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What you need to know about the SAT Exam
The SAT exam has been around for many years, but in 2016 it received a major revision to make results more predictive of student success in college. There is a new emphasis on reasoning skills, as opposed to memorization of facts. The testing company also removed the penalty for guessing and made the essay portion optional, although the essay was later discontinued in 2021. One other important difference is that the new SAT exam is heavily aligned with the PSAT/NMSQT exam that students often take before this test.
A student’s ability to read and write is actually assessed in two separate tests on the SAT exam: the Reading test and the Writing and Language test. These scores are combined to form a total score on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.
Math ability is assessed in two separate fashions, as well. The content is the same in the two sections and covers four different broad topics in Math. The difference is that, during one section, you will have access to a calculator and for the other, you will not.
Answers to all your questions about the SAT Exam
Table of Contents
What are the costs?
The cost for the SAT exam is $60 but there is a cost waiver option for students in need. Receiving a fee waiver for testing can gain you waived college application fees, as well. Contact your school counselor for information on this. Late registration, change of location, and other services can increase the cost of the test.
What should I bring?
To take the SAT exam, you must have:
An approved photo ID. Your ID must be an unexpired physical document, though school IDs from the previous year are acceptable through December 31st of the current year. For example, an ID from the 2022-2023 school year would be good until the end of 2023.
Your admission ticket (printed from the College Board website)
Several No. 2 pencils with erasers
An approved calculator with fresh batteries
You should also take a watch and a snack or two for breaks. The use of cell phones, computers of any sort, or any device that can take photos or play music is prohibited in testing centers.
How is it scored?
Your score report on the SAT will give you several different values:
Overall SAT score (400-1600)
Your overall SAT score will be a number between 400-1600. It’s calculated adding your Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing + Math scores.
Section Scores (200-800)
You will see two section scores for both Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing and Math. The number of questions you answered correctly (raw score) will be converted to a scaled score between of between 200-800. Because many different variations of the SAT test exist, this scaled score is thought to level the playing field with scoring in case some versions are easier or harder.
In your section scores report you will also see either a checkmark or an exclamation point that indicate if your score suggests college readiness. A checkmark indicates you have met the benchmark, and the exclamation point means you are below it. For the Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing section the benchmark number is 480, and for Math it’s 530.
For both Math and Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing you will see two percentage scores that compare your score against two other groups: a sample of U.S. 11th and 12th graders, and typical SAT test-takers. For example, if your percentile ranking is 65, it means you scored better than 65% of the test-takers in that group.
Test Scores (10-40)
You will receive an individual test score for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Like your section score, the number you receive uses scaled scoring, so your raw score will be converted to a number between 10 and 40.
Cross-Test Scores (10-40)
Cross-test scores look at answers across all three test sections (Math, Reading, and Writing and Language) and determine how well you did in History/Social Studies and Science. Both areas are reported as scaled scores between 10-40.
Your SAT subscore represents a a closer look at how you did on seven specific sections of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math sections. Each section is as a scaled score between 1-15.
- Command of Evidence
- Words in Context
Writing and Language
- Expression of Ideas
- Standard English Conventions
- Heart of Algebra
- Problem Solving/Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math
What kind of job can I get?
Today, an increasing number of jobs require postsecondary (beyond high school) education to secure even an entry-level position. Most colleges require either SAT exam or ACT (American College Test) test scores as part of your application. Check with the colleges of your choice to find out which test they use for admission purposes.
Am I eligible?
Anyone who can read and write well enough to answer the questions can take the SAT exam. Age or grade level is not a requirement, but you must register by mail (not online) if you are under 13 years old. Most students choose to take it during their Junior and early Senior years of high school. Most colleges do not require older students to submit SAT scores, but doing so could help their chances of admission, especially if competition for admission to a college is great.
Why does it matter?
The SAT exam is only one measure of a college applicant’s ability to do college level work, but it is an important one. Colleges know that teachers and courses can vary greatly from one high school to another. The exam provides a more objective way to measure how well a student can perform in the basic skills necessary for college success, especially reasoning skills. The College Board has designed the test based on what colleges have said that students need to be able to do to succeed at the college level. It also measures a student’s ability to think under pressure, which is a valuable skill in the adult world. Even so, your SAT scores will only make up about one-fifth to one-third of your college application and you can take the test multiple times to improve your scores.
What salary can I expect?
While going to college is no guarantee of a high-paying job in your future, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has established that the median yearly income for those with a Bachelor’s degree is 63% higher than those with only a high school diploma. So, attending college is a proactive way to protect your financial future.
When is it available?
The SAT exam is given on certain Saturdays, at least seven times during each school year. It is given in many locations throughout the United States and at many international locations. Sunday options are also available for students with religious observance requirements on Saturdays. Test dates for the 2023-2024 school year are as follows:
- March 11, 2023
- May 6, 2023
- June 3, 2023
- August 26, 2023
- October 7, 2023
- November 4, 2023
- December 2, 2023
- March 9, 2024
- May 4, 2024
- June 1, 2024
How much time is allowed?
You will be timed for a total of 3 hours when you take the SAT exam. Section times and number of questions will be:
Reading: 65 minutes—52 questions
Writing and Language: 35 minutes—44 questions
Math: 80 minutes—58 questions
- with calculator: 55 minutes—38 questions
- no calculator: 25 minutes—20 questions
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