Consider the SAT Exam to be the last hurdle of your school years if the United States is where you dream of studying. The SAT is still prescribed as part of the admission requirement for many US colleges and is a significant factor in helping to decide which university you will go to. It sounds daunting as it starts a hugely important journey towards your dream life and career. Like everything frightening, if you know enough about what to expect and then you work efficiently towards it, you will succeed. This article deals with some of the common questions that you might have about the SAT before you kickstart your journey.

But first, what are the SATs?

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is an MCQ-based, pencil-and-paper standardized test created and administered by the College Board. It determines your aptitude and skills in three core areas – Maths, Reading, and Writing. Your SAT Scores will determine which reputed college/university accepts you, hence it is very important that you prepare well.

The SAT has two main sections – Maths and Writing and Evidence-Based Reading (The combined English language section).

Who can apply for the SATs?

Students seeking admission to US colleges and universities apply for the SAT. Since they’re a standardized form of testing, they’re applicable for international students applying at colleges mainly in the US. Some colleges in the UK and Canada also accept the SAT.

How many hours is the SAT?

The SAT testing time is 3 hours – the reading section is a 65-minute test, the writing section is 35 minutes, and the Math section lasts 80 minutes. Between all three components (reading, writing, and math), applicants are given a 5-minute break.

SAT Scoring

With a total score of 1600, the average that one can score is 1060. Each section carries 800 marks (Reading/Writing being one section and Math being another). Universities like Harvard, and Stanford University, call for a score of at least 1500 to be eligible for admission. But if you score above 700, you may secure a seat in a state college too.

When are they held?

The SATs are held around 5 to 7 times a year. At least half the students appear for the test a second time or third time in order to improve their scores. But it’s advisable not to take it too many times because your score is unlikely to improve drastically after a third attempt unless there are drastic changes to your approach. It’s probably not worth sacrificing an additional academic year trying to score better grades. If you have sought support and tried your very best, move to another strategy for your university admissions.

The SATs are held in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. You’ll find the current test dates here.

When do I begin studying for the SATs?

Most high school students take the SAT during the autumn/ winter of Grade 11 to leave enough time to re-sit up to another 2 times. Check general SAT as well as Subject Test dates and ensure you plan ahead so you have enough time for the next sitting before your predicted grades and application deadlines. Time is of the essence here, so prepare accordingly.

The SAT registration begins around 5 weeks before the exam dates, so if you want to take an exam now, you’ll have to try for the October batch.

Is there an age limit?

There is no age criteria or limit for appearing for the SAT.  It is most relevant for students between the ages of 17 and 19 to sit the exam.

What’s the validity of an SAT result?

Your SAT score is valid for 5 years, but it’s preferable to utilize your score within two years of appearing. This ensures a more relevant score to help inform the admissions process.

Recent changes to the SAT

Previously the College Board held specific SAT subject tests where students would appear for the subject that they wanted to major in. Earlier there was also an optional Essay section, but it has been discontinued post-January 2021. The College Board has currently suspended these tests due to Covid-19.

The SAT exams will be held online to ensure the students’ safety.

Hence many universities like Stanford have decided to continue with their test-optional policy for the year 2022; do check if the universities you are applying for, still have an SAT requirement.

Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

Many are confused between taking the SAT and the ACT (American College Testing). The two tests are different in terms of time pressure and question style. However, many colleges don’t favor one over the other and accept scores from either, and once again do check to see if your college of choice has any specific requirements. If there is no particular guidance, consider both and take advice about which type of structure best suits you.

Currently, due to COVID-19 and the world’s ongoing struggle to manage the pandemic, many universities are becoming test-optional. Do check university websites for the most up-to-date information to plan and prepare alongside the demands of Grades 11 and 12.