SAT Test Prep
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What is the SAT?
The SAT Reasoning Test (formerly the Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. SAT Tests are intended to assess a student’s readiness for college. The SAT consists of three main sections:
Length: 60 Minutes
Students will be asked to write a short essay that requires them to take a position on an issue and use examples to support their position. Questions similar to the multiple-choice questions on the SAT II: Writing Subject Test and the PSAT/NMSQT writing skills section will be included to see how well students use standard written English. These questions are designed to measure your child’s ability to recognize errors and improve sentences and paragraphs.
Length: 70 Minutes
The SAT includes expanded math topics, such as exponential growth, absolute value, and functional notation, and place greater emphasis on other topics such as linear functions, manipulations with exponents, and properties of tangent lines. Important skills now measured in the quantitative comparison format, such as estimate and number sense, will continue to be measured through the multiple choice and student response (grid-in) questions.
Length: 70 Minutes
The critical reading section, currently known as the verbal section, will include short reading passages along with existing long reading passages. Analogies will be eliminated, but sentence-completion questions will remain.
Frequently Asked Questions
The SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills you’ll need for academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well you analyze and solve problems—skills that you develop over years of schooling and in your outside reading and study. The test is designed to allow you to demonstrate your abilities in these areas regardless of the particular type of instruction you’ve received or textbooks you’ve used.
These important abilities—understanding and analyzing written material, drawing inferences, differentiating shades of meaning, drawing conclusions, and solving math problems—are necessary for success in college and life in general. This doesn’t mean that the SAT is irrelevant to your course work, however; the SAT is closely aligned with the type of skills being taught in the classroom and necessary for college success.
The SAT was designed with questions that reflect or show your reasoning abilities, not just the amount of information you’ve accumulated during school. As an example, many math items can be answered by using complex equations, but they can also be answered correctly if you can reason through the problem. Reading passages don’t just test that you can read but require extended reasoning in order to answer the questions related to the passage. This means that you have to be able to make inferences, assumptions, and interpretations based on the passage provided, in order to understand what the author is trying to say.
Test development committees comprised of educators and subject-matter experts determine the test specifications and the types of questions that are asked, including topics and areas that should be covered. Internal test developers write the questions, which are then submitted to another test committee, made up of high school and college faculty and administrators, which reviews the test questions and makes recommendations for improving them, if needed. Some test questions are also submitted by high school and college teachers from around the country.
A college will be able to view and print a copy of your essay only if you sent an official score report to that college.
Different colleges will use your writing score in different ways. Writing scores may be used for admissions decisions and possibly for placement in English Composition or related courses. However, for the first few years, some schools may choose to use writing scores for research purposes only, and not for decisions about admissions or placement.
The SAT has three scores, each on a scale of 200 to 800. Your score will include writing (W 200-800), mathematics (M 200-800), and critical reading (CR 200-800).
Your math and critical reading scores on the new SAT can be compared to the math and verbal scores on the old test. This is something colleges need for consistency in admissions requirements. However, the SAT writing score is completely new.
The total testing time for the SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Although for security reasons, neither food nor drinks can be opened or consumed in the test room, you are encouraged to bring snacks in a book bag on test day. These snacks are easily stowed under desks or chairs in the test room and can be consumed outside of the test room during breaks.
All students have access to a free, more detailed online score report that is accessible via collegeboard.com. Via this online report, each student can access a copy of their essay.
For certain test dates, the Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) is available for a fee. You can see the actual questions and correct answers, as well as whether you answered correctly, incorrectly, or omitted the question. QAS includes information on question types and levels of difficulty. You will have access to a copy of your essay via your free online score report.
For all other test dates, Student Answer Service (SAS) is available. SAS does not provide the actual questions, but it does send you a list of question types and difficulty levels, along with a description of how you answered the questions. Again, you will have access to a copy of your essay via your online score report. Check registration materials or collegeboard.com to determine whether your test date is eligible for QAS or SAS.
The essay question will ask you to develop a point of view on an issue and support it with examples from your studies and experience. You can answer the question successfully in many different ways. You won’t have to have any prior knowledge about the topic to write an effective essay. However, you will have to answer the essay assignment directly.
Students with disabilities, whose documentation has been validated by the College Board, will receive testing accommodations. Students with disabilities that necessitate the use of a computer for writing will be able to do so for the essay portion of the writing section.
Because the SAT Reasoning Test now includes a writing section, the Subject Test in Writing is no longer offered. The last administration of the Subject Test in Writing was January 2005.
