Information about and links to learning resources for the SAT

The SAT: What It Is

“SAT” was originally an acronym for “Scholastic Aptitude Test”; it was intended to predict the likelihood of students’ success in college by measuring their verbal and mathematical reasoning skills. As the format and purposes of the test evolved, the original meaning of the name was dropped. In its current form it is designed to measure students’ mastery of the reading, writing, and mathematics skills and concepts taught in high school, along with the skills needed to handle college courses. It is designed and administered by the College Board; scores from the test are used by American colleges and universities as a factor in their admissions decisions.

What It Covers

The SAT essentially consists of four parts, the last of which is optional:

Reading Test (65 minutes/52 questions): Passage-based, multiple-choice critical reading questions that measure students’ ability to understand different aspects of the meaning of several passages.

Writing and Language Test (35 minutes/44 questions): Passage-based, multiple-choice questions that measure students’ ability to understand how to correct and improve several pieces of writing.

Math Test (80 total minutes/58 total questions): Multiple-choice and grid-in questions in two sections (with and without a calculator) covering a number of mathematics skills and problem-solving concepts.

Optional Essay (50 minutes/1 prompt): An essay written in response to a passage that requires students to analyze the argument presented in the passage.

When It Is Given

Although the SAT is theoretically open to anyone to take, it is generally taken by 11th- and 12th-grade students. There are numerous test dates throughout the school year. Current information about SAT test dates can be found here.

How It Is Scored

Students receive an overall SAT score of between 400 and 1600; 200-800 from the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section, which includes the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test, and 200-800 from the Math Section, which comprises two parts.

Note that unlike older versions of the SAT, the current version does not penalize incorrect guesses; the scaled score is based on the total number of correct answers, and there is no benefit to skipping questions.

The essay is scored separately by two scorers. Each scorer will give it a score of 1-4 on each of three dimensions: reading, analysis, and writing. The two scores for each dimension are added together to produce three separate scores of 2-8. There is no total score for the essay.

The College Board will send test scores to up to four schools as part of the SAT registration fee. Students can have additional control over the reporting of their SAT scores through the College Board’s Score Choice service.

SAT Resources

The SAT: The main SAT page on the College Board website with links to information about more specific topics.

SAT Registration: Get information about test dates and registration deadlines, registration fees, where you can take the SAT, and how to register online or by mail.

SAT Student Guide: A thorough, 64-page introduction to the test presented as a PDF file.

SAT Practice: Links to sample questions, practice tests, an app for daily practice, and more.

Free Official SAT Practice Tests: Download PDF versions of the official practice tests on this page, along with answer sheets, scoring guides, and answer explanations.

Note: Apparently the College Board does not recommend that students use Practice Tests #2 and #4 from the original group of ten it made available after it redesigned the SAT, presumably because students’ scores on those tests suggest that some of the test questions are flawed. However, as of this writing they are still available for download here.

SAT Practice on Khan Academy: The popular Khan Academy has made SAT lessons and practice tests available for free on its website through a partnership with the College Board. With a Khan Academy account, students can practice for the SAT with a personalized course of study using official College Board materials. The tests available through the Khan Academy are the same as the tests available on the College Board website and in The Official SAT Study Guide sold by the College Board. The advantage of using the Khan Academy website instead of doing them on paper is its interactive features; your account keeps track of your progress and scores and gives feedback and recommendations. However, some practice on paper is still recommended in order to accurately represent actual test conditions. The official Daily Practice for the New SAT app allows you to scan your answer sheets and score them instantly, though many users have complained that this feature does not work well.

Important Khan Academy SAT resources:

About the SAT: This section starts with an article entitled “SAT content and format.”
About Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy: This section starts with a video entitled “Overview of Official SAT Practice.” Transcripts of all Khan Academy SAT videos are also available.
General SAT Strategies: This section starts with an article on time management strategies to use while taking the test.
About the SAT Reading Test: This section begins with a video entitled “The SAT Reading Test: What to expect.”
SAT Reading Test Strategies: This section teaches active reading strategies.
About the SAT Writing and Language Test: This section starts with the video “The SAT Writing and Language Test: What to expect.”
SAT Writing and Language Test Strategies: This section teaches various strategies for the test and reviews some of the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics, beginning with an active reading approach for marking up the test.
About the SAT Math Test: This section begins with the video “The SAT Math Test: What to expect.”
SAT Math Test Strategies: In this section you can share tips with others and learn how to avoid careless mistakes on the math test.
About the SAT Essay: This section begins with a video entitled “The SAT Essay: What to expect” and continues with sample essays and other information.
SAT Essay Strategies: This section begins with a discussion of the standard SAT Essay prompt.
How to Prep for the SAT: This section begins with the article “Planning your SAT practice.”

The Official SAT Study Guide: A book published by the College Board with many of the materials available for free on the website, including eight of the ten practice tests with complete answer explanations, basic information about the test, and specific information about and sample questions for each section of the SAT.

ACT vs SAT: This thorough discussion of the differences between the tests is useful for anyone trying to decide which one to take.

Test Preparation Pages




SAT Literature