SAT - Scholastic Aptitude Test

About  SAT-Scholastic Aptitude Test

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.


The College Board states that the SAT measures literacy, numeracy, and writing skills that are needed for academic success in college. They state that the SAT assesses how well the test takers analyze and solve problems—skills they learned in school that they will need in college. The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors. Specifically, the College Board states that use of the SAT in combination with high school grade point average (GPA) provides a better indicator of success in college than high school grades alone, as measured by college freshman GPA. Various studies conducted over the lifetime of the SAT show a statistically significant increase in correlation of high school grades and freshman grades when the SAT is factored in.

There are substantial differences in funding, curricula, grading, and difficulty among U.S. secondary schools due to American federalism, local control, and the prevalence of private, distance, and home schooled students. SAT (and ACT) scores are intended to supplement the secondary school record and help admission officers put local data—such as course work, grades, and class rank—in a national perspective.

Historically, the SAT has been more popular among colleges in the coasts and the ACT more popular in the Midwest and South. There are some colleges that require the ACT to be taken for college course placement, and a few schools that formerly did not accept the SAT at all. Now all schools accept the test.

Certain high IQ societies, like Mensa, the Prometheus Society and the Triple Nine Society, use scores from certain years as one of their admission tests. For instance, the Triple Nine Society accepts scores of 1450 on tests taken before April 1995, and scores of at least 1520 on tests taken between April 1995 and February 2005.

The SAT is sometimes given to students younger than 13 by organizations such as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, which use the results to select, study and mentor students of exceptional ability.


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 passage.


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

Notably, the SAT has done away with quantitative comparison questions on the math section, leaving only questions with straightforward symbolic or numerical answers. Since the quantitative comparison questions were well-known for their deceptive nature—often turning on the student's recognition of a single exception to a rule or pattern—this choice has been equated to a philosophical shift away from "trickery" and toward "straight math" on the SAT[]. Also, many test experts have attributed this change, like the addition of the new writing section, to an attempt to make the SAT more like the ACT.


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.

The multiple choice questions include error identification questions, sentence improvement questions, and paragraph improvement questions. Error identification and sentence improvement questions test the student's knowledge of grammar, presenting an awkward or grammatically incorrect sentence; in the error identification section, the student must locate the word producing the source of the error or indicate that the sentence has no error, while the sentence improvement section requires the student to select an acceptable fix to the awkward sentence. The paragraph improvement questions test the student's understanding of logical organization of ideas, presenting a poorly written student essay and asking a series of questions as to what changes might be made to best improve it.

The essay section, which is always administered as the first section of the test, is 25 minutes long. All essays must be in response to a given prompt. The prompts are broad and often philosophical and are designed to be accessible to students regardless of their educational and social backgrounds. For instance, test takers may be asked to expound on such ideas as their opinion on the value of work in human life or whether technological change also carries negative consequences to those who benefit from it. No particular essay structure is required, and the College Board accepts examples "taken from [the student's] reading, studies, experience, or observations." Two trained readers assign each essay a score between 1 and 6, where a score of 0 is reserved for essays that are blank, off-topic, non-English, not written with a Number 2 pencil, or considered illegible after several attempts at reading. The scores are summed to produce a final score from 2 to 12 (or 0). If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, then a senior third reader decides. The average time each reader/grader spends on each essay is less than 3 minutes.

Despite the College Board's claims that the SAT Essay is a nonbiased assessment of a student's writing ability, many different claims of bias have surfaced, including claims that readers give higher points to those who write in cursive, writers who write about personal experiences are less likely to get higher scores, and that topics favor the higher social classes. The College Board strictly denies any forms of bias on all portions of the SAT Reasoning Exam. In addition, essays with factual errors were not penalized for the errors.

In March 2004 Dr. Les Perelman analyzed 15 scored sample essays contained in the College Board's Score Write book and found that 90% of essays that contained more than 400 words got the highest score of 12 and that the essays with 100 words or fewer got the lowest grade of 1.

Style of questions

Most of the questions on the SAT are multiple choice; all multiple-choice questions have five answer choices, one of which is correct. The questions of each section of the same type are generally ordered by difficulty. However, an important exception exists: Questions that follow the long and short reading passages are organized chronologically, rather than by difficulty. Ten of the questions in one of the math sub-sections are not multiple choice. They instead require the test taker to bubble in a number in a four-column grid.

The questions are weighted equally. For each correct answer, one raw point is added. For each incorrect answer one-fourth of a point is deducted. No points are deducted for incorrect math grid-in questions. This ensures that a student's mathematically expected gain from guessing is zero. The final score is derived from the raw score; the precise conversion chart varies between test administrations.

The SAT therefore recommends only making educated guesses, that is, when the test taker can eliminate at least one answer he or she thinks is wrong. Without eliminating any answers one's probability of answering correctly is 20%. Eliminating one wrong answer increases this probability to 25%; two, a 33.3% probability; three, a 50% probability of choosing the correct answer and thus earning the full point for the question.

Section Average Score Time (Minutes) Content
Writing 494 60 Grammar, usage, and diction.
Mathematics 515 70 Number and operations; algebra and functions; geometry; statistics, probability, and data analysis
Critical Reading 502 70 Critical reading and sentence-level reading

Taking the test

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 Subject Tests are all given in one large book on test day. Therefore, it is actually immaterial which tests, and how many, the student signs up for; with the possible exception of the language tests with listening, the student may change his or her mind and take any tests, regardless of his or her initial sign-ups. Students who choose to take more subject tests than they signed up for will later be billed by College Board for the additional tests and their scores will be withheld until the bill is paid. Students who choose to take fewer subject tests than they signed up for are not eligible for a refund.

