How the SAT Works: Format Breakdown and Function

SAT Scantron TestIf you’re a junior or senior in high school, you’re probably planning to take the SAT. You know that the SAT is a standardized test taken by students across the country, and you know that college officials look at SAT scores when evaluating student applications. But have you ever taken a really close look at the parts of this well-known exam? Learning what’s on the new SAT and how the SAT works is an important first step in preparing for the test.

What Is the Purpose of the SAT?
The questions on the SAT are meant to reveal what you learned in your high school classes, so you should find that you’re already familiar with the types of material on this exam. In addition, the test is a way to evaluate whether you’ll be successful in your college courses. Of course, a high SAT score isn’t a guarantee of success in college, but the test serves as a way to measure your academic abilities.

The SAT Format
Reading, Writing & Language, and Math are the three tests that make up the SAT. There is also an optional Essay section. You have 65 minutes to complete the Reading section and 35 minutes to complete the Writing & Language section. In addition, you receive 80 minutes to complete the Math questions. As for the essay, you are given 50 minutes to write it.

The Reading and Writing & Language tests are multiple-choice. The Math test has multiple-choice questions as well as grid-in questions. Grid-in questions require you to figure out the answer to a math problem instead of selecting an answer option. The entire SAT takes about three hours and 50 minutes to finish. The total test time varies depending on the amount of breaks you’re given during the exam. You’re able to take the SAT either on paper or digitally.

The Reading Section
Taking a closer look at an SAT breakdown detailing the types of questions in each section can help you perform well on the test. The Reading section includes vocabulary in context, detail, function, inference, analogy, author technique, and main idea questions. After reading each passage, your job is to answer several multiple-choice questions about what you have read. This section has a total of 52 questions.

The Math Section
The SAT format for the Math section starts students off with relatively easy problems and gradually increases in difficulty. Geometry, trigonometry, algebra, and data analysis are all topics covered by questions in the Math section. You can use a calculator on some portions of the Math section but not others. There are 58 questions on the Math test.

The Writing & Language Section
There’s a Writing & Language section on the new SAT, as well. You’ll find several shorter reading passages here that are accompanied by questions. For each question, choose the answer option that corrects a grammar, punctuation, or structure error within the passage. Some questions include a “no change” option, which you should select if there is no error present. There are 44 questions in this section.

The Essay
The SAT essay gauges your ability to analyze the author’s argument, using evidence to support your points. You’re not called upon to agree or disagree with what the author is trying to convey. You have 50 minutes to write the essay. Though this is an optional part of the test, it’s a chance to highlight your ability to write an organized, thoughtful essay. Additionally, many colleges require their applicants to write this essay, so you will want to check with the schools you are interested in applying to.

Preparing for the Test
Now that you know the SAT breakdown and how the SAT works, you must make sure you’re prepared to dive in on test day. The tutoring program at Veritas Prep can provide you with simple strategies that help you navigate all sections of the exam. Each of our instructors has already proven their mastery of the test by earning a score in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so when you work with a Veritas Prep tutor, you’re studying with the best! We’ll have you take a practice SAT and look at your results to see where you can improve.

To make your tutoring sessions as effective as possible, we’ll match you with an instructor who is familiar with your learning style. Our online and in-person courses are designed to give you the resources you need to highlight your skills on the SAT. Call or email Veritas Prep today to learn more!

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