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SAT

What is SAT? [All Things SAT Covered]

Written by Shefali Sundram

Updated on: 19 Apr 2024

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Hey there, future scholars! Curious about the SAT? You are in the right place.

If you are a high school student, understanding the SAT is like finding the key to a treasure box. So, what’s the big deal about SAT? SAT isn’t just any exam; over two million students tackled it last year, aiming to get into their dream colleges.

What’s this test like, you ask? Picture this: the SAT has three main parts – Math, Evidence-based reading, and Writing. Each part is like a puzzle piece and when you put them all together, colleges get an idea of your brainpower.

But why should you care? Well, most colleges use the SAT to figure out who gets the chance to join them. The higher your SAT score, the better college you will get.

In this blog, we are going to dive into more details and will leave you with the answer to “What is SAT?”

Let’s make sense of the SAT together and get on your way to college success! 

What is SAT?

SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. 

SAT has 4 sections consisting of a total of 154 questions. The 4 sections are:

  1. Evidence-based Reading. This section has 52 questions.
  2. Writing & Language. This section has 44 questions.
  3. Math: No Calculator. This section has 20 questions.
  4. Math: Calculator. This section has 38 questions.

It is a 3-hour test with 2 breaks in-between. You will receive a 10-minute break after the first section and another 5-minute break after the third section. Including the breaks, the SAT is exactly 3 hours and 15 minutes long.

There’s also an optional essay section in SAT. The duration of this section is 50 minutes, so if you sign up for it, the SAT will be 3 hours and 50 minutes for you. Including the breaks, it will be 4 hours and 5 minutes.

SAT is specifically designed to check whether a student is ready for college or not. It checks how well the student holds the knowledge and how well he can apply it.

It also provides colleges with a common data point that can be used to compare all applicants and move further with the admission process.

SAT was originally known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, which later became the Scholastic Assessment Test. Now, the SAT doesn’t hold any full form and is considered the actual name of the test.

Is it Important to take the SAT?

Yes, it is important to take the SAT. Many colleges and universities in the United States ask students to submit their SAT scores as a part of their application process. So, the score you receive on the SAT plays a major role in getting into college.

Yet, colleges are now making the SAT optional or introducing a “test-optional” policy. It means that it will be the student’s choice to submit their SAT scores. If a student does submit their scores, the college will consider them.

According to The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, over 1,800 universities across the U.S. are test-optional. This includes universities like Columbia University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Yale University.

Major reasons why colleges are introducing “test-optional policy” are:

  1. Financial issues
  2. Lack of test centers
  3. Difficulties in dealing with exam related stress, etc.

Whether to take the SAT or not has always been a serious question. Everyone looks for suggestions or views from admission officers of top universities. So, here are a few of them

Will Dixon, former admission officer at Duke University said that the biggest mistake students often made while applying for colleges is “Follow the herd mentality or do as our friends/ neighbors do”

This is not at all a good practice. You should only take up the SAT exam when you are confident enough. Moreover, with most colleges introducing test-optional and test-blind policies now, it’s easy to make the choice of whether to take the SAT or not.

You should take the exam when you feel you are prepared and ready for it.

According to Will Dixon, generally colleges or universities look at six primary factors while evaluating college applications. These six factors are:

  1. Curriculum
  2. Grades
  3. Test Scores (like SAT)
  4. Extra-curricular Activities
  5. Essays
  6. Recommendations

Specifically talking about Duke University, Will mentioned that “Out of the six primary factors, admission officers spend most of their time looking at extracurricular activities, essays, and the recommendations because these factors actually build a student’s profile. In the committee, rarely does someone talk about the curriculum, grades, and the test scores.”

Will also disclose the reason why colleges or universities specifically consider three out of six primary factors. He said that…

  • Colleges/universities offer a multitude of opportunities to their students. So, they look for students who can respond to and engage those opportunities intelligently, creatively, and enthusiastically. 
  • They look for students who love thinking hard about things and who put their heart and soul into areas that interest them.

The three factors (extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations) help them to evaluate students and select the ones that pass the above criteria. 

Now, unlike test-optional policy, some colleges are introducing “test-blind” or “test-free” policies. This includes universities like Washington State University, the California University of Technology, and the University of Charleston. It means that colleges will not accept the student’s SAT scores, even if they submit them.

Admission decisions will be based on

  1. Student’s CGPA
  2. Letter of recommendation
  3. Supplemental essays
  4. Extracurriculars, etc.

But, just because of such policies, you should not think that SAT isn’t important. Getting a good score on the SAT indicates that you have good academic knowledge.

SAT focuses on how well you can analyze and solve problems. It is because this is the basic skill that will be required in college. In some cases, SAT scores might be more effective than GPA.

For instance, different schools have different curriculums with varying difficulty levels. Consider one student with a 3.5 GPA and another student with a 4.0 GPA. A student with a 3.5 GPA has an advanced curriculum with a higher difficulty level than a student with a 4.0 GPA. So, in this case, the student with a 3.5 GPA will be given priority over the student with a 4.0 GPA. 

