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SAT Examination Guide

SAT Exam: Format, Scoring, and Preparation Overview

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SAT Examination Guide

The Complete Guide To The SAT Examination

SAT (formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the SAT Reasoning Test) is a standardized examination in the United States of America. Colleges and universities across the USA use SAT scores as a key parameter for undergraduate admissions courses. Completely paper-based, SATs reading, comprehending, writing, reasoning, mathematical, and problem-solving skills of test participants. The SAT is the counterpart of the ACT exam for college admissions and is also employed in research on human intelligence.

The SAT exam is conducted and wholly owned by College Board, a not-for-profit private organization and the oldest higher education board in the country. The exam is one of the most well-known examinations in the world and is designed to test the skills & knowledge crucial to succeed in higher education.

This SAT guide offers a comprehensive overview of the examination, such as the SAT format, grading system, and test structure, along with tips & insights on effective preparation strategies.

A Quick Introduction

A survey conducted by the College Board, the supervisory organization for the SAT exam, reveals that more than 80% of students across the United States prefer simpler admission procedures and the option to partake in standardized tests for country-wide enrolment.

SAT provides the perfect testing platform for undergraduate college admissions. Furthermore, it is also a terrific way for students to test their preparation for higher education. SAT scores showcase critical intellectual skills, including reading, writing, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities.


The primary purpose of the SAT examination is to serve as a standardized testing system for undergraduate college admissions. SATs a student's literacy, numeracy, and writing skills. Questions and problem cases in the exam are designed to assess vital, complex cognitive skills.

Most colleges and universities across the USA have adopted the SAT as a part of their admission processes.


The test is completely paper-based and conducted under a strict time limit of 180 minutes or 3 hours. There are three sections: reading, writing & language, and mathematical.

There are 52 questions/tasks to complete in the reading section, 44 in the writing & language section, and 58 in the mathematics section. Scores and grades get equated using a statistical process that regularizes their values across all test versions.


As already mentioned, the SAT examination assesses a student’s language and numeracy skills. It determines the extent of their knowledge and how sharp & well-defined their crucial cognitive skills are.

This is not a test for examining subject or domain-specific knowledge that students might not use later in their careers. Instead, the SAT evaluates critical thinking and intellectual abilities such as analysis, reasoning, problem-solving, etc. These skills play a crucial role in the thinking process, are vital to intelligence, and help develop holistic, broad, & unbiased perspectives.

Next is a detailed breakdown of the entire SAT examination.

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What Are The SAT Test Sections? How Is SAT Structured, Scored & Graded?

The SAT examination has two distinct sections à Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Mathematics.

  • The Evidence-Based Reading & Writing section is further subdivided into reading and writing & language sections, each having its test.
  • The Mathematics section has a single test divided into two sections --- you get to use a calculator in one but not the other.
  • There were optional Essay and Subjects Test sections as well. Both were discontinued by the College Board in 2021.

The SAT Reading Section

The reading section, along with the writing and language section, together make up 50% of your scores. There are multiple-choice questions where each correct answer awards you one point. There are no negative markings for wrong answers or unanswered questions.

You need to answer 52 MCQs in the reading section in approximately 65 minutes. You must read and comprehend a passage or several passages to answer these questions correctly. The passage may be based on literature, history, natural, social, and applied sciences.  

Reading, writing, and comprehending abilities will be tested as you race against the clock to complete all questions accurately.

The SAT Writing & Language Section

The writing and language test has 44 questions that must be completed in 35 minutes. This gives you less than 1 minute to solve each question. There will be questions on grammar, vocabulary, and passage editing. Proper preparation and solving strategies can make tackling the tight time limit and tricky questions easy.

The SAT Math Section

The math test takes up the third and fourth sections of the examination. The third section will have to solve math problems without a calculator within 35 minutes. The 4th and final section is 55 minutes long and allows the usage of math calculators.

These sections include multiple-choice questions, each with four options as tentative answers. You will have to contend with sums from the

  1. Heart of algebra (equations, expressions, inequalities, etc.),
  2. Problem-solving & data analysis (analyzing relationships, ratios & proportions, percentages, summarization of qualitative and quantitative data, etc.),
  3. Advanced mathematics (quadratic equations, higher-order equations, polynomial & expression simplification, area, volume, lines, angles, triangles, circles & other aspects of geometry, trigonometric functions & identities, etc.)

The SAT Scoring System

SAT Score Reported


Score Range

Total Score

Some of the 2 section scores


Section Scores (2)

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing





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SAT vs ACT: What Are The Key Differences?

SAT and ACT are the two primary standardized assessment systems for undergraduate course admissions in the United States. Both cover the same topics, with ACT having an additional science section.

Here’s a look at the key differences between the two.




Which to take?

