SAT?
You have the option to take the SAT as many times as you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean that
you’ll improve your chances of obtaining a high score. In taking the SAT test more than once, you will
have the opportunity to see the areas that you’re doing well in, and the areas that could use some
Should you retake the SAT?
Depending on your SAT score, and the requirements of the college you’re seeking to attend, it is a wise
choice to retake (https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-admissionsplaybook/articles/2016-03-21/3-circumstances-when-you-should-retake-the-sat) the SAT at least once.
Common practice is to take the SAT two, or even three times.
If you opt to take the SAT more times than the standard, understand that it will not deter your
application process. Administrators are accustomed to students taking the SAT multiple times.
How is the SAT scored?
The SAT sections are scored individually from 200-800 points. Then the scores are added together to net
the composite score. A perfect score on the SAT test is 1600. 800 in each section, meaning answering
every question correctly. The average score across the board is 1000.
As of the overhaul in 2016, the essay portion of the English section is optional and doesn’t play a part in
the composite score. This doesn’t mean that you should skip it though.
The composite score is calculated from the total number of questions that are answered correctly per
section. The total number of correctly answered questions is called the raw score.
For the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, it’s separated into to sections. The reading section has 52
questions, meaning the highest raw score that you can obtain is 52. The writing section contains 44
questions. To calculate your score, the total number of correctly answered questions are added together
and, using the “Raw Score Conversion Chart”, your score is determined. That score is multiplied by 10
and that gives the total for that section
For the Math the same principles apply. The section which doesn’t allow the use of a calculator has 20
questions. The section which allows the use of a calculator has 38 questions. Your highest possible raw
score is 58. Again, using the conversion chart, you determine what your score is.
The two converted scores are added together to give you your overall composite score.
(insert table? https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/scoring-sat-practice-test-1.pdf
There are also subscores and cross-test scores. These don’t play a part in determining your composite
SAT score, but they do provide useful information in your understanding of the subjects tested. Within
both the English and Math sections there are subject relative questions. These reflect your
comprehension of History/Social Studies, Science, and the different levels of Math.
By paying close attention to the subscores and the cross-test scores, you can determine where it would
be most beneficial to concentrate your studies on for improvement.
What is a Superscore?
There are an increasing number of colleges which are using the Superscore method.
A Superscore is your highest score from each section of any attempt at the SAT. The highest scores are
added together to yield the highest possible composite score.
Many colleges request all of your test results. This allows the admissions board to see a range of your
scores, from your initial attempt, through subsequent testing, which gives them a gauge to see your
As an example, your first attempt at taking the SAT yields scores of 480 in the English section and 500 in
Math. Your second attempt yields scores of 510 in English and 490 in Math.
Your composite score on the first attempt is 980. From the second attempt it’s 1000. For a college that
utilizes the Superscore method, your highest score is taken from each section, and that is used to
calculate your score. Meaning that from those two attempts, your cumulative score would be 1010.
How do colleges use your SAT score?
Colleges and universities use your SAT scores in several different ways.
Test scores are required if you are planning in participating in college athletics. Student athletes need to
be able to meet required test scores in order to compete.
Your test scores play a role in admission decisions. When you apply to a college, admissions officers look
at your GPA and your SAT scores. They are looking for consistency when comparing the two. Some
colleges also have minimum test score requirements for admissions. The requirements are published on
the school’s websites.
Some colleges will use high scores to allow you to test out of taking certain classes. This is a great
benefit because it will allow you to be placed into higher level classes, and give you flexibility in
additional class choices.
Another advantage to submitting your SAT scores is the availability of grant and scholarship money,
along with financial assistance. Some colleges offer scholarships based on SAT scores. For colleges that
award merit scholarships, it is well worth your effort to study and improve your score.
Studying for the SAT
Just like any test that you have taken since grammar school, studying is the most important aspect of
being able to get the results you’re looking for.
Achieving a high score on the SAT test comes from setting a goal, studying, and practice.
When should you begin studying for the SAT?
The suggested amount of time to begin preparing to take the SAT is a minimum of three months. For
students taking the test in the fall, preparations should begin midsummer. Taking the test in the spring
would mean your study schedule would begin in the winter.
The test is based on what you have learned throughout your high school studies. The three-month
guideline assumes that you’ve done fairly well with the subjects which are covered in the SAT. If there
are areas where you could use some practice, begin sooner. Practice tests help with determining what
areas you should focus on.
How to set up an ideal study setting?
Every student is unique when it comes to what your ideal study setting is. You know yourself and how
you learn best. Take that and work with it to give yourself the greatest advantage
(https://satmarketplace.com/what-to-eat-to-boost-your-sat-score/) and make the most of the time
For instance, does comprehension of the material come easier if you’re alone or in a group setting? Are
there certain times of the day that you find yourself more alert? Do you retain more information if your
time is spent in small allotments broken up throughout the day? Or are long study sessions more suited
One of the most important things is to be able to remove distractions, or have a way to remove yourself
How do you prepare for the SAT Math Section?
The questions in the SAT Math section cover analyzing and solving equations, ratios, proportions,
analyzing data, understanding the structure and being able to summarize data. Also covered are
questions involving geometry, trigonometry, and theorems.
Algebra, advanced mathematical concepts, problem solving, and data analysis are included. The main
focus is three areas. Mastery of linear equations and systems found in Algebra. Problem solving and
data analysis demonstrates your quantitative literacy. Understanding and working with complex
equations are also covered.
Preparing for the SAT Math section involves reviewing and practicing the concepts that you’ve learned
through high school.
How do you prepare for the SAT Reading/Writing Section?
The Reading section of the SAT tests your comprehension of the language, understanding the tone of
the author, grasping the context of what is being conveyed. It tests your critical reading skills.
The Writing and Language portion of the SAT tests punctuation, grammar, organization, use of language,
understanding proper sentences and subject/verb agreement. It’s about being able to convey
information in the most efficient way possible.
The best preparation for this portion of the test is practice. Read, summarize, and edit your writing
carefully and frequently. Stretch yourself as you reach for your goals. Challenge yourself with difficult
passages. With practice, your understanding will expand and your comprehension will develop.
Why are SAT practice tests important?
SAT practice tests are important (https://www.collegeraptor.com/getting-in/articles/act-sat/why-is-theactsat-so-important/) for several reasons. In taking a practice test, you will be able to see what the
actual SAT will be like. Scoring the practice test will allow you to see what areas you are excelling in, and
what areas will require additional study. Another great benefit from taking a practice SAT test is building
your confidence for taking the real test.
The SAT is timed. Knowing that you have a time limit to answer so many questions can be nerve
wracking. Sitting through a practice test will help you see that you can do it.
How to hire a tutor to prepare for the SAT?
If you’re contemplating enlisting the aide of a tutor to help you prepare for the SAT
(https://satmarketplace.com/sat/), here are some considerations to take into account.
- Understand what you hope to achieve. You know what areas you struggle in, utilize that information to
determine where you need assistance.
- Determine what your budget is. That will help you know what you have to work with.
- Look into the information that’s available on the tutors that you’re considering. Do they guarantee an
increase in scores? Do they specialize in the areas that you need help with? What is their background?