This is where the SAT comes into the picture. It provides colleges with a standard way to check the academic readiness of students using various factors. To secure a better SAT score, you can go for online tutoring services

Who can take the SAT?

There are no specific age/eligibility criteria to take the SAT exam which means anyone can take the SAT exam. Usually, the SAT exam is taken by students in the age group of 16 to 19 years as it is intended for high school students.

Anyone who wants to enter his dream college can take this exam.

For students under 13 years old, the procedure slightly varies to take the SAT exam. The SAT exam comes with a lot of academic pressure which is not considered ideal to put on a 13-year-old kid.

So, they need to fill out and submit an “Account Creation Consent” form with the help of their parents or guardian.

Once the form is completed and submitted, a representative from the College Board will get in touch with your parent or guardian. This will be done to discuss the further steps for the creation of your student account.

This way, you will be able to register for the SAT and access other academic programs.

How to Register for the SAT?

To register for the SAT exam, you need to visit the College Board’s official website

It generally takes more than 30 minutes to go through the registration process. You have the flexibility to start it and return to it later. Although, it’s best to do it all at once to reduce the chance of making mistakes.

Here are the necessary steps, which need to be followed while registering for the SAT exam:

  1. Always explore different test center locations. This needs to be done to check the availability as not all the test center locations have available seats.
  2. Fix your schedule and choose the test date that suits you. For the first time, most students prefer to take the exam in the spring of their junior year. Later, for the second time, in the fall of their senior year.
  3. Now sign in to your free College Board account for the registration process. If you don’t have your account yet, then create one.
  4. Complete your online registration by entering your details. This will include your full name, address, etc. Be sure that these details match exactly with what’s on your ID card.
  5. You will need to upload a picture of yourself as per the mentioned requirements. Make sure the picture you upload is in .jpg, .png, or .gif file formats, must be clicked in proper lighting, and shouldn’t be tampered with in any way.
  6. While doing the registration, you also get a choice to opt for the College Board’s Student Search Service. It connects you with colleges and scholarship programs that are looking for students like you. It is completely free of cost. You just need to give details like your GPA, expected high school graduation date, and intended college major. By choosing to do it, you let the College Board share your name and a bit of information (like what was mentioned earlier) with colleges that are interested in students like you.
  7. After completing the registration process and paying the fees, print your admission ticket. It will be needed on the exam day.

There’s one more way of registering which is by mail. You can mail by using the form in the ‘Student Registration Booklet for the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests’. You can ask and get help from your school counselor for this.

Where to take the SAT?

You can take your SAT exam in your school on a weekday which is commonly known as ‘SAT School Day’. 

If you are not taking the SAT with your class on a weekday, you can take it at a testing center on a Saturday. The SAT exam is conducted at different test center locations. It is not always sure that you’ll get the seat availability on your preferred date of the exam. So, it is always better to check the availability beforehand.

As we all are aware after the Covid-19 Pandemic, almost everything is getting digital and so is the SAT exam.  Yes! From spring 2024, the SAT exam will be completely converted into a digital platform.

What is Digital SAT?

The SAT exam is going to make a full transition from the normal paper and pencil version to a digital version. This will be known as the digital SAT.

All students will take the SAT Suite of Assessments digitally in the spring of 2024.

Yet, students who test with accommodations that need a paper and pen test will still be supported.

You can check our blog to have a better understanding of the Digital SAT.

Conclusion

SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States.

It acts as a way to check how well a student is ready for college. It is designed to measure key skills such as

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Evidence-based reading
  3. Mathematical ability

By preparing and appearing for the SAT exam, students can show their knowledge. This will help and increase their chances of getting admission into top colleges.

Yet, colleges are now introducing policies like “test-optional” policy and “test-blind” policy. This is happening because of the lack of test centers, financial issues faced by students, etc.

According to the “test-optional” policy, it will be the student’s choice to submit their SAT scores. As per the “test-blind” policy, colleges will not accept students’ SAT scores, even if they submit them.

The best part about the SAT is it doesn’t have any age criteria. Only students under 13 years old need help from their parents or guardians for the process.

Registration for the exam can be done through the College Board’s official website.

Also, from the spring of 2024, SAT will get fully digital. Digital SAT will be a shift from the normal paper and pencil version to the digital version. Students will be able to take the exam on a computer or laptop.

In simple terms, figuring out what the SAT means and why it is important can be the initial big step for a student academically.

Is there any age criteria for the SAT?

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

No, there are no specific age/eligibility criteria to take the SAT exam. However, students under 13 years old need help from their parents or guardian for the process.

Why is the SAT so important?

Many colleges and universities in the United States ask students to submit their SAT scores as a part of their application process. So, the score you receive on the SAT plays a major role in getting into college. 

What is Digital SAT?

Digital SAT is a shift from the normal paper and pencil version of the SAT exam to a digital version. For the digital SAT, the SAT exam will be taken on a computer or laptop.

What if a student doesn’t have a device?

If any student doesn’t have a device for the exam, they can request it and the device will be provided on the exam day.

Written by

Shefali Sundram

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