The SAT is one of the two major tests used by colleges and universities during their admissions processes. Though many high schools treat the SAT as if it is interchangeable with the ACT, the two tests are actually very different, and most students will do better on one than the other. Inspirica Pros’ approach to SAT test prep starts with recognizing that fact, and our SAT/ACT PathFinder Diagnostic will help you determine whether the SAT is the test that’s best for you.
SAT Test Prep Basics: The Format of the SAT
The SAT is comprised of four primarily multiple-choice sections. In order, the sections are as follows:
- Reading Test: 52 questions, 65 minutes. 5 passages.
- Writing & Language Test : 44 questions, 35 minutes. 4 passages.
- Math (without calculator) : 15 multiple-choice questions and 5 grid-in questions. 25 minutes.
- Math (with calculator) : 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 grid-in questions. 55 minutes.
Compared to the ACT, the SAT tests less content, but at a deeper level. We can see this in the SAT’s two math sections, which primarily test students on a small number of algebra concepts in a large number of ways, from long-winded word problems to grid-in questions that don’t provide answer choices. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! A good SAT test prep program will need to cover a wide range of problem-solving strategies.
Fortunately, our SAT study programs focus just as much on mastering strategies for each distinct question-type as they do on learning content and concepts, so you’ll go into test day fully prepared for the obstacle course that is the SAT.
SAT Test Prep Basics: How the SAT is Scored
First, you’ll receive a raw score for each of the four multiple-choice sections on the SAT that is equal to the number of questions you answered correctly in that section. No penalty is applied for incorrect answers. Your raw scores for the two Math sections will be added together to produce a single overall Math raw score.
Then, using a process called equating, the SAT will produce a scaled score from 200 to 800 for Math and from 100 to 400 for each of the other two sections. These scaled scores take into account the difficulty level of the sections that you completed relative to the difficulty levels of sections that previous test-takers have completed, which allows colleges to be sure that your Math score of 720 means the same thing as your older brother’s 720 from a few years ago.
Finally, your three scaled scores will be added together to produce an overall composite score from 400 to 1600. This score is the best single measure of your performance on the test, and it’s the score that colleges will primarily look at when reviewing your application.
The SAT itself does not superscore, or combine individual section scores from multiple test dates to obtain your maximum composite score. If you wish to send scores from multiple test dates to colleges, you must send the entire score report from each test date. You can, however, pick and choose which test dates you send using the College Board’s Score Choice feature. Additionally, many schools will perform their own version of superscoring by combining the highest score for each section from the score reports that you submit in order to get a picture of your “best” performance on the SAT. For the most accurate information about how an individual school handles superscoring, be sure to contact that school’s admissions department directly.
SAT Test Prep Basics: Registration and Dates
The SAT is administered roughly once every two months year-round, and there is no limit to the number of times a student can take the test. Because of that, it’s generally to your advantage to test more than once. Part of succeeding on a test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to beat it, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way to maximize your improvement.
To register for the test, go to the College Board website and follow the corresponding instructions. Testing is administered at official test centers, which are typically high schools approved by the College Board. You can search for the test center closest to you using the College Board’s test center locator.
If you have a documented disability, you may be eligible for accommodations when you take the SAT. Approval is required in advance of test registration, and most families choose to request College Board accommodations through their school.
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