SAT in a nutshell

The SAT is a standardized test developed and administered by the College Board in order for universities to have a standard measure of aptitude of students in various core areas. It provides insight to universities on the preparedness of students. Despite only being just one component in a university application, it is still very important. The score is considered in addition to the other components of your application—recommendation letters, academic performance, extra-curriculars etc.

Looking for basic information about the SAT test format? We've got it!

SAT Structure

Section Sub- Section Total Testing Time & Breakdown Number of Questions & Types Content/ Skills Covered
Evidence Based reading & Writing Reading 65 Minutes 52 Reading and Vocabulary and Context
Writing 35 Minutes 44 Grammar and Usage
Math 80 Minutes; 1 55 Minutes calculator- optional section and 1 25 Minutes no calculator section 58 Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math Additional Topics (Geometry, Trigonometry and precalculus)

The SAT takes three hours to finish. Scores on the SAT range from 400 to 1600, combining test results from two 200-to-800-point sections: Mathematics, and Critical Reading and Writing.

Reading and writing

This section includes a reading test and a writing and language test. Each test is composed of multi-paragraph passages and multiple-choice questions. The reading test measures comprehension and reasoning. The writing and language test assesses expression, grammar, usage and punctuation.


This section includes multiple choice and student-produced response questions based on the math that college-bound students typically learn during their first three years of high school. *In January 2021, the College Board announced that they will be discontinuing the optional SAT essay section after the June 2021 administration.

SAT Sections in detail

SAT Reading

52 multiple- choice questions in 65 minutes.
The SAT Reading test contains 4 single and one set of paired passages. The five passages are usually drawn from U.S. and World literature, History/Social Studies, and Science. One set of History/Social Studies or Science passages will be paired.

All questions are multiple choice. In some cases informational graphics such as graphs, tables, and charts may accompany passages. No math is ever required. The focus is on reading and interpreting the passages, and using the information gathered to answer questions. Below, a table that highlights topics always included on the reading test:

SAT Reading Passage Content Breakdown

SAT Writing and Language

44 questions in 35 minutes
The SAT Writing and Language Test contains four single passages, one from each of the following subject areas: Careers, Humanities, History/Social Studies, and Science.

SAT Math

45 standard multiple-choice and 13 student-produced response questions. These are split into two sections—a 25 minute section (no calculator) and a 55 minute section (calculator allowed)

Math Area Examples
Number and Operations Properties of integers; arithematic word problems; number lines; squares and square roots; fraction and rational numbers factors, multiples, and remainders; prime numbers; ratios , proportions, and percents, squareness; sets; counting problems ;and logical reasoning
Algebra and Functions Operation and algebraic expressions factoring exponents evaluating expressions with exponents and roots; solving equations; absolute value ;direct translation into mathematical expressions; inequalities; system of linear equations and inequalities;factoring ;rational equations and inequalities ;direct and inverse variation; word problems and ;functions
Geometry and Measurement Geometric notation ;points and lines ;angles in the plane ;triangles; quadrilaterals; areas and perimeters ;other polygons; circles;solid geometry; geometric perception ;coordinate geometry ;and transformations
Data Analysis, Statistic and Probability Data interpretation; statistics; elementary probability ; and geometric probability

Scoring on the SAT

  • Students earn 1 point for each correct answer
  • Students neither gain nor lose points for questions skipped or answered incorrectly
  • Scores for each section range between 200 and 800. Total scores range between 400 and 1600

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