15 Most Frequently Asked Questions about the SAT

  1. What is the SAT used for?
  2. How do I register for the SAT?
  3. What is the format of the SAT?
  4. How do I send my SAT scores to colleges?
  5. Which SAT scores do colleges see?
  6. How often can I retake the SAT?
  7. When should I take my SAT?
  8. How long should I study for the SAT?
  9. How important are SAT scores for college admissions?
  10. How much should I score on the SAT?
  11. Who can receive accommodations on the SAT?
  12. What is the SAT fee Structure?
  13. Should I take the SAT or the ACT?
  14. Can I use a calculator on the SAT?
  15. What should I carry to the SAT test center?

What is the SAT used for?

SAT is a standardized test used to check how ready a high school student is for undergraduate programs at a college.

It is a multiple-choice test that is available to be taken through two mediums, paper and computers. Admission committees at undergraduate schools use the data points provided by the SAT test, along with other aspects of your profile like extra-curriculars, and GPA, to measure is you’re ready to write papers and utilize the other parts of an undergraduate curriculum.

The SAT also has subject tests. These subject tests are to measure the aptitude of a student in different majors that will be available in college. However, the curriculum for these subject tests remains the same as high school.

There are other standardized tests like the ACT, that can be taken in lieu of the SAT.

How do I register for the SAT?

Registering for the SAT is done online on the CollegeBoard’s collegereadiness website. Just follow these simple steps.

  1. Create a free account on CollegeBoard.org.
  2. Fill in the required fields like your full legal name. Your name and date of birth should be spelled exactly as it is spelled on your valid ID.
  3. Decide whether you want to sign up for the SAT essay, or not. Once you’ve selected your choice, you will be provided with the final fee.
  4. Select your preferred test center and date from the options provided.
  5. Pay the fee and collect your admit ticket for the exam hall.

You also get the option of using the CollegeBoard’s service to find suitable schools for you. Just fill in your complete profile in your account and schools that match your profile will be able to reach you.

Selecting to give the Essay or not will also have a direct effect on the fee you pay for your SAT.

What is the format of the SAT?

The changes that the SAT underwent in 2016 were significant but the most significant was the making of the, previously mandatory, essay section into an option.

To make it easier to understand the blueprint of the test, let’s look at a table.

Subject Sub-sections Duration Questions Sub-scores Score Range
Evidence Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) Reading Writing Reading: 65 minutes
Writing: 35 minutes
Total: 100 minutes
Reading: 52 (Multiple Choice)
Writing: 44(Multiple Choice)
Total: 96
Command of Evidence
Words in Context
Expression of Ideas
Standard English Conventions
200-800
Math Calculator No Calculator Calculator: 55 minutes No Calculator: 25 minutes Total: 80 minutes Calculator: 37 (Multiple Choice) No Calculator: 20 (Answer Grid) Total: 57 Heart of Algebra Problem Solving and Data Analysis Passport to Advanced Math 200-800
Essay (optional) - 50 minutes 1 - 8-8-8
Total EBRW Math (Optional) Essay 3 hours + (Optional) 50 minutes 153 + (Optional) 1 EBRW: 3 Math: 4 400-1600 + 8-8-8

The only two things in the table given above that might cause confusions are the answer grid in the No Calculator section of SAT Math, and the Essay section.

The answer grid is a simple question type which does not have any multiple-choice answers like most of the SAT. This is found in the No Calculator section of SAT Math and, as the name suggests, requires the test-taker to solve the questions without using a calculator. The answer that the test-taker then reaches on is noted by filling in the circles on the corresponding answer grid for the question.

As far as the optional essay section on the SAT goes, it will only contain one question that the student is required to answer within 50 minutes.

How do I send my SAT scores to colleges?

The SAT fee provides 4 complimentary score reports that a student can send to colleges.

You will be required to select four colleges from your CollegeBoard account to send your official SAT score report to. You can make this selection on the day you register for the test, up to 9 days after your have given the test.

While these 4 score reports are free, you are allowed as many additional reports as you wish after paying a fee. You have to pay $12 for every additional score report that you ask to be sent to a school of your choice, unless you have received an SAT fee waiver.

In case you’re running short on time and need an SAT score report within 2-4 business days, you can do the same for a fee of $31 over the regular fee of an additional score report.

An official SAT score report is available for the student to see after two to six weeks since their test day. Colleges require to wait another 10 to receive the official SAT score report.

Which SAT scores do colleges see?

Unlike most standardized tests, SAT allows students to choose which scores they wish to share with colleges.

The option called ‘Score Choice’ is available while selecting the colleges for the four free score reports that your get to send after paying the SAT registration fee. Once selected, these colleges will however receive the score reports of any SAT you take in the future without you having a say in it.

For all the additional score reports you send, you will again e able to choose the scores you wish for the schools to see from all the existing scores you have. You also don’t have to worry about them getting the score reports of any future tests and will have to pay additionally is you wish to do the same.

You must also check with your college of choice before making ‘Score Choice’ as many colleges have started demanding all scores rather than a select few, from a student.

How often can I retake the SAT?

An SAT can be taken as many times as one wishes to. It has no policies regarding the number of times or the gap period between two test dates.

However, only the 6 latest scores are displayed in the official SAT score reports. The scores are also valid up to 5 years.

When should I take my SAT?

