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Fear and loathing of the SAT has been passed down through generations of students like an urban legend – but one with very real significance on a college application. Even though the SAT seems intimidating, our SAT prep classes show that the test, like any other challenge, simply requires knowing how it ticks in order to overcome it.
In this blog post, we’ll look at a brief history of the SAT and the company that produces it, also touching on the material covered and the scoring method. For a more in-depth look at the SAT, considering attending an SAT prep class, where we carefully dissect each test/section* of the SAT after taking a full-length practice test.
What is the SAT?
The SAT is a reasoning exam that tests material that students learn throughout high school. It consists of 3 sections (or 4 including the optional Essay test) of various lengths, in Reading, Writing & Language, and Math (which encompasses two parts – one does not permit the use of a calculator). It runs a bit over 3 hours (or close to 4 hours with the Essay test). The final score is out of 1600 points. Since 2016, students receive one point for a correct answer and lose no points for incorrect or skipped answers. The Reading and Writing & Language sections and the two Math sections each make up half of the overall score.
A Bit of Background
Precursors of the SAT date back to 1901, when the tests included sections on Latin and Greek. Today’s test is focused on the subjects students are studying in high school, and in 2016, the SAT was reworked to more closely match school curriculums. Many students get a taste of the testing process early, as most students take the PSAT in their freshman, sophomore, and/or junior years of high school. Both tests are created and administered by the College Board, a not-for-profit membership association for academic institutions that also administers the AP tests, among others.
What Makes the SAT Unique?
Like other standardized tests, the strict structure of the SAT will feel different for students who are used to going back to check or change their answers. The time required to carefully bubble answers can also be tiresome to some students.
In its material, the SAT has a math section that forbids the use of a calculator, which may be uncomfortable for students who are used to having a calculator handy for backup. Time to brush up on that mental math! And since it’s a reasoning test, questions in any section may appear more like a multi-step puzzle than a straightforward request for an answer. The SAT also incorporates a bit more focus on vocab in context. Students are never asked to define words, but a solid knowledge of common prefixes and suffixes will help in understanding vocab in passages.
Wondering how to use the scoring system to your advantage? Want to dig deeper on the grammar and math skills covered on the test? Need a strategy for staying on a schedule so that you don’t run out of time in a section? Learn all of this and more in an SAT prep class with The Answer Class. Register today for one of our many upcoming classes offered at a location near you.
*Although the SAT refers to its timed parts as “tests,” the word “sections” is used in this blog post for clarity purposes.