An Overview of the SAT
The SAT is one of the two major tests used by colleges and universities during their admissions processes. Though many high schools treat the SAT as if it is interchangeable with the ACT, the two tests are in reality very different from one another, and most students are better served by taking the one that best fits their individual style. Inspirica’s approach to the SAT starts with recognizing that fact, and our Agnostic Diagnostic will help you determine whether the SAT is the test that’s best for you.
The SAT is comprised of four primarily multiple-choice sections followed by one free-response essay. In order, the sections are as follows:
- Reading Test
- 52 questions divided among five passages
- 65 minutes
- Writing & Language Test
- 44 questions divided among four passages
- 35 minutes
- Math (without calculator)
- 15 multiple-choice and 5 grid-in questions
- 25 minutes
- Math (with calculator)
- 30 multiple-choice and 8 grid-in questions
- 55 minutes
- Essay (optional): 50 minutes
In comparison to the ACT, the defining feature of the SAT is the depth of the content tested. This is best seen in a comparison of the two Math sections, which primarily test students on a variety of algebraic concepts in myriad ways, from long-winded word problems to grid-in questions that don’t provide answer choices. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! Fortunately, our SAT programs focus just as much on mastering strategies for each distinct question-type as they do on learning content and concepts, so you’ll go into test day fully prepared for the obstacle course that is the SAT.
Scoring on the SAT is quite complex. First, you’ll receive a raw score for each of the four multiple-choice sections on the SAT that is equal to the number of questions you answered correctly in that section; no penalty is applied for incorrect answers. Your raw scores for the two Math sections will be added together to produce a single overall Math raw score.
Then, using a process called equating, the SAT will produce a scaled score from 200 to 800 for Math and from 100 to 400 for each of the other two sections; these scaled scores take into account the difficulty level of the sections that you completed relative to the difficulty levels of sections that previous test-takers have completed, which allows colleges to be sure that your Math score of 720 means the same thing as your older brother’s 720.
Finally, your three scaled scores will be added together to produce an overall composite score from 400 to 1600; this score is the best single measure of your performance on the test, and it’s the score that colleges will primarily look at when reviewing your application. You’ll also receive three separate scores for different aspects of your essay, each ranging from 2 to 8; however, these scores do not affect your composite score at all, and many schools no longer even require the submission of an SAT Writing score with your application.
The SAT itself does not superscore, or combine individual section scores from multiple test dates to obtain your maximum composite score. If you wish to send scores from multiple test dates to colleges, you must send the entire score report from each test date. You can, however, pick and choose which test dates you send using the College Board’s Score Choice feature. Additionally, many schools will perform their own version of superscoring by combining the highest score for each section from the score reports that you submit in order to get a picture of your “best” performance on the SAT. For the most accurate information about how an individual school handles superscoring, be sure to contact that school’s admissions department directly.
Registration and Test Dates
The SAT is administered roughly once every two months year-round, and there is no limit to the number of times a student can take the test. Because of that, it’s generally to your advantage to test more than once. Part of succeeding on a test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to beat it, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way to maximize your improvement.
To register for the test, go to the College Board website and follow the corresponding instructions. Testing is administered at official test centers, which are typically high schools approved by the College Board. You can search for the test center closest to you using the College Board’s test center locator.
If you have a documented disability, you may be eligible for accommodations when you take the SAT. Approval is required in advance of test registration, and most families choose to request College Board accommodations through their school.
Inspirica’s Approach to the SAT
When it comes to the SAT, we understand that the structure of the test is part of the challenge of the test; it takes more than just memorizing the quadratic formula to ace the SAT Math section. Homework assignments in our SAT programs typically include a mix of drills centered on specific content areas, practice with individual question-types, and timed test sections. This blend will ensure that you’re addressing every element you need to succeed, from content to timing to overall strategy.
There are certain aspects of taking the SAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is why full-length practice tests are a staple of our work. Your tutor will help you set up a schedule of periodic practice tests that give you the opportunity to work on the techniques you’ve learned in your tutoring sessions while also familiarizing you with the experience of taking the full test in a single sitting. Then, you and your tutor will go over the results together in detail, using them to revise your practice plan as you work towards your next official test date.
For SAT programs, you’ll use the Test Innovators platform to complete previously released official tests. This web-based platform tracks your work in real time on a question-by-question basis, allowing you and your tutor to deconstruct your results to pinpoint exactly why and how your right answers were right and your wrong answers wrong.