Friday, 20 January 2017

Decoding SAT : Basics You Should Know

The SAT, earlier called Scholastic Aptitude Test and now Scholastic Assessment Test, is an admission test usually accepted by most of the colleges and universities in the United States. It tests students’ preparedness to undergo higher education in US colleges.

Introduced in 1926, SAT has undergone several changes in its name and scoring pattern over the years. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) develops and administers the test on behalf of the College Board, a private not-for-profit corporation in the United States.

Test Format

SAT is offered seven times a year. It measures what you studied in high school and the skill set you would require to sail through the college course. It has three test components.

Reading Test

Reading Test is all about what you must have been doing for years. It tests how well you assimilate and use information through reading.

It is a multiple-choice test with 52 questions and 65 minutes’ duration. Test passages are drawn from high standard previously published subjects of US and world literature, social studies and science, but it does not call for prior expertise in the subject. The passages are sometimes accompanied by informational graphics like tables and graphs.

Writing and Language

You become an editor while doing the test, wherein you read, spot errors and weaknesses in word usage and structures, and correct them. You will have 35 minutes to answer 44 questions in all.

All questions are multiple choice and test passages are drawn from history, social studies and science. This again does not necessitate any prior knowledge in these subjects. Some passages may have informational graphics like charts, tables and graphs but you do not have to work out any math.


This test focuses a lot on your problem solving skills, modeling, using tools strategically and using algebraic structure. You would apply the math that you would most likely use in all sorts of situations. You may have to take two math tests: ‘Math Test – Calculator’ with 38 questions and 55 minutes’ duration and ‘Math Test – No Calculator’ with 20 questions and 25 minutes’ duration.

SAT essay

This component tests how well you use your reading, analysis and writing skills in 50 minutes, as it is done in a college essay writing assignment. This is optional, but some schools do require it.

Test length

The total SAT duration is 180 minutes with a 10-minute break after the Reading test and a 5-minute break after the ‘Math Test – No Calculator’ section.

How to time the test

Running out of time is a common problem found among several SAT takers. The best method to prepare for the extended duration and intensity of SAT is to take strictly timed, full-length practice tests. Familiarize yourself with test instructions and length before the SAT to avoid nail-biting moments in the exam hall.

Move away from trickier questions; do not spend time poring over them. Do not be tempted to go back to the question you left unanswered in a dilemma. You may have to finish answering all the questions before taking reattempts. If you are stuck with indecision, eliminate the wrong choices first and choose from the remaining answers.

SAT Scores

The new SAT is scored on the 1600 scale. If you score 1200, you are rated as ‘excellent’ and ranked in the top 25 percent while a 1000 will rate you as ‘good’, putting you in the average category.

What is the takeaway?

Apart from polishing your language skills, SAT gives you a valuable opportunity to hone a variety of skills including problem-solving, analytical thinking, accomplishing a task to its finest detail and finding smart shortcuts.

Equipped with such a broad skill set, you are prepared to face the world with full confidence, be it your academic front or personal/ professional life. Your problem solving skills acquire a competitive edge that puts you on par with international students.

Armed with a good SAT score, you have better prospects to apply for colleges that offer scholarships and grants.

Preparation tips

Cramming words and facts is not the key to a creditable performance in SAT. It tests you with simple questions posed in trickier ways. The more you practice, the sharper your skills and the readier you are to fight the battle.

Read challenging topics, take quizzes, and ask and answer a battery of questions. Enroll yourself in a structured online learning portal for anywhere-anytime personalized learning, to polish your language skills, learn better time management and get fully prepared for SAT.

In your study plan, develop the regular habit of reading articles and complex passages on unfamiliar topics. Familiarize yourself with the test structure and rules. Above all, in the run up to the test day, stay relaxed, eat healthy and sleep peacefully to feel well rested.

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