What is SAT? Test Format - Scoring - Practice

SAT is owned by College Board, a non-profit organization. It was started in 1926. Around 1.7 million students take SAT exam every year. SAT score is used my Universities/Colleges (mostly in US) for admission to Undergraduate programs (Bachelors degree).

SAT Test Format

SAT is a 3 hour 50 minute test (it includes 50 min. optional Essay). The new SAT format is broken down into two major test portions.

A major new development for the SAT has been the move toward technology-friendly test taking. Unlike the old SAT, the 2016 SAT is now offered both on paper and in a digital format. The use of calculators is also permitted, but only for one portion of the math test; the old format allowed for use the entire time in the math section.

The essay portion, which was added to the SAT in 2005, is now optional for students taking the test. The essay was originally part of the writing score total, combined with multiple choice questions, and was based on a provided prompt from which students could respond with opinion and supporting experiences. With the new changes, students are given a passage to read and analyze using persuasive writing to describe an author's motives and techniques. The optional essay also allows for 50 minutes to read and write the piece, while the original time was only 25 minutes.

SAT Scoring

Possibly the largest change to the SAT format in 2016 has been the method for scoring the tests. When the SAT originally was created, it was scored out of a total of 1600 points. As the test changed and the essay portion was added, the score rose to a total of 2400 points. The point breakdown was three possible areas with a total highest score of 800 each: Math, Reading Comprehension and Writing.

The update this year(from 2016) brings the total score of the SAT back down to 1600, with the essay becoming an optional portion. The new test has two overall categories, each with a total possible score of 800: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.

On the SAT, each question is typically worth one point total. Before the changes, students would be penalized for wrong answers by losing one-fourth of a point per each incorrect answer. However, the changed test now allows for a "no wrong answer penalty," meaning any incorrect answer does not take points away from the total overall score. This is very similar to the ACT, where omitted answers and incorrect answers do not hurt the final score. This allows for less stress on the students for fear of loss of points for incorrect answers. The questions themselves have changed as well. Before 2016, each question provided five possible answer choices for each multiple-choice question. With the new test, each multiple-choice question now only has four possible answers, giving students a better chance in narrowing down answers when a tough question arises.

SAT FAQs

Conquering the SATs

One of the worst parts about applying to college is the dreaded SAT. Millions of high school students are forced to get up early on a Saturday morning in order to subject themselves to a grueling four-hour exam. Though many universities are deemphasizing the SAT and other standardized tests in the admission process, the test still looms large in the lives college-bound seniors.

The College Board, which makes and administers the test, has said for years that the SAT is the best predictor of college readiness available. Over one million students take the SAT every year, intent on showing college admissions counselors that they’re prepared for the rigors of English 101 and Philosophy 212. In fact, studies show that scores on the SAT have very little to do with college success. So, if it can’t predict how you’ll do in college, what does the SAT measure?

What Does the SAT Really Mean?

Your SAT scores will determine many things in your life: where you apply to college, what sort of financial aid you can expect, and what scholarships you can apply for. But there are many things the SAT does not determine. The SAT does not determine your worth, it does not determine how intelligent you are, and it does not determine how successful you will be in college or life. In fact, the only thing the SAT actually measures is your ability to take the SAT. Studies show that show that high school grades are a much better predictor of your college readiness and eventual life success than is the SAT. As Nobel prize winning economist James Heckman and his team show in their recent discussion paper, grades predict life outcomes better than intelligence tests or exams like the SAT. In order to get a good score on the SAT you have to be good at the SAT, but in order to get high grades, you must have an interest in learning, good time management skills, and the ambition that drives high performance. The personality traits which ensure high grades, are strongly associated with better life outcomes. Though getting good scores on the SAT may get you into a good college, and your college grades may land you a plush internship, your personality will play a far greater role in the trajectory of your life.

Studying for the SAT

Despite the fact that the SAT doesn’t really measuring anything important, it is a test that you’re going to have to take in order to apply to most colleges. Thankfully, the SAT is a learnable exam. Even the College Board, which has claimed for years that more studying does nothing, finally admitted that the more you hit the books, the higher your score will be. The College Board now says that 20 hours of study on the official (and free) Khan Academy SAT prep site is “associated with an average score gain of 115 points.” That’s the difference between attending Boston University and Harvard.

The hours you spend on dedicated preparation in the months leading up to the exam are extremely important, however, you should also realize that the learning you do in the years leading up to the test is integral. You can cram 20 hours of hard-core SAT study in just before you sit down to take the exam, but you’ll start off at a higher level if you use your time in high school as an opportunity to prepare. Take challenging courses, read widely, and keep your quantitative skills sharp. Not only will you be giving yourself a boost in the test, but you’ll also be giving yourself a boost in college and beyond.

Where Your SAT Scores Can Get You

Once you have your scores in hand, you’ll be able to start narrowing down your list of potential colleges. You should try to apply to colleges which generally match your SAT scores and high school GPA, as well as a couple of schools which have average scores slightly above and slightly below your numbers. Below is a list of the top twenty colleges in the nation, along with average SAT scores provided by College Factual.
Princeton1520MIT1540
Dartmouth1500Rice1510
Harvard1530Stanford1520
Johns Hopkins1490Vanderbilt1540
Chicago1540U. Penn1510
Northwestern1510Notre Dame1480
Yale1540Duke1500
Brown1500Washington U1510
Columbia1510CalTech1560
Cornell1480Georgetown1460

It's the Whole Package

Though you should try to get the highest score possible on the SAT by working hard throughout high school and studying intensively in the months leading up to the test, you shouldn’t worry too much if your score is a bit lower than you wanted. The SATs matter in the admissions process, but they matter far less than they used to matter. With the realization that the SAT doesn’t measure innate abilities or predict success in college or life, its influence has waned. More and more colleges are concerned that over-reliance on the SAT gives students who have the time and money to spend on test prep a huge advantage, while disadvantaging minority, low-income, and first-generation students. Today, over 1,000 colleges do not use the SAT or ACT in their admissions decisions.6 If you end up with a lower SAT score, don’t worry. College admissions officers consider GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, and many other factors; your passion and personality can do a lot to make up for a low score.


SAT Prep



SAT Math


SAT Writing


SAT Reading