Last Updated: February 09, 2021
SAT Test Pattern and Syllabus
SAT exam is conducted every year by the College Board with the intention of measuring what a student has learned in school and what they will need to succeed in college/ university. They believe that memorizing words and facts is not the right way to go about measuring skills and so have accumulated topics that are relevant from the school syllabus to assess the degree to which one has grasped these basic concepts. The two sections in the test are mostly based on English Language and Mathematics thereby condensing a lot of portions into what is seemingly relevant for higher education. It is not an exam measuring IQ but is a competitive exam focusing only on college admissions.
The exam pattern and syllabus pertaining to the test have been explained in detail on this page to help you understand what you need to know before taking the test.
General SAT Test Pattern
SAT used to be conducted as both a general test and as subject tests. The subject test portion of SAT has been scrapped to help students by reducing their workload. Now, the general test is the only official SAT test available.
The general SAT test has 2 sections. The Evidence-based Reading and Writing and Language section along with a Mathematics section. Each section is scored on a scale between 200 and 800 where 800 is the maximum mark achievable in one section. The scores that are achieved are called raw scores
and are eventually scaled to the final scores. The scaling is done to ensure that scores remain consistent throughout different tests though the tests might vary in difficulty levels.
The test is conducted both in the paper-format and online
though this is subject to the availability of computerized spaces where the exam can be held. The time duration is 3 hours and 50 minutes with 2 breaks provided in between. The breaks are each 10 minutes and 5 minutes, but students are not allowed to use any electronic gadgets during the breaks.
Candidates are NOT permitted to jump across sections
. Each section is provided a stipulated amount of time within which, and only within which, they are allowed to attend the questions in that section.
There is NO negative marking
for the test and the College Board encourages guessing when compared to leaving unattended answers.
The test is conducted as 3 different sections though the first 2 are clubbed together when it comes to grading. The four different sections will always be in the order Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics. The Mathematics section is technically divided into 2 sections- one where you can use a calculator and one where the use of a calculator isn’t permitted.
This section generally has passages pertaining to the following topics
- U.S Literature or World Literature
- U.S Founding Document or a text from the Great Global Conversation they inspired
- Passage from Economics, Psychology, Social Science, Sociology, etc.
- Passage based in Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry or Physics
Writing and Language
This section also contains passage-based questions. The passages are generally based on topics similar to that in the Reading section (like arguments, non-fiction, humanities, social sciences, etc.) but focuses on your ability to:
- Find mistakes/ errors and Fix them
- Interpreting a graphic
- Sharpen an argument
- Improve word choice
- Make editorial decisions
They test your knowledge in Standard English Conventions through questions based in-
- Sentence structure and usage
- Words and Clauses
- Parallel construction
- Subject-verb agreement
- Verb tense
This section focuses on math that is deemed necessary in life than all the concepts that has been taught in school. It covers a few many main topics where most of the questions will be from algebra. The topics are:
- Linear equation
- Single variable equations
- Absolute value
- Polynomials and dividing polynomials
- Quadratic equations
- Exponential functions and equations
- Non-linear equations
- Ratios and Proportions
- Median, mode and standard deviation
- Coordinate geometry-lines, shapes, non-linear functions
- Geometry-circles, line and angles, solid geometry, triangles, and polygons
- Complex numbers
SAT Test Time Division
The time-division for each section depends on the number of questions and their difficulty level. The Reading section has a total of 52 questions and is given only around 65 minutes. But since the section contains different passages, extra time will be required to sift through the same.
The Writing and Language section has a total of 44 questions and is given only 35 minutes. This section also contains passage-based questions that require reading and keen perusal and hence can be tough to complete with only 35 minutes.
The Mathematics section contains 58 questions but is given 80 minutes in all. Out of this, the section that has to be attended without a calculator is given 25 minutes for a total of 20 questions, and the section where the calculator is allowed is given 55 minutes for 38 questions.
SAT Question Pattern
This section contains multiple-choice questions which are all passage-based. There will be 5 passages of varying lengths with 10-11 questions each. The passages can be paired with each other and may contain graphs, tables, or charts. But these informational graphics will not require the usage of mathematics.
It has 4 passages with 10-11 questions each. The questions are all multiple-choice based and students are required to find answers for each question in under a minute.
This section has two sub-sections divided according to the use of a calculator. The first section doesn’t permit the use of a calculator and the second permits the use of the same. The questions vary according to the difficulty this division offers.
Changes in SAT 2021
The College Board has brought drastic changes in the pattern of the SAT exam from the year 2021. The pandemic induced changes are here to stay according to them. They have removed the optional Essay section from the general SAT test. This is mainly because most colleges/ universities have their own essay writing criteria that students must fulfill.
The SAT Subject tests have also been removed from the equation with immediate effect from 2021. The registrations that have already been made have been canceled and students are asked to request a refund after which they will receive the full amount in return. The tests will be available for International students until June 2021 due to the importance of the exam internationally and because admissions are at stake but after this, there will be no Subject tests available through SAT.
Skills they seek through SAT
The College Board looks for a very specific skill set through the exam which spans from the ability to use words in context to cracking problems grounded in real-world contexts. The list of things that they are looking for is based on the latest research they conducted to understand what qualities are necessary for college-going students.
- Words in Context- Questions in SAT focus a lot on frequently used words and phrases found in various texts. They mostly ask you to place words in their context and the words provided are generally chosen based on the assumption that these words will be used in an academic space or workspace eventually.
- Command of Evidence- The first section of the SAT exam includes informational graphics and multi-paragraph passages from which you will be asked to interpret and synthesize the evidence found. The topics provided may be related to literature, humanities, social sciences, and science. Both the Reading and Writing sections have questions testing this skill.
- Problem-Solving Skills- They try to identify this skill through problems about ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning.
- Algebra- Here they try to understand if the student knows the key concepts in algebra like linear equations which help them develop powers of abstraction.
- Problems based on Real-World Contexts- Both the sections of the exam focus on subjects pertaining to real-world contexts by using relevant passages or by providing multistep applications to solve problems in real-life situations.