Although the SAT administered across 53 test centers all over India, applicants still need to apply at-least a month in advance to book their seats.

The problem arises due to the scarcity of dates available to give the test. The SAT is administered only once a month and thus sees every test center completely booked by aspirants on the test date.

Booking a test-center close to your place of residence is a must to avoid any test day mishaps.

While most students take the SAT at the end of their high school, right before they apply to undergraduate colleges, one can take the SAT in any grade they want to since the CollegeBoard doesn’t have eligibility criteria for when a student can take the SAT.

However, taking the SAT from grade 8 is also quite popular. The CollegeBoard provides students and concerned parties with a list of benchmarks depending on the grade the student taking the SAT is in, and says that students who meet the score benchmarks have a 75% chance of securing at-least a C in the first semester of college.

When you receive your SAT score report, you will see some signs next to the EBRW and Math section scores. These signs are to mark your performance against the benchmark.

  • A green sign means you have exceeded or met the benchmark.
  • A yellow sign signifies a score which falls one-year short of the academic growth of the set benchmark.
  • A red sign indicates a score which falls much shorter, than one -year worth of academic growth, of the benchmark.

This table contains the list of scores per section set as benchmark for high-school.

Grade Benchmark in Math Benchmark in EBRW Benchmark in Total
8th 430 390 820
9th 450 410 860
10th 480 430 910
11th 510 460 970
College Ready 530 480 1010

How long should I study for the SAT?

To know exactly how long you should study for your SAT exam, you will require to have a base score and a goal score.

A base score is the score you receive on an SAT mock test without preparing for the test at all. Your goal score is the score you wish to achieve on the actual SAT test day.

Let’s assume you need to make an improvement of 120 points on your original score to reach your goal score. How do you decide how many hours you require to study for the same?

Take a look at this table to know how many hours you need to put in to cover up the difference between your goal SAT score and your original SAT score.

Point Improvement Hours of Study
>30 10
30-70 20
70-130 40
130-200 80
200< 150+

Thus, for a 120-point improvement, you will have to study at least 40 hours, and so forth.

How important are SAT scores for college admissions?

A high SAT score will help in off-setting any small lacks or deviations in your college applications. Similarly, having more AP classes, or good SAT subject scores can also help off-set a low SAT score.

Most schools also follow a practice called Super scoring. Super scoring means that a school picks out only your top scores from each section, all across the test scores your score report contains. If a school you’re applying to follows super scoring SAT becomes a more lenient criterion.

How much should I score on the SAT?

It’s important to know the SAT scores of your target schools before you actually set a goal score for your own self. I wouldn’t advocate focusing merely on the rank of a school while setting a goal score, but it always helps to know what options one has.

Now make a list of scores that makes up the 75th percentile of the classes at these schools.

The best way to select a goal score after looking through all the SAT scores of your targeted colleges is to pick the highest score under the 75th percentile column of your list.

Choosing this score would mean that even if you fail to meet it by a few points, you will still be above the average 75th percentile score of all your target colleges.

Who can receive accommodations on the SAT?

SAT allows students to request accommodations on providing proof of disability or any other condition that hinders their performance on the test.

The information regarding whether or not you’re eligible for accommodations on the SAT can be found on CollegeBoard’s website. Please click here to know more.

What is the SAT fee Structure?

The SAT fee structure has various elements that can either increase or decrease the total fee you pay to take the test.

  1. The fee for the SAT exam (without essay) is $47.50 + Non-U.S. Regional Fee. Non-U.S. Regional Fee for students giving SAT Test in India is $49, so the total SAT fee is $96.50
  2. The fee for the SAT exam with Essay is $64.50 + Non-U.S. Regional Fee, which makes it a total of $113.50.
  3. Fee for SAT subject tests, candidates have to pay an additional $26 as a basic subject test fee.

Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

While no test is better than or less than the other, choosing between the SAT and ACT is important.

The first point of selection should be which test does the college you wish to apply to requires.

However, this selection is more complicated than just that.

Check out more distinguishing factors to choose between the SAT and the ACT.

Can I use a calculator on the SAT?

Except for the No Calculator Math section of the SAT, you are allowed a calculator during the SAT.

The best part about SAT calculators is that unlike most standardized tests, they do not ban Scientific or Graphing calculators.

However, you are not allowed any calculators that are apps, make sound, or require electrical outlets or such. They will be deemed cheating paraphernalia and will result in your test being abolished and you facing harsh repurcussions.

What should I carry to the SAT test center?

The SAT test center allows a few things, but, before getting into those, let’s look at the two things that you will not be given admission to the exam hall without; valid ID, and the admission ticket.

You need to carry the original copy of an unexpired photo ID issued by the Government or the institution you currently study at. It should also be issued with your full name, as you have mentioned on you SAT registration thus, matching your Admission ticket.

Even if you’re taking the online form of the SAT, you will need some stationary for any rough work that you perform. Thus, carrying at least two pencils, a sharpener, and an eraser would be a smart idea.

A watch is a handy tool as it can help you keep yourself in check and on schedule throughout the test. But don’t take your smart watch with you.

Taking a snack for your break is also just another optional thing like the watch

Being too hot or too cold during the exam can be very distracting. If you carry a front-open sweatshirt or cardigan taking it on-and off would be much easier and hassle free in case you get too cold or too hot.