Young girl freaks out while studying for the SAT exam

5 Common Questions About the SAT

So you’re in high school and you’re starting to think about what you want to do after graduation. If you want to attend college, you will most likely have to take an exam called the SAT, but what is it exactly? You’ve probably heard about this test before from family members or people at your school, but you may not be too familiar with the term. Since taking the SAT is crucial to attend most colleges, you should find out everything you can about it before you ever buy that first SAT prep book.

What is the SAT?

SAT, or the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is a widely recognized and respected college admission test that is used to determine your level of knowledge and how well you can apply that knowledge. The test itself consists of math, writing, and reading sections, and lasts three hours and 45 minutes. Colleges use the scores from this test to determine who they will admit and to whom they will award scholarships.

How is the SAT different from the ACT?

The SAT and the ACT are both college admission tests, and some schools will accept scores from either of these examinations. However, the main difference between the two exams is that the SAT measures aptitude, reasoning skills, and verbal abilities, while the ACT measures achievements and what you have learned in school. The SAT only tests math, writing, and reading, but the ACT has up to five parts: English, math, reading, science, and an optional writing test.

Why should I take the SAT?

You should take the SAT if you want to attend college. The ACT is also an option for some schools, but the SAT is more widely accepted, especially for elite colleges and universities. Even if the SAT is optional for a school that you want to attend, it is usually still recommended to take it because it will set you apart from the competition.

How is the SAT scored?

First, what are called your ‘raw scores’ are calculated based on the number of questions you answered correctly and incorrectly. You earn one point for each correct multiple choice answer and are deducted ¼ of a point for each incorrect multiple choice answer. You don’t receive or lose any points if you leave a question blank. The writing portion of the exam is graded on a scale of one to six. Since there are two essays, your total essay score will be between two and 12. All of these scores are then converted into a ‘scaled score’ that has a possible total of 2,400, which is your final score.

What should I do to prepare for the SAT?

Some students choose to take an SAT preparatory course, which is usually offered through your school or a local organization. These usually cost at least a few hundred dollars, so it is not an ideal option for everyone. Never fear, you can prepare just as well with your own self-guided studying. There are many free or affordable online programs through the College Board, Kaplan, or the Princeton Review, and you can purchase an SAT prep book filled with practice tests and skill-building exercises.

Last Updated: June 10, 2015