The SAT Test

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What is the SAT and do I need to sit it?

The SAT Test (The Scholastic Aptitude Test_ was established in the US in 1926, and is now known simply as the SAT.

The  SAT test has undergone a number of changes over the years, but its aim remains constant: to determine whether candidates have the reading, writing, and numeracy skills they need to succeed at university in the USA.

During this period of coronavirus uncertainty, many US universities have temporarily suspended the SAT Test requirements, while others have made sitting the SAT and ACT optional ( it appears as if 1,400  four-year American colleges and universities will not require the SAT Test from the autumn of 2022).

Nevertheless, 2.19 million people sat the test in 2020, and this number is predicted to rise in 2021.

SAT scores remain important if you want to go to an American university, and admissions boards certainly take them into consideration when assessing applications, particularly in the more prestigious universities.

Table of Contents

How is the SAT Test organised?

The SAT Test subject tests will be discontinued from June 2021, and the optional essay has already been discontinued, as of 19 January 2021.

You will therefore now have to sit two papers: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW)and Mathematics, each of which is scored from 200-800, which means that the total score you could potentially get in the SAT is 400-1600. Bear in mind that it is rare but possible, to get full marks!

The test lasts for three hours, including two short breaks of 5 and 10 minutes:

Number of questions
Time allocated
Mathematics - no calculator
25 minutes
Mathematics - calculator
35 minutes
65 minutes
Writing and language
35 minutes

What is a good SAT score?

Average scores for the SAT Test in 2020 were 528 for the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and 523 in Mathematics.

You need to be aware that Ivy League universities expect applicants to score at least 1460 – and above – to stand a chance of being offered a place, while Yale expects 720-780 for the EBRW and 740-800 in the Mathematics paper. As you can see, these scores indicate that the average score is just that -average – and you need to aim for 1460 upwards, in spite of the fact that many universities claim that they have no minimum SAT score  threshold when sifting through applications.

The SAT Test preparation courses

Take the SAT Test preparation course and you show that you're able to work or study effectively in an English-speaking environment.

The SAT Evidence-Based Reading Test

 You will be expected to answer 52 multiple-choice questions. Be aware that the texts you will be given to read could include charts, tables, and graphs. There are five texts in this section, and each is followed by 10 or 11 questions. The passages will be taken  from the social sciences, literature, history, and science and normally include  :

  • a passage from literature
  • a passage from a Founding document, or something similar – for example, a speech made by Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela
  • a passage from economics, psychology or a social science
  • two passages which are science-based 

The aim of this section of the SAT test is to check whether you can interpret data, understand the implications of what is being said, demonstrate that you understand the evidence and how words are used in a specific context, that you can connect graphics and text, and that you can decipher tone and meaning by looking at clues within the text.

The SAT Writing and Language Test

This 35-minute section of the SAT Test is made up of 44 multiple-choice questions and can include charts and tables. The aim of the Writing and Language test is two-fold: to discover how you express your ideas, and to assess your knowledge of Standard English. As a result, you could be asked to correct or improve phrases, to decide between different forms of punctuation, to show that you understand the meaning of vocabulary, and how to use words in context. Verb agreement and subject-verb agreement questions are often included in this paper.

Note that the Writing and Language test includes No Change in its multiple-choice options. Do not disregard this or think that it is a tricky choice – it is not.

The SAT Mathematics Test

The Mathematics Test is divided into two sections – one which allows you to use a calculator and one which does not. Of the 58 questions you will have to answer, 45 are standard multiple-choice questions, while the remaining 13 are what are termed in-grid questions, where you provide an answer by blacking out squares in a four-column grid. Here is a simple example of how to fill in a blank grid:

sat mathematics grid - Elab Education Laboratory - the SAT TEST

Your answer will go in the top line. As you can see, the first row contains . and /, which you can use to mark decimal points (2.34) or fractions (4/5). In the following example, the answer is 2/3:

SAT GRID - how to answer - the sat test - elab education laboratory

Once you understand the grid, the process of filling it in is straightforward and logical.

The Mathematics Test includes three categories of content:

  • Algebra – linear equations and linear functions
  • Problem-solving -statistics and modeling
  • Advanced mathematics -non-linear expressions, radicals and exponentials, and other advanced topics 

Calculators for the SAT Mathematics Test

You cannot bring in any instrument for this part of the SAT Test,  which can connect to the internet, namely a mobile phone, any calculator which has a keyboard, a tablet, or laptop, etc. If you try to do so, you will be escorted out and your test will be null and void.

You can, however, bring in scientific or graphing calculators.

It has been determined in a number of research studies that students who use calculators most often tend to score higher in the SAT Test –  Mathematics test, so practice and get to know every function of your calculator before the test.

Do not buy a new calculator the night before you sit this paper, in the hope that you can familiarise yourself with what it does in a few hours. In addition, if you are thinking of brushing up on your skills through workshops or coaching, this has been shown to make the greatest difference in the Mathematics paper.

The aim of this paper is to determine whether you can solve problems and apply mathematics to real-life situations. It will test your mental speed, abstract and analytical thinking, and accuracy.

How do I register to take the SAT Test?

  1. Go to the SAT website 
  2. Create an account, this must be done at least 29 days before you sit the SAT
  3. Nominate a test center
  4. Upload photo ID
  5. Pay the application fee
  6. Print off your admission ticket. This is an important document and you need to ensure that you keep it with you when you leave the examination room, to take a break during the SAT Test, in order to be let back in once the break is over.

What happens on the day I sit the SAT?

At present, all test centres expect candidates to wear a mask. You may have your temperature taken and be asked questions about your health, before being allowed into the test centre.

You need to bring your admission ticket and a photo ID with you to the test centre and aim to arrive between 7.30 am and 8am.If you are late, you will not be allowed in to sit the test, and will be asked to reschedule for the next date – which is normally three months later, if you are an international student. The test itself will start between 8.30 and 9 am. 

You are permitted to bring two No.2 pencils with erasers, and an EpiPen, if needed, which has to be put into a see-through plastic bag and placed below your desk.

You may not bring the following items to the test centre:

  • ruler
  • protractor
  • compass
  • highlighters
  • coloured pencils
  • coloured pens
  • dictionary
  • food or drink
  • cellphone
  • a watch which has an alarm feature - unless this is turned off

All electronic equipment will be taken from you before you enter the test centre to sit the SAT, and returned once the test is over. You are advised to leave your mobile and tablet at home so you have one less thing to worry about on the day.

You must listen to the invigilator carefully at the beginning of the SAT, since they will outline all the rules relating to the test. For example, they will make it clear that you have to start and end each paper when they tell you to. As a result, you  may not go back to a section once the invigilator has informed you that the time allocated to that section has ended . Neither can you jump ahead and start working on the next section if you find yourself with time to spare. SAT test centres are professional environments and any form of rule breaking will invalidate your test.

How can I prepare for the SAT?

If you are an independent learner, you should work your way through old papers, so you are familiar with the format and the type of questions you will have to answer.

If you would like to practice for the SAT in a supportive environment, and learn techniques and shortcuts which will help you to maximize your scores, then why not join Elab’s SATellite program, which is based on a series of workshops, and has helped hundreds of applicants secure a place at their dream American university

Call or email us, here at Elab, so we can work together and give you the practical advice and help you need to sail through the SAT and start planning your life studying in the amazing USA.

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