The Scholastic Aptitude Test, also known as the SAT, is taken by high school juniors and seniors applying to colleges and universities. This exam can be taken internationally six times during the year. Find out when to take it, how to take it, and why as we discuss the SAT in more detail.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, is a global recognized test admitting students into colleges and universities all over the United States.
About the SAT
The SAT test is taken by high school students to demonstrate to colleges what the prospective student knows and how well they can apply their knowledge. There are three aspects of the test: reading, writing, and math. SAT scores are sent out to your desired colleges and universities as part of the admissions package.
Colleges and universities look at the combination of high school grades and SAT scores. This combination serves as a prediction of a student’s future academic success. A student’s scores on the reading, math, and writing sections will project the student’s ability to handle college courses in critical reading, mathematics, and writing. The content of these courses is more complex in college than it is in high school, but the skills and their practical application are the same.
The skills assessed on the SAT are skills that you have been learning since you started grade school. The skills that will be assessed are critical reading, grammar and usage, identifying errors in a written passage, arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. You will show your knowledge of these skills through the process of answering multiple choice questions. There will also be a written essay portion of the exam. The SAT is meant to show your scholastic ability. Logic and abstract thinking are not tested during the taking of the SAT.
The SAT is the more reliable and validated standardized test in the United States and around the world. The three sections are all assessed during the same day. The SAT is a timed test. The test, if a student uses all the time available to them, takes three hours and 45 minutes. Within these three skill sets—reading, mathematics, and writing—there are 10 separately timed sections. Three sections of the test focus on reading, three on mathematics, and three on writing.
The tenth section is a variable section that could be any one of the three subjects. This last section is not scored. Possible SAT questions are being tested on students every year. This final section is made up of questions that a board of educators has already approved for the SAT question bank, but need to be tested on current high school students. SAT questions are constantly being changed and updated. Questions are tested on current high school students to determine whether they are learning these topics in school or not. The SAT is a test that assesses the reading, writing, and mathematical skills that students have been taught from grades K-12 (with perhaps the exception of English if that is your second language).
How To Prepare
In order to prepare for the SAT, you must know what type of questions to study for. Questions on the SAT are multiple choice, student-produced responses (in the math section) and there is an essay format as well.
The critical reading section of the SAT includes reading passages and sentence completions. Passages are provided and students will be asked to answer questions about the passages. Students will also be given a sentence, and asked to choose the word that best completes the sentence. Students preparing for the SAT should prepare for these questions by studying common vocabulary words.
The multiple choice questions and student produced questions in the math sections are divided into three sections and focus on arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. By the time this test is taken, junior or senior year in high school, a student should have taken courses covering all of these mathematical topics. A test taker is allowed to bring an approved calculator, and a reference sheet of conversions will be provided.
The writing section has multiple choice questions as well as a hand written essay portion. The multiple choice questions ask students to identify errors in sentences and passages and improve grammar and usage. The short essay is an opinion piece. A prompt is given to the test takers on the day of the test. After being given the prompt, the student has a set amount of time to write a complete short essay with a beginning, middle, and end.
Once you know the type of questions and format for each skill set assessed, you can then start to review the content. There is a SAT prep soft cover book that can be purchased at a nationally known bookstore or borrowed from your public library. This SAT prep book will give you sample tests with SAT questions used in the past. It is not the exact test that you will be taking, but a simulation of the number of questions and types of questions to expect, and will give you an accurate score of how well you did on the sample test.
Registration for the SAT exam can be done online. The cost is typically $51 USD for the standard SAT exam and can be paid for at the time of registration. The SAT exam is offered seven times a year in the US and six times a year internationally. The months in which the test is offered are October, November, December, January, March (U.S.A only), May, and June. The registration deadline for the SAT exam is a month prior to the date in which you plan to take it. For most, the SAT exam needs to be taken two times. In order to figure out when you need to take the test, determine the application deadlines of all the schools to which you plan to apply.
Night Before the SAT
The night before the SAT exam is crucial for student’s success. It’s never a good idea to try to cram a last-minute study session the night before the exam. You need to make sure that you can get a good night’s sleep—at least eight hours.
Preparing for Test Day
On the day of your SAT exam, there are some things you will need and some things that should be left at home. First of all, you will need a form of identification and your SAT admission ticket that you received when you registered for the SAT exam. Remember to take water and a snack for break times. You will not be allowed to leave the room if you finish a section early. With this being said, bring a book to read. Keep an eye on the time so you know how much time you can spend on a particular section. Bring a couple (at least two) sharpened number 2 pencils with good erasers.
For the math section, you are allowed to bring a calculator. There are strict policies regarding calculators. You are allowed to bring a graphing calculator, scientific calculator, or a four-function calculator, although the last one is not recommended. You are not permitted to bring a laptop, iPad, cell phone calculator, calculator that is a TI-92 plus or Voyage 200, or calculators that use an electrical outlet or have a paper tape.
Bringing certain items into the exam room could result in you being kicked out of the exam. Leave cell phones at home or in your car. You are also going to want to leave any music device at home, such as MP3 players or iPods.
What is the SAT scoring system? Each of the three subjects tested on the SAT is scored separately, giving you three separate scores for the SAT exam. The scores are combined to form the overall SAT score. Colleges and universities look at each skill’s score separately as well as the overall SAT score.
The SAT exam gives the test taker points for getting the answer correct. One point is awarded for each question answered correctly. For wrong multiple choice answers, ¼ of a point is subtracted. For wrong student produced answers, zero points are given or subtracted. For omitted questions, a test taker does not get positive points or subtracted points, just zero points for each of the omitted questions. This being the case, students should not guess on the SAT, but rather skip questions they do not know how to answer.
Your raw score which could be between 20-80 points per each math and reading section is then converted to a scaled score (reported on a 200-800 scale) by a statistical process called equating. The writing essay portion is based on a 0-6 scale, 6 being the highest score. This score is equated to the 200-800 scale as well. Equating allows comparisons among test takers who take different editions of the test.
Why take the SAT exam
Although the SAT is the commonly used formative assessment and is accepted by virtually all colleges and universities in the United States and around the world, there are other reasons a student should take the SAT. The SAT shows how you apply the thinking, writing and study skills required for college course work, and provides an opportunity for scholarship money. Colleges and universities grant scholarships to high academic students coming into the freshman class. SAT scores play a role in who is awarded these scholarships.
When a colleges look at your admission’s package, they look at a wide range of areas to get to better know you. Colleges and universities look at extracurricular activities, personal recommendations, high school courses taken, high school grades as well as a formative assessment, like the SAT.