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SAT: Everything You Need to Know

SAT: Everything You Need to Know

The SAT is an entrance exam issued by the College Board, and is the test used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The purpose of the SAT is to measure a student's readiness for college, and provide colleges with a shared data point to compare applicants. In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about the SAT, including how best to prepare for it!

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SAT
College Admissions

What Is The SAT?

The SAT is an entrance exam issued by the College Board. The test is used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions.

The purpose of the SAT is to measure a student's readiness for college, and provide colleges with a shared data point that can be used to compare applicants. Admissions officers will review test scores alongside GPA, classes taken in high school, letters of recommendation written by teachers or mentors, extracurricular activities, admissions interviews, and personal essays.

When Is The SAT?

Most high school students take the SAT either during the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. The test is offered annually in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June.

How Long Is The SAT?

The SAT is three hours long.

SAT Sections and Structure

How Many Sections Are on the SAT?

There are four SAT test sections:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing and Language
  3. Math without Calculator
  4. Math with Calculator

Reading

The SAT Reading section tests a student’s reading comprehension ability. Students must read 4-5 passages and answer a series of multiple-choice questions on its contents. They will be asked to identify main ideas, analyzie how the author uses evidence, understand the meaning of words in context, interpet data and draw conclusion.

  • 52 multiple-choice questions
  • 65 minutes
  • 4-5 Passages or pairs of passages from literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences

Writing and Language

The SAT Writing and Langage section tests a student's knowledge of standard English language writing conventions. Students are given 4 passages and a series of multiple choice question for which they aree asked to correct errors in grammar, usage, and orgnaization.

  • 44 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes
  • sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, usage, expression of ideas

Math without Calculator

A series of both straightforward math questiona and more reading-based word problems. Calculator use is not permitted, and the time is fairly tight, approximately 75 seconds per question,

  • 15 multiple-choice questions and 5 grid-ins
  • 25 minutes
  • Algebra I and II, geometry, some trigonometry

Math with Calculator

This section contains the more advanced math problems. Students are given more time per question and are allowed to use a calculator.

  • 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 grid-ins
  • 55 minutes
  • Algebra I and II, geometry, some trigonometry

For more information, check out our artcile about SAT Math test.

SAT Registration

When Does SAT Registration Open?

SAT registration opens approximately five weeks before each test date. Click here for a list of test dates and registration deadlines for the current year.

How to Register for the SAT?

You can register for the SAT online at the College Board website. There are a limited number of SAT test dates per year, so you want to make sure to register early enough to ensure there is space for you at a convenient test location.

How Much Does the SAT Cost?

The SAT costs $55 per test. Some students may be eligible for fee waivers if they meet certain requirements. Click here for more information on fee waivers to see if you qualify.

How Can You Cancel SAT Registration?

You can cancel your registration here by logging into your SAT account. While you will be refunded for your registration fee, you will still be charged a cancellation fee of $25 if you cancel before the cancellation deadline, and a fee of $35 dollars if you cancel after the deadline and up until test day.

SAT Scoring System

How Hard Is the SAT?

The SAT can be difficult for many students. Challenges include time pressure, advanced mathematical concepts, difficult reading passages, and general stress. However, all of these challenges are surmountable with preparation.

What Is a Good SAT Score?

The average SAT score is 1060 and the highest possible SAT score is 1600. A "good" SAT score will be relative to the schools you are applying to. Colleges usually share the average SAT scores of the students they accept. For any school you are applying to, you want to make sure you are at or above this average.

When Do SAT Scores Come Out?

Typically, a student will be able to check their scores two weeks after taking the test. You can see the SAT score release dates here.

How Can You Check SAT Scores?

To check your SAT scores, you will need to sign in to your College Board account. Once logged in students can see their scores and look through all of the problems they answered incorrectly in order to learn from their mistakes.

When Do You Send SAT Scores to Colleges?

You can send your scores to colleges as soon as they are available on the College Board website. In your account, you are given the option to select all of the schools you would like to send your score to. You can do this as soon as you have earned a score you feel good about sharing. However, you must do so before the rest of your application is due.

When Are SAT Scores Due for Colleges?

Make sure to send your SAT scores at least two weeks before each application deadline.

How Many Times Can You Take The SAT?

You can take the test as many times as you want! However, keep in mind that there are only seven test dates in a given academic year. Generally speaking, it is not encouraged to take the SAT more than four times, as this tends to yield diminishing returns.

Can Colleges See How Many Times You Take the SAT?

Almost all colleges allow students to send only the scores they wish to share. However, on rare occasions a college will have a different policy, so make sure to check the college’s website or contact the admissions office in order to confirm.

What Happens If You Fail the SAT?


The SAT is not a pass/fail exam, so students cannot fail the SAT. However, you may receive a very low score that you do not want to report to colleges. Most schools do not require you to send all scores, so if you receive a very low score, simply study more and try to improve on your next test.

SAT Test Day Rules

What to Bring to the SAT?

You should bring the following items to the SAT on test day:

  1. Your up-to-date admissions ticket. (Printed out.)
  2. An official photo ID.
  3. Two No. 2 pencils with erasers.
  4. An approved calculator.

You might also want to bring a watch, a water bottle, and some snacks (for the break).

Are Calculators Allowed on the SAT?

Calculator use is only allowed on section 4 of the SAT (Math with Calculator). See here for a list of officially allowed calculators and the College Board’s calculator policy.

Digital SAT

College Board announced that SAT is transferring to digital format in 2023. To get more information, check out our article with FAQ about SAT Digital.

Our 5 Recommendations for How to Study for the SAT

  1. Start studying early! We recommend beginning with a diagnostic test. Ivy offers diagnostic testing that provides students with comprehensive score reports that identify and assess particular strengths and weaknesses. We advise students to take a diagnostic test no later than the fall of their junior year—with test preparation out of the way, you will have time later on for the other parts of your college applications.
  2. Create a study program. We recommend studying 2-3 hours per week in the three months before taking the test. And remember: Stick to your schedule!
  3. Always be working on your vocabulary. You can do this by creating flashcards and carrying them around with you, daily reading newspaper articles, and underlining words that you encounter in your regular readings for school.
  4. Take multiple full-length practice tests. These tests should be timed, and will ideally be taken in a test center so that the conditions closely replicate the actual test-day conditions.
  5. Develop useful skills. Make sure not only to create a study program, but to develop skills for managing your stress and keeping yourself healthy and happy. Studying with experts in the SAT is an ideal way to go about preparing yourself for the test. At IVY, our team of brilliant SAT tutors will work closely with you every step of the way to make sure that you reach your maximum potential and show up on test day entirely at ease.
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