FAQs About the SAT
12/5 , 1/23
Get answers to your questions about the SAT
The SAT tests the skills you’re learning in school: reading, writing and math. Your strength in these subjects is important for success in college and throughout your life.
- The reading section includes reading passages and sentence completions.
- The writing section includes a short essay and multiple-choice questions on identifying errors and improving grammar and usage.
- The math section includes questions on arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability.
The best way to get ready for the SAT is to take challenging courses, study hard, and read and write in and outside of the classroom.
Cramming and short-term prep can’t substitute for hard work in school. The PSAT/NMSQT® is one of the best ways to begin preparing for the SAT, because it covers the same subjects under timed conditions.
It does help to become familiar and comfortable with the test format and question types. You should take advantage of our free online practice tools, such as an online or printable practice test, sample questions, The Official SAT Question of the Day™ and more.
The SAT is just one factor among many that colleges use to get to know you better. It’s part of a comprehensive admission process that also takes into account your high school academics, extracurricular activities, recommendations, personal essay and other factors.
Every college and university uses a different combination of criteria for admission. Research the schools you’re interested in using College Search to understand their unique admission policies.
The College Board is a not-for-profit education organization dedicated to helping students discover their path to higher education. Our programs strive to provide every student with an opportunity to go to college and the tools to succeed there.
The SAT is one of the College Board’s best-known programs. In keeping with the College Board’s mission, the SAT provides an equal opportunity for all students to show what they’ve learned in school and how they apply that knowledge. This provides students an opportunity to demonstrate their problem solving and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in college.
Each section of your SAT (critical reading, mathematics and writing) will be scored on a 200- to 800-point scale, for a possible total of 2400. You’ll also get two “subscores” on the writing section: a multiple-choice score from 20 to 80, and an essay score from 2 to 12.
But how do you get these scores? Two steps happen before you see a final score.
First, we figure out your raw score by:
- Adding points for correct answers.
- Subtracting a fraction of a point for wrong answers.
Remember: Questions that you skipped don’t count either for or against your score, and points aren’t taken away for wrong answers on the math questions where you needed to enter the answer into a grid.
Then we take your raw score and turn it into a scaled score. This is where the score of 200–800 points comes from, and it is done through a statistical process called “equating.” This process makes it possible to compare your score with the scores of other students who took alternative versions of the test, and to your own scores on previous tests.
Visit How the SAT Is Scored to see exactly how your score gets calculated.
The SAT is made up of 10 sections:
- A 25-minute essay
- Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
- Two 20-minute sections (mathematics and critical reading)
- A 10-minute multiple-choice writing section
Total test time: 3 hours and 45 minutes
You’ll also get three short breaks during the testing, so don’t forget to bring a snack!
Testing accommodations are available for students with a documented need. Learn more about accommodations, like extra time.
Most students take the SAT during the spring of their junior year of high school. Many students choose to take the SAT a second time in the fall of their senior year after becoming familiar with the test day experience.
Most students take the SAT once or twice. We don’t recommend taking it more than twice because there’s no evidence that taking the SAT multiple times significantly changes your score.
Every SAT question goes through a very careful review process before making it into your exam booklet. Each question that you see has been:
- Reviewed by a team of experts, including math and English teachers, to make sure that it reflects what most college-bound students are learning in school.
- Thoroughly tested to make sure that it is fair for students of all backgrounds and ethnicities.
Questions that don’t make it through these steps will never show up on the scored part of an actual exam.
Each SAT exam includes an extra 25-minute critical reading, mathematics or writing multiple-choice section that doesn’t count toward your score.
This section is where we try out new questions to make sure that future exams are fair for students from different backgrounds. It also helps us make sure that scores from students taking future exams can be compared to scores from students who took earlier versions of the test.
No, we do not. The College Board makes every effort to protect a student's privacy. When you take the PSAT/NMSQT®, the SAT, SAT Subject Tests or any AP® Exam, if you are not already signed up for the Student Search Service, you can indicate that you want to be a part of the service. Your name and other basic information can then be made available to participating colleges and scholarship services. Colleges and scholarship programs then use Student Search Service to help them locate and recruit students with characteristics that they find to be a good match with their programs. Student Search Service® will share your contact information only with accredited colleges and approved educational or scholarship programs that are recruiting students like you. Your name will never be sold to a commercial marketing firm or retailer of merchandise or services (such as test prep).
While the College Board recommends that students take advantage of our free and low cost practice tools in order to help them do their best on test day, it is our strict policy to NOT sell student information to test preparation companies nor are such companies affiliated with the College Board.
We recommend the following precautions if you receive unsolicited calls from persons identifying themselves as belonging to a test preparation company:
- Never give credit card information
- Don’t commit to a purchase regardless of the caller’s high pressure tactics
- Get the company’s contact information and the name of the caller; ask for a call-back number
- Contact your local consumer affairs office, Better Business Bureau and/or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if the company continues to make unsolicited phone calls
To learn more about our Student Search Service policy, go to http://www.collegeboard.com/sss/help/policiesandguidelines/authorizedusage/index.html
Please don’t hesitate to contact the College Board’s Student Search Service (SearchCustomerService@collegeboard.com) if you have additional questions or concerns.