Both the SAT and the PSAT/NMSQT measure critical reading, writing, and math reasoning skills. The PSAT/NMSQT contains actual SAT questions, but it is designed to be slightly easier than the SAT. The PSAT/NMSQT is two hours and 10 minutes, whereas the SAT takes three hours and forty-five minutes. The SAT is used for college admission, but PSAT/NMSQT scores are not sent to colleges. The PSAT/NMSQT Score Report gives you personalized feedback on areas in which you could improve, along with specific advice on how to improve. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT gives you a chance to qualify for scholarship and recognition programs and is the best practice for the SAT.
Theoretically speaking, if you just sign your name and don’t complete the answer sheet, you would get a score of 200. That’s because we don’t report scores that are lower than 200. In reality, if we received an answer sheet with no answers, it would be considered an automatic request to cancel scores and no scores would be reported.
All editions of the SAT are developed using the same test specifications. Even if there are tiny differences in difficulty from test to test, a statistical process called “equating” ensures that a score for a test taken on one date or at one place is equivalent to a score for a test taken on another date or in another place. The rumors that the SAT in one month, say in October, is easier, are false.
All of the SAT is multiple-choice except for the 25-minute written essay and 10 student-produced response math questions, which ask you to fill in or “grid-in” your own answers using a special section of the answer sheet.
The SAT measures the critical thinking skills you’ll need for academic success in college. It assesses how well you analyze and solve problems. SAT scores are used for college admission purposes because the test predicts college success. The Subject Tests are one-hour, primarily multiple-choice tests in specific subjects. Subject Tests measure knowledge or skills in a particular subject and your ability to apply that knowledge.
You can take the test as many times as you want. Your score report shows your current test score, in addition to scores for up to six SAT and six Subject Test administrations.
Most students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year of high school. Most students who take Subject Tests take them toward the end of their junior year or at the beginning of their senior year. Because Subject Tests are directly related to course work, it’s helpful to take tests such as World History, Biology E/M, Chemistry, or Physics as soon as possible after completing the course in the subject, even as a freshman or sophomore, while the material is still fresh in your mind. You’ll do better on other tests like languages after at least two years of study.
To find out which test(s) you should take, contact the colleges you are interested in attending to determine admissions requirements and deadlines. Most colleges require the SAT for admission and many other schools require both the SAT and Subject Tests for admission purposes or placement. Additionally, some colleges require specific Subject Tests while others allow you to choose which tests you take. It’s best to check directly with the college admissions offices.
Your SAT scores can tell admission staff how you compare with other students who took the test. That’s because all scores are reported on the 200-to-800 scale. For example, if your scores are about 500 on each section, which is the mean (average) score, college admission staff would know you scored about as well as half of the students who took the test.
The SAT is the best independent, standardized measure of a student’s college readiness. It is standardized across all students, schools, and states, providing a common and objective scale for comparison. High school grades are a very useful indicator of how students perform in college, yet there is great variation in grading standards and course rigor within and across high schools.
Remember, too, that the SAT is only one of a number of factors that colleges consider when making admission decisions. Other factors, like your high school record, essays, recommendations, interviews, and extracurricular activities, also play a role in admission decisions.
No test can accurately predict with 100 percent certainty what your grades will be in college. That’s because many factors, including personal motivation, influence your college grades.
However, college admissions offices use SAT scores to help estimate how well students are likely to do at a particular college. For example, a college looks at the SAT scores, high school grade-point average (GPA), and college grades of its freshman class. A college may find that students who scored between 450 and 550 on the SAT and maintained a “B” average in high school are the students who perform well at that school. Knowing your SAT scores and high school GPA helps the college make a decision about how likely it is that you’ll succeed in college.
Much effort is made to ensure that most students are given enough time to attempt every question on the test. But even if more time were given, not all students would be able to answer all the questions.
Studies are done to find out whether most students have enough time to attempt to answer all the questions in each test section. These studies show that time limits are appropriate if all students taking the test answer 75 percent of the questions in each section and if 80 percent reach the last question in the section. Based on studies like these, the time limits are appropriate for the majority of students.
Students with Disabilities may request extended time for taking the SAT.
Originally, SAT was an abbreviation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. In 1993, the test was renamed the SAT I: Reasoning Test. At the same time, the former Achievement Tests were renamed the SAT II: Subject Tests. In 2004, the numerals “I” and “II” were dropped and the tests are now named the SAT Reasoning Test (or just SAT) and SAT Subject Tests. SAT is a simple and recognizable way of referring to the SAT Reasoning Test.
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