Students may take the SAT as frequently as they want and need to. Official SAT test dates vary slightly from year-to-year, but we generally recommend that students take the test up to three times throughout their Junior year of high school:
- Late October
- Early April
Testing multiple times allows students to set goals for themselves leading up to each test date, and to then revisit those goals and adjust their study plan accordingly each time they take the test. It also allows students to become more comfortable with the testing environment.
The SATis a 4-part test that lasts approximately 3 hours and includes three, 5 to 10-minute breaks. Taking the optional fifth component, the SAT Essay, adds another 50 minutes.
The four multiple-choice sections include:
- Reading (52 questions, 65 minutes)
- Writing & Language (44 questions, 35 minutes)
- Math – No Calculator (20 questions, 25 minutes)
- Math – With Calculator (38 questions, 55 minutes)
The SAT is designed to test students on concepts that they have learned throughout their high school career. This includes:
- Grammar, mechanics, rhetoric, and style for the Writing and Language test
- Math through Algebra 2 (along with some Trigonometry) for the Math test
- Reading comprehension and analysis skills across a variety of genres for the Reading test
- Data analysis in parts of the Reading test
Preparing for the SAT therefore does not require students to learn a significant number of new concepts; instead, students must continually review and reinforce their knowledge and skills based on their individual strengths and weaknesses, while also gaining familiarity and comfort with the test structure (including its format and timing).
For each of the four multiple-choice sections on the SAT, the student’s raw score is converted into a “Scale Score” from 200 to 800. The sum of the student’s scale score from each section results in their overall SAT score, or composite score, from 400 to 1600.
A total score of 1000 to 1100 places students in the 40th-58th percentile national, but many selective colleges look for students who have scored in the the top 5% (1400 or above). It is very important for students to pay attention to the median SAT scores of admitted students for the colleges they are interested in so that they can set their score goals accordingly.
The SAT’s essay portion is known as the SAT Essay. While this portion of the SAT is technically optional, students applying to even moderately selective schools are strongly encouraged to take it, as many colleges recommend or require essay scores.
The purpose of the SAT essay is to evaluate how well students can understand and respond to a written argument. Students are presented with a single passage between 650 and 750 words in length. They have 50 minutes to read the passage and write their response. The passage will be different each time a student retakes the SAT; however, the directions will be the same.
Two human scorers will read the student’s essay and assign it a score from 1 to 4; the sum of both readers yields a total score of 2 to 8.
The best predictors of a student’s success on the SAT are good grades in school in core academic subjects like math, science, English, and history.
Therefore the best way for a student to prepare is to ensure that they’re doing well in core subjects well before a few months before they plan to take the sat.
Next up are standard good test-taking practices:
- Determine target score & what it takes to achieve
- Know the content and format of the SAT
- Identify subject areas that are weak
Core academics are king. There are no amount of tips and tricks that will help students ace the SAT if they do not know how to do division or punctuate a sentence.