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Test PrepSAT

The SAT: An Overview

What’s It Used For?

The SAT is a standardized test used primarily by four year colleges for admission purposes. High school students are the most common test-takers. Colleges use scores to evaluate applicants from differing backgrounds. Many schools require submission of an SAT (or ACT) score, although a growing number are making standardized tests optional.

Test Content

The chart below outlines what's on the test. You'll want to prepare for it in two ways: by reviewing the test content and familiarizing yourself with how the questions are posed. You'll also want to develop your test-day strategy - everything from pacing yourself to keeping yourself energized on the day of the exam. 

Section Time Questions Skills Tested
Reading 70 minutes
1 20-minute section
2 25-minute sections
48 passage-based reading
19 sentence completion
reading comprehension
Math 70 minutes
1 20-minute section
2 25-minute sections
44 multiple-choice
10 student produced
probability & statistics
Writing 60 minutes
1 10-minute section
2 25-minute sections
25 improving sentences
18 identifying sentence errors
6 improving paragraphs
1 essay


Each section is given a score from 200 to 800. For multiple-choice questions, you get a point for every correct answer and lose a quarter of a point for every wrong answer (the so-called “guessing penalty”). Despite the guessing penalty, if you can eliminate at least one answer choice on multiple-choice questions, it won’t actually hurt your score to guess; eliminate more than one and it’s to your benefit to do so. The total points in each section (plus a separate score for the essay in the Writing section) provide you with a raw score. Raw scores are then converted to a scaled score on the 200-800 scale.


Most students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year and/or the fall of their senior year. It is offered seven times a year, with four test dates in the fall/winter (October, November, December and January) and three test dates in the spring (typically March/April, May and June).

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Don Munce