SAT Overview

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is one of the two standardized tests (along with the American College Testing (ACT)) for college admissions in the United States. It measures students’ preparedness for colleges and universities by testing the critical thinking skills that are essential for success after high school. The test is owned, developed and published by the College Board. It is administered and scored by Educational Training Systems. A testing session lasts 3 hours (plus 50 minutes for the optional Essay) and costs $43 ($54.50 for the SAT with Essay).

The role an applicant’s SAT score plays in his or her candidacy to a college or university varies between institutions. While it is the preferred standardized test of most colleges on the East and West coasts, the ACT is more widely accepted in the Midwest and South. Some colleges require neither, opting to evaluate candidacy solely on the basis of high school coursework, GPA, extracurricular experiences, writing samples and recommendations. Because of variance across high schools resulting from differences in curriculum, grading and rigor, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT provide admissions boards with a comparable element for the applicant pool.

Test Media:

Test is now available in either a paper or digital formal. The digital format will have limited availability at first. The College Board rolled out practice digital SAT exams in December of 2017, in some school districts, and said that fully operational digital versions would be available for students to take in Spring 2018. They noted that there would only be a slight increase in the number of students taking the digital version of the exam over the paper version, but couldn’t provide an estimate. An online option can make it easier to provide accommodations for students with special needs, and might eventually “shorten the turnaround time” for getting scores back, she said. Students can use school-owned laptops, desktops or Chromebooks. But there are no plans to do away with the paper version.

The electronic option remains a very new option for students in the US. But by the end of 2018 it will become the only option for students abroad. This year, both the SAT and ACT will be offered solely through computers to those taking the test outside the States, signaling that the US adoption isn't far off.

There’s also talk that the online test might one day become adaptive. Adaptive tests adjust the level of questioning according to how the test taker performs on prior questions, so that low scorers are asked fewer of the hardest questions and high scorers don’t need to waste as much time on easy ones. That kind of test can provide a more detailed picture of what students have mastered. It also means test takers get different questions in a different order from one another and from previous exams that may have been leaked or stolen.

SAT Section Comparisons

Section # Of Questions Time Allowed Details Score Range
SAT Evidence-Based Reading & Writing 96 100 minutes Reading (52 questions), Writing & Language (44 questions) 200-800
SAT Math 58 80 minutes Multiple Choice (45 questions), Grid-in (13 questions) 200-800
SAT Optional Essay 1 50 minutes Optional Only 6-24
Totals 3 Hours 400-1600

SAT Details

  • The SAT is a 3 hour test and can be taken at any one of many test centers in the United States and around the world 6 or 7 times a year.
  • The SAT can be taken as many times as a student wishes to take it.

    • If you have taken the SAT multiple times, then up to six of your previous scores on the SAT and up to six of your previous scores on the SAT Subject Tests will appear on the report.

  • The national average SAT score is 1000
  • The national average of ACT scores is about 21 (composite) and 7.7 (writing).
  • Test Sections and Time:

    • Reading Time Allotted: 65 (minutes)
    • Number of Questions/Tasks: 52
    • Writing and Language Time Allotted: 35 (minutes)
    • Number of Questions/Tasks: 44
    • Essay (optional) Time Allotted: 50 (minutes)
    • Number of Questions/Tasks: 1
    • Mathematics Time Allotted: 80 (minutes)
    • Number of Questions/Tasks: 58
    • Total Test Time: 180 minutes (without essay)/ 230 minutes (with essay)
    • Total Number of Questions/Tasks: 154/155 (with essay)

SAT Specifics

Math Section:

1. The College Board has listed 41 specific skills that the new math test will assess. Fifteen percent of the math questions will have a hard science theme, and 15 percent will have a social studies theme.

Verbal Section:

2. The name of critical reading and writing will be changed to evidence based reading and writing: The section will include graphs and tables for science and social studies passages.

3. There will be a no calculator section that is worth 1/3 of the math score. The test places an emphasis on students’ ability to identify when a calculator is an effective tool. The calculator section will include “questions in which the calculator could be a deterrent to expedience, thus assessing appropriate use of tools.”

4. More Varied Text: The reading passages will come from a variety of academic disciplines including science, history, social studies, and literature.

5. Less Obscure Vocabulary: Words will now be "relevant in context" and are ones that are widely used in college and professional life.

6. Students will know passages ahead of time that will be from a founding document in american history or from a text that is part of the "great global conversation".

SAT Score Reporting

Area Scores: Will report two area scores:

1) Evidence Based Reading and Writing: will equal the sum of the Reading Test score and the Writing and Language Test Score 2) Math: Will be the math test score Each of the two scores will be reported on a scale ranging from 200 to 800. Scores for the essay will be reported separately and not be factored into area scores.

Test Scores: The SAT will report three test scores, on a scale from 10 to 40.

1) Reading Test Score 2) Writing and Language Test Score 3) Math Test Score The Essay will be reported separately. Current plans call for the Essay to report three scores, a decision that will be reassessed pending the outcome of further research.

Cross-Test Scores: The SAT will also report two cross-test scores:

1) Analysis in History/Social Studies 2) Analysis in Science Each of these scores will be reported on a 10-40 scale. These scores are based on selected questions in the SAT Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests and will reflect the application of reading, writing, language, and math skills in history/social studies and science contexts


The SAT will report multiple scores for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Reading and Writing and Language Tests will contribute questions to two subscores:

  • 1) Command of Evidence
  • 2) Relevant Words in Context.

The Writing and Language Test will report two additional subscores:

  • 1) Expression of Ideas
  • 2) Standard English Conventions

Math Test will report three subscores:

  • 1) Heart of Algebra
  • 2) Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • 3) Passport to Advanced Math

Total: seven subscores. Each on a scale ranging from 1 to 15.

The College Board will release official practice materials for the new SAT in the spring of 2015.

SAT Test Prep Tutoring & Preparation Courses

Based in New York City (NYC), Manhattan Elite Prep offers SAT test prep classes and tutoring services. We also have expert teachers for all major SAT sections including Writing, Critical Reading & Math. With locations on the East Coast, from Boston (MA) to Miami (FL), to cities on the West Coast, such as San Diego (CA), Los Angeles (CA), San Jose (CA) and San Francisco (CA), Manhattan Elite Prep has instructors in almost every major city in the United States.

Our SAT tutors help students achieve their best score in private tutoring sessions throughout the country, from our Dallas (TX), Houston (TX) and Austin (TX) locations in Texas, to our Chicago (IL), Cincinnati (OH), Columbus (OH) and Indianapolis (IN) locations. We offer private tutoring for the SAT, among other tests, in cities away from the major metro areas, such as Louisville (KY), St. Louis (MO), Salt Lake City (UT), Oklahoma City (OK) and Kansas City (KS).

Our online SAT teachers help students achieve their best score in online test preparation classes. We offer online test prep courses for the SAT, among other tests. For SAT test prep students pursuing an online SAT class we allow for maximum flexibility by providing them with immediate and unlimited access to our online library. For SAT students, test preparation courses can be expensive, so we are always sure to have online SAT instructors available at affordable rates.

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