Scores used for admissions and presenting merit-based scholarships

Scores used for the same

Test Structure

Reading, Writing & Language, Mathematics

English, Mathematics, Reading, Science & Reasoning, Essay (Optional)


3 hours

2 hours and 55 minutes (without the optional essay test)

Calculator Usage

No calculator usage for solving a specific set of questions

Calculators allowed for all math questions



A section for assessing scientific reasoning and critical thinking





On a scale of 400-1600

On a scale of 1-36

Are you preparing for the SAT? Below are a bunch of tips and insights to elevate your preparation sky-high.

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How To Best Prepare For SAT? Expert Tips & Insights

General Tips & The Reading Section

  1. Keep calm and work hard. Do not stress yourself out. Manage time well, be disciplined, and follow a strict study routine.
  2. All-nighters will affect your performance detrimentally.
  3. Be positive and confident.
  4. Practice makes perfect. The diligent practice lies at the heart of good preparation.
  5. Take part in mock tests for better preparation.
  6. Answer the questions you are confident about first.
  7. Pace yourself as you are racing against the clock. Spend no more than a minute or at max two on tricky questions.
  8. Easy questions generally precede the hard questions on the SAT.
  9. Revise everything if you finish the test on time.
  10. Choose an order that allows you to solve questions as fast as possible.
  11. Focus on the most important bits of information. There’s no time to waste on extraneous information.
  12. In the reading section, pore through the passage minutely but quickly. Do so multiple times if needed but be fast about it.
  13. Literacy questions that ask you to infer or suggest are NOT asking for your opinion. You will find enough information to create an original answer.
  14. In reading sections, leave solving the main idea questions for last.

The Writing Section

  1. Writing section questions will ask you to edit and revise sentences & passages. Use the answer options to spot mistakes and determine the correct answer.
  2. Read and answer simultaneously.
  3. Save the longer questions for last.
  4. Be clear about punctuation in the English language, as many questions will involve them.
  5. Choose the most concise and relevant option.
  6. Uncover the underlying relationships between the ideas intrinsic to the passage/s in the questions. You will be able to answer things better.

The Math Section

  1. Read questions carefully and uncover clues.
  2. Identify and organize key information. Plan the steps of your solution.
  3. Choose the best method/s to solve the problems as quickly as possible.
  4. Look for patterns in the given information, identify information designed to trick you, and review questions minutely.
  5. Always double-check your work. A single silly mistake will cause you to lose marks.
  6. Employ the infamous KAPLAN method for large, multi-part questions.

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Why Were The SAT Essay Section & SAT Subject Tests Discontinued?

SAT with Essay and SAT Subject Tests are no longer part of the standard test system. College Board no longer offers them to streamline the entire process and reduce demands on students.

Follow this link to learn more.

What Are SAT Percentiles?

Besides scores, the SAT also offers a percentile ranking between 1 and 99. The percentile ranking is based on the total composite score of evidence-based reading & writing, and mathematical skills.

The percentile rank informs participants how well they did in comparison with others. For example, if the percentile score is 80, it means that the scorer scored better or higher than 80% of the students who took the test in that period. If the math percentile score is 50, the examinee scored higher than 50% of their fellow examinees.

Colleges use percentiles to compare and contrast the performance of applicants. Here’s a table listing the SAT composite score range and corresponding percentile score.

SAT Composite Score Range

Percentile Score


99 to 99+


98 to 99


96 to 98


93 to 96


90 to 93


86 to 90


81 to 86


75 to 81


68 to 75


61 to 68


51 to 61


43 to 51


35 to 43


3 to 7


1 to 3


1- to 1









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How Can Students with Disabilities Seek Special Accommodations?

College Board provides special testing accommodations for students with disabilities. For provisioning these accommodations, it is necessary to get prior approval from the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office.

  1. Students need to consult with their school's SSD coordinator to request accommodations. The SSD coordinator will make necessary requests.
  2. To request accommodations independently, students must fill up the Student Eligibility form from
  3. Once approved, there’s no need to apply again for future College Board tests. There are certain exceptions, however.
  4. Students will be given an SSD eligibility letter that they must carry with them.
  5. Students can postpone their test date if their accommodations are not approved by the SAT date.

Well, that’s all the space we have for this write-up. Hope this was an informative and comprehensive read for everyone. If you are looking for personalized expert assistance for your SAT preparation, is the place to look for it. We are a leading academic coaching and counseling group serving students across the globe.

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Frequently Asked Questions

SAT is a standardized examination in the USA. SAT is an integral component of undergraduate admissions processes of several top colleges and universities in the states.

The exam is 3 hours long.

There are two primary sections  Evidence-based reading & writing and mathematics. The reading-writing section is subdivided further, and so is the math section. The math section includes a non-calculator and a calculator section.

The reading-writing scores ranged between 200-800. The math section has the same score range.

Yes, you can take the test multiple times.

SAT scores above 1200 are considered good all around.

Start early, practice diligently, take part in timed mock tests, and if you deem it necessary, get help from the experts of

No, College Board, the supervisory committee for SAT, no longer offers the essay section. It was discontinued in 2021.

The math section is subdivided into two sections  you can use calculators to solve 38 questions in one sub-section but cannot solve the 20 questions in the other sub-section

Student Reviews on SAT Exam Guide

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