SAT Overview: Everything You Need to Know

The SAT exam is a multiple-choice test managed by the College Board that determines a student’s eligibility for higher education in the US. Students must take tests in reading and writing and math to pass the SAT.

SAT scores are important because universities and colleges use the scores to determine if a candidate qualifies for admission. In addition, students with higher SAT scores may qualify for scholarships or earn a place in a higher-level class.

Use this SAT overview to find out everything you need to know about the SAT.

SAT Overview

The SAT exam assesses the skills and preparation of students entering college. It requires registration and has a corresponding fee you should pay in advance. You can take the SATs throughout the year as the U.S. College Board schedules SAT exams four times each month in different testing locations. Taking the exams allows you to send your score reports free to four colleges. Moreover, the organization offers SAT fee waiver to eligible students. 

The SAT digital format will start in the spring of 2023 for international testing centers while it will start on January 2024 in the US. The pencil and paper format will no longer be available from then.

SAT scores matter as the scores influence your eligibility to enroll in a college or university. If you achieve a perfect SAT score, you can qualify for financial aid and scholarships. 

SAT Format

The digital format of the SAT will only have two sections: math, and reading and writing, which will take two hours to complete. The passages for the reading section will include shorter works. Each reading passage will have only one corresponding question. Previously, the pen-and-paper SAT exam was three hours long.

While the digital SAT is shorter, expect that it is just as challenging as the pen-and-paper SAT. When taking the Reading and Writing Test, expect passages from the humanities like short stories or poems. You are expected to exhibit a proper grasp of grammar, good reading comprehension, and high critical reading skills.

On the other hand, the Math Test includes 44 questions and takes 70 minutes to complete. You can use a calculator for the entire section. Expect to solve problems in Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry.

SAT Preparation Tips

Since the SAT is a comprehensive test, you should start your preparation early. While still in school, pick a test date that is two or three months away to give you plenty of time to study. It will also allow you to plan better and determine the time you will dedicate to studying per week. 

You can follow some of these tips to obtain a good score on the SAT:

  1. Make a study plan and stick to it.
  2. Focus on your weak areas and allocate time to improve on them.
  3. Consider practice tests to familiarize yourself with the content of the exam. Doing so can help you strategize on how to effectively answer the test.
  4. Read extensively. Try newspapers to get updated on current events. You can also read short story and poetry collections to improve your reading comprehension. 
  5. Review grammar rules. 
  6. Study different math formulas, including categorical data, coordinate geometry, probabilities, and algebra.

Interpreting SAT Scores

Your SAT scores combine the marks you got from the two sections, giving you a total score ranging from 400 to 1600. Each section’s score ranges from 200 to 800. Each university have their own perception of what a “good” SAT score is. So, be sure to have a target score in mind when you take the SAT.

Typically, you should aim for a SAT score of 1200 or higher. It will also be wise to check the average SAT scores of students admitted to your preferred college. This will help you have an idea of what scores are usually considered and accepted.

Retaking the SAT

You can take the SAT several times without penalty. However, even the College Board that administers the SAT exams recommends taking the SAT at least twice. The registration fee for retaking the SAT is the same as the fee you pay the first time you took the exam.

The recommendation for taking the SAT for the first time is in the spring when you are still in your junior year in high school. Thus, if you need to retake it, you can schedule it during your senior year or two to three months after your first exam. This will give you more time to prepare and study.

If you want to improve your SAT scores, you can enroll in a class or hire a tutor. Consider taking more practice tests. You can order an exact online copy of your test scores from the College Board for a small fee. You will see where your scores are lower, so you can focus your preparation on those weak areas.

Ace the SAT

This SAT overview gives you everything you should know about the exams. Proper understanding of the test your about to take is the first step on acing the exam. Make sure to register early and prepare early so that you’ll have ample time to study. Remember, getting in your dream college starts and depends on you and your dedication.