The SAT is a globally recognized and challenging college admission test that allows you to show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge practically and in daily life. It tests your knowledge and abilities in reading, writing and mathematics.

Most students take the SAT during their 11th and 12th standard of high school, and almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions. The College Board states that SAT measures literacy and writing skills that are needed for academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well the test takers analyze and solve problems using skills they learned in school that they will need in college. The test is administered under strict regulations and time constraints. The SAT in combination with high school grade point average (GPA) enables colleges to predict student’s success rate in college more accurately.

SAT consists of three major sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. Each section has equal weight-age in the final score calculation and receives a score on the scale of 200–800. All scores are multiples of 10. The total score is calculated by adding the individual scores of the three sections. Each major section is divided into three parts. There are 10 sub-sections, including an additional 25-minute experimental section that may be in any of the three major sections. The experimental section is used to select and analyze difficulty level of questions for future administrations of the SAT and does not count toward the final score. The test contains 3 hours and 45 minutes of actual timed sections.

  • Critical reading: This section of the SAT comprises of three sub-parts. Two of which are for a duration of 25 minutes and one for 20 minutes. This section has varying types of questions including sentence completions and questions about short and long reading passages. Critical Reading sections usually begin with 5 to 8 sentence completion questions. The rest of the questions are focused on the reading passages. Sentence completions test the student’s vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure and organization by requiring the student to select one or two words that best complete a given sentence. The major component of the Critical Reading section is made up of questions regarding reading passages, in which students read short excerpts on social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, or personal narratives and answer questions based on the passage. Certain sections contain passages asking the student to compare two related passages; generally, these consist of shorter reading passages. The number of questions about each passage is proportional to the length of the passage.
  • Mathematics: The mathematics section of the SAT, also known as the quantitative section comprises of three sub-parts. Two of which are 25 minutes each and one is for 20 minutes. One of the 25-minute sections is entirely multiple choice, with 20 questions while the other 25-minute section contains 8 multiple choice questions and 10 grid-in questions. For grid-in questions, the answers need to be written inside a grid on the answer sheet. Unlike multiple choice questions, there is no penalty for incorrect answers on grid-in questions as the test-taker is not limited to a few possible choices. The 20-minute section is entirely multiple choice, with 16 questions. The order of difficulty gradually increases through the section. The use of scientific calculators is permitted in this section, however, graphing calculators are not allowed.
  • Writing: This section of the SAT comprises of an essay and also multiple choice questions. The multiple choice questions include error-identification questions, sentence-improvement questions, and paragraph-improvement questions. Error-identification and sentence-improvement questions test the student’s knowledge of grammar, presenting an awkward or grammatically incorrect sentence; in the error identification section, the student must locate the word producing the source of the error or indicate that the sentence has no error, while the sentence improvement section requires the student to select an acceptable fix to the awkward sentence. The paragraph improvement questions test the student’s understanding of logical organization of ideas, presenting a poorly written student essay and asking a series of questions as to what changes might be made to best improve it. The essay section, which is always administered as the first section of the test, is 25 minutes long. All essays must be in response to a given prompt. The prompts are broad and often philosophical and are designed to be accessible to students regardless of their educational and social backgrounds. There is no standard expected essay format, and the College Board accepts examples “taken from the students reading, studies, experience, or observations.” Two trained readers assign each essay a score between 1 and 6, where a score of 0 is reserved for essays that are blank, off-topic, non-English, not written with a Number 2 pencil, or considered illegible. The scores are summed to produce a final score from 2 to 12 (or 0). If the two readers’ scores differ by more than one point, then a senior third reader decides.

Most of the questions on the SAT, except for the essay and the grid-in math responses, are multiple choice. All multiple-choice questions have five answer choices of which one is correct. Questions that follow the long and short reading passages are organized chronologically, rather than by difficulty. Ten questions in one of the math sub-sections are not multiple choice. The questions are weighted equally. For each correct answer, one raw point is added. For each incorrect answer one quarter of a point is deducted. No points are deducted for incorrect math grid-in questions. The final score is derived from the raw score; the precise conversion chart varies between test administrations.


SAT: Last minute cramming doesn’t hep here

Preparation for the SAT is certainly required. Last minute cramming won’t be very effective. It is best for students to start preparing for the SAT right after their grade 10. An effective way would be to write one essay a day on prompts taken from past SAT papers, solving 10 sums in mathematics and also learning ten complicated and verbose words to build on vocabulary. Once the student has mastered this, they should move on to timing themselves and solving past papers. There is plenty of reading and practice material available. Some of the best are, the book by College Board, KAPLAN, TATA McGRAWHILL and Barrons.

There are many SAT coaching institutes as well. Some of them in Chhattisgarh are: Career Launcher and Global Reach.

Written by Taarini Chandramouli

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