The SAT Reasoning Test is developed and owned by the College Board. Many US colleges require an SAT score for admission as a freshman. It is administered and scored by the Educational Testing Service. The redesigned SAT test comes into effect with the March 2016 test, and the SAT Compass tutors are ready to teach you all you need to know to effectively prepare for the new test.

The test takes three hours to complete, or three hours and fifty minutes with the optional essay. There is a fee of $54.50 each time you take the test, although there is a system of fee waivers (information is available from College Board).

The redesigned SAT includes two section scores:

  1. Evidence-based Reading and Writing – combines the scores from the Reading Test and the Writing and Language test
  2. Math – combines the scores from the Math Test’s calculator and no-calculator sections

These two scores will each be reported on a scale ranging from 200 to 800. The score from the essay will be reported separately and is not factored into the section scores

Here’s what College Board says about the SAT:

“ All of the learning you’ve done – from childhood to now – contributes to how you think, how your mind manages information. Even if you don’t recall the details of a history or science lesson, the process of learning information and previously learned information is the key to becoming a skilled thinker… It should be no surprise to discover that the best preparation for success in the SAT aligns with the learning you’ve done in your classes, and perhaps in your extracurricular interests as well.”

If it were only that simple – everyone would score 1600, which is a perfect SAT score. But ask around. How many people do you know who have a perfect score? Some people you know probably scored very highly on their SATs. But many others probably tell you they did well in one section, or maybe two, but found at least one section really challenging. Here’s a little more insight into why that happens.

There are four separate sections on the SAT.

Reading: 65 minutes and 52 questions

The Reading Test contains five passages from a range of genres, including a double passage. They vary in purpose, subject and complexity. The double passage asks you to draw connections between the selections. Some passages also include informational graphics such as tables, graphs or charts. You’ll be expected to interpret the graphical information and connect it to the related text.

Writing and Language: 35 minutes and 44 questions

The Writing and Language Test asks you to revise and edit a range of texts, again varying in purpose, subject and complexity. You’ll be asked to improve expression of ideas, and to correct sentence structure, usage and punctuation. Again, you’ll be asked to study informational graphics to help inform decisions about revising and editing the associated passage.

Math: 80 minutes and 58 questions

Three areas of focus make up the Math Test:

  • Heart of Algebra – linear equations/systems of linear equations, both creating and solving equations as well as making connections between different representations of linear relationships
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis – ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning, solving problems in real world situations, analyzing data in both graphics and statistics
  • Passport to Advanced Math – problems which focus on disciplines such as Science and STEM fields, more complex equations or functions, statistics, geometry, trigonometry, radian measure and the arithmetic of complex numbers.

Essay: 50 minutes for one essay

The Essay is optional for students, although it may be required by your school or potential college. College Board recommends that you do take the Essay Test, and so do we. You’ll be asked to read a passage and analyse it. The passage will be about as long as the longest passage on the reading test. You’ll be asked to analyze how an argument works, drawing evidence from the passage to support your discussion. You will not be asked whether or not you agree with the argument, rather you are expected to explain how the author builds an argument using rhetorical devices.


Multiple choice questions are worth one point.  One point is given for each correct answer. There is no penalty for wrong answers. No points are lost for answers left blank.

Scores for each section are then equated and adjusted so that a score of 600 on one section equates to a score of 600 on the other section.

Essay – graded separately

At this point you may feel that it all sounds pretty daunting. And it can be so – if you are not well prepared.

In addition to the content knowledge the SAT also tests the following:

  • how well you perform in formal test situations
  • how well you perform under specific time constraints
  • how well you perform under stress
  • how well you read each question and apply understanding to the answer choices
  • how well you apply your knowledge of reading, writing and math, to unfamiliar situations
  • how well you make a leap from one kind of knowledge to another at very short notice

So look back at that first explanation from College Board. That simple statement covers many skills and processes that can be practiced, and that students can learn alongside content knowledge in an SAT prep course. Contact The SAT Compass and you’ll find teachers who can help you with all these skills and processes. Then you can approach the SAT with confidence.