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).[2] 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.

Students with verifiable disabilities, including physical and learning disabilities, are eligible to take the SAT with accommodations. The standard time increase for students requiring additional time due to learning disabilities is 50%.

Raw scores, scaled scores, and percentiles

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.

The corresponding percentile of each scaled score varies from test to test—for example, in 2003, a scaled score of 800 in both sections of the SAT Reasoning Test corresponded to a percentile of 99.9, while a scaled score of 800 in the SAT Physics Test corresponded to the 94th percentile. The differences in what scores mean with regard to percentiles are because of the content of the exam and the caliber of students choosing to take each exam. Subject Tests are subject to intensive study (often in the form of an AP, which is relatively more difficult), and only those who know they will perform well tend to take these tests, creating a skewed distribution of scores.

The percentiles that various SAT scores for college-bound seniors correspond to are summarized in the following chart.

Percentile Score, 1600 Scale
(official, 2006)
Score, 2400 Scale
(official, 2006)
99.93/99.98* 1600 2400
99+ ≥1540 ≥2290
99 ≥1480 ≥2200
98 ≥1450 ≥2140
97 ≥1420 ≥2100
88 ≥1380 ≥1900
83 ≥1280 ≥1800
78 ≥1200 ≥1770
72 ≥1150 ≥1700
61 ≥1090 ≥1600
48 ≥1010 ≥1500
36 ≥950 ≥1400
15 ≥810 ≥1200
4 ≥670 ≥1010
1 ≥520 ≥790
* The percentile of the perfect score was 99.98 on the 2400 scale and 99.93 on the 1600 scale.

The older SAT (before 1995) had a very high ceiling. In any given year, only seven of the million test-takers scored above 1580. A score above 1580 was equivalent to the 99.9995 percentile.

SAT Subject Test Format:

SAT subject test can be divided into 5 general areas – English, History and Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, and Languages.

A college may require one or more of the subject tests for the purpose of admission and placement. SAT subject test consists of multiple choice questions.

It should be noted that there are some subjects for which questions are asked in a unique pattern.

SAT Eligibility Criteria

There are no eligibility criteria for SAT. You can take it during your Class XI or even after the XII boards. Just keep your college application deadlines in mind as admission decisions are largely dependent on SAT scores (along with GPA, transcript, recommendations, etc.).

SAT Test Fees

Test Format
SAT Reasoning Test $43
Writing Grammar, usage, and word choice ( multiple choice and student written essay)
SAT Subject Tests
Basic registration fee
Language Tests with Listening (add to basic registration fee)
All other Subject Tests (add per test to basic registration fee)
add $20

add $8

Tips and Strategies for Clearing SAT

Preparing for SAT

The mere thought of cracking the SAT test can be never wrecking for most of the students. However, the test itself is no rocket science. Mentioned below are a few simple guidelines that can help you attain a good SAT score.

  • It is essential to start studying well in time for the SAT test. You should consider studying at least 4 months before the SAT exam
  • SAT has various questions to test diction and reading comprehension skills in the verbal section. Reading newspapers, novels, watching English movies will prove to be quite beneficial. Make sure to check the dictionary for unfamiliar words
  • You should try to incorporate the new learned words in your every day usage
  • It is advisable to make a note of every word that you learn along with its meaning in a small diary. Make sentences with those words so as to comprehend their usage better. Keep this diary handy and scan through the pages whenever you get time
  • It’s a good idea to learn groups of words in multiples. Learn prefixes, suffixes and root meanings. Take for example the prefix “ex”. It means out or away. Now think of similar words such as exterior, exit, extrinsic or extrapolate. You can easily guess that extrinsic means external to as it is another ex word
  • It is important to hone your writing skills for the writing section in the SAT test. The easiest and most reliable way is to maintain a journal
  • It is important to work on logic puzzles. SAT is known to test logical reasoning skills of a candidate. You can easily purchase logic puzzle books from bookstores and practice on an everyday basis
  • During the course of your SAT preparation if you use calculator frequently, feel free to take the calculator to the exam. However, students who are not well versed with the use of calculator will gain little from its use during the exam

Study the previous SAT test papers well now! The time to learn the test directions is before the paper and not during the paper. Every minute spend reading the instructions is a minute less for solving the answers

Dates and Deadlines

SAT is administered 7 times a year for students in U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Territories. But, for overseas students, the SAT is offered only 6 times each calendar year on designated dates. Dates for 2008-09 are given below:

2008 - 2009 Test Dates Test US Registration - Regular US Registration - Late
(a fee applies)
(International only)
(International only)
October 4, 2008 SAT &
Subject Tests
September 9, 2008 September 16, 2008 August 26, 2008 September 9, 2008
November 1, 2008 SAT &
Subject Tests
September 26, 2008 October 10, 2008 September 10, 2008 September 26, 2008
December 6, 2008 SAT &
Subject Tests
November 5, 2008 November 18, 2008 October 15, 2008 November 5, 2008
January 24, 2009 SAT &
Subject Tests
December 26, 2008 January 6, 2009 December 3, 2008 December 26, 2008
March 14, 2009 SAT only February 10, 2009 February 24, 2009 N/A N/A
May 2, 2009 SAT &
Subject Tests
March 31, 2009 April 9, 2009 March 11, 2009 March 31, 2009
June 6, 2009 SAT &
Subject Tests
May 5, 2009 May 15, 2009 April 15, 2009 May 5, 2009