The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

The SAT is a standardized test designed to assess a student’s readiness for college. Most colleges and universities require SAT or ACT scores as a part of the admissions process. Every year, more students apply to college causing universities to become more selective in the application process. Attaining a high SAT score helps students stand out from other applicants and provides more opportunities to attend the student’s university of choice. Achieving higher SAT scores also increases the likelihood of receiving academic scholarships.

What Content Appears on the SAT?

The SAT lasts approximately 3 hours. Moreover, three distinct sections make up the SAT — math, writing & language, and reading.


The math section consists of 58 multiple-choice questions within 80 minutes. The section is further broken down into a calculator and non-calculator portion. The calculator portion contains 38 questions in a 55-minute time limit. The non-calculator portion contains 20 questions within 25 minutes. Students are assessed on their skills in algebra I & II, geometry, and trigonometry.

Writing & Language

The writing and language section consists of 44 multiple-choice questions to answer in 35 minutes. This evaluates the student’s competency in grammar, vocabulary mastery, and editing.

Evidence-Based Reading

The evidence-based reading section consists of 52 multiple-choice questions to answer in 65 minutes. Students read passages discussing literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences. Based on the passages, the questions assess comprehension, command of evidence, proficiency in vocabulary, analytical skills, ability to make inferences, understanding main ideas, and understanding the author’s purpose.

Optional Essay Discontinued

The optional essay portion of the SAT is discontinued as of June 2021. According to the College Board, the reason for the discontinuation is “to respond to the changing needs of students and colleges.”

How Does SAT Scoring Work?

The overall SAT score is based on a 1600 scale. Each section (math and evidence-based reading & writing) is scored on a 200–800-point scale. Students receive points for questions answered correctly and no penalty for questions skipped or answered incorrectly. Scores typically become available 2 to 4 weeks after the test date.

The top 10th percentile encompasses SAT scores above 1360. Meanwhile, the 25th percentile contains scores above 1210, with the 50th percentile holding scores above 1070. Highly selective schools like Harvard want to see an SAT score of 1460 for students to be considered. It is helpful for students to research their desired schools’ expected SAT and ACT scores. This allows students to set goals and acquire an appropriate study strategy.

When to Take the SAT

Most students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. This allows adequate time to receive test scores and retake the SAT (if necessary) before applying to college. The College Board administers the SAT during August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. Students sign up for dates and times through their College Board account. Many designated test centers typically have a centralized location throughout the state.

How to Prepare for the SAT

The SAT is important for students to receive scholarships and admission to their desired colleges and universities. To perform well, students must study and practice. It is helpful to start studying 2 to 3 months before the test date. Students should take a timed, full-length practice test. Not only does this provide familiarity with the SAT format, but it also helps you feel more comfortable taking a timed test.

Many SAT prep services can help students execute an effective study plan and improve their SAT scores. TestPrepScore provides resources for students to find qualified SAT tutors and college admissions counselors that best fit their needs. Check our list of test-prep services, tutors, and counselors to help you achieve your SAT goals.