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SAT Test FAQ


SAT: Test FAQ | Classes/Tutoring FAQ
ACT: Test FAQ | Classes/Tutoring FAQ



What is the new SAT?

The new SAT test is an updated version of the SAT I Reasoning Test. It will be rolled out in 2016 and will be structured a bit differently. It is composed of the following sections:

  • 100-minute Evidenced-based Reading and Writing section
    • Reading Test (65 minutes, 52 questions)
    • Writing and Language Test (35 minutes, 44 questions)
  • 80-minute Math section
    • Calculator allowed section (55 minutes, 37 questions)
    • No-calculator allowed section (25 minutes, 20 questions)
  • Optional Essay-writing section (50 minutes)
  • The new SAT will be scored out of 1600. The changes may seem complicated, but they will result in more subscores, which give a clearer picture of your abilities. The new SAT will also focus more on skills in critical thinking and analysis with less focus on vocabulary. In math, there will be more concepts (such as trigonometry). The essay will be made optional and will involve analyzing a text and writing an essay based on your analysis.

    While this test will share more similarities with the ACT, we still recommend trying both tests before deciding which test to focus on. Practice materials for the new SAT can be purchased at http://sat.ivyglobal.com.



    What is the SAT I Reasoning Test?

    This test is what it is commonly known as the SATs. It is a reasoning test which tests abilities in math, reading comprehension and writing. It is scored out of 2400 and is required for entry to most US colleges. The current SAT has a score out of 2400 and the new SAT, which will be administered starting in 2016 will have a new format and be scored out of 1600. See more information about SAT.



    What are the SAT II Subject Tests?

    The Subject Tests are often required by some of the more selective US colleges like the Ivy League schools. Each subject test is one hour in length and tests common high school subjects like Chemistry, French and Math. Schools that require or recommend Subject Tests to be written usually require 2 or 3 of them.



    What's the difference between the SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests?

    The SAT Reasoning Test (SAT I)takes about 4 hours and measures your general math, reading, and writing abilities. The SAT Subject Tests (SAT II) are multiple choice tests on common subjects you would study in high school, such as Biology, Math, Literature, or World History. There are 20 different Subject Tests, each takes only one hour and is scored on a scale from 200-800. Many highly selective US colleges require applicants take two or three Subject Tests for admission, though they can often choose to take any ones they like.

     

    Where can I register for the SAT?

    You can register for the SAT at the College Board website. Before registering, you will need to create a login with the College Board.



    When can I write the SAT test?

    In Canada, the test is administered 6 times a year in January, May, June, October, November and December. See SAT Dates in Canada.



    How many times should I take the SAT?

    The College Board (which runs the SAT) has no limits on how many times a student can take the SAT. Most students take the exam two or three times to ensure their scores represent the best they can do. Typically, a student will make their first attempt at the SAT in the spring of grade 11 and then rewrite it in the fall of grade 12.

     

    When do I have to write the SAT by?

    Virtually all schools will accept scores from December of your grade 12 year. After December, it really depends on the school you are applying.



    What is the highest possible SAT score?

    The highest possible SAT I Reasoning Test score is 2400. After 2016, the highest possible score will be 1600. For each of the SAT II Subject Tests, the highest possible score is 800.

     

    Can I just send colleges only my highest SAT scores?

    In March 2009, the College Board adopted a new policy: students are now able to choose which test results they would like to report to prospective schools. However, a number of schools have responded to this new policy by requesting that applicants send the results of every SAT test they have taken.

    Note that even with this new policy, it is not possible to "divide up" the scores from a single SAT I test. All three sections scores of the SAT I (Math, Reading, and Writing) from a single test date must be sent together.

    However, most schools have a policy of only considering your highest scores. Some schools will take your best overall score from a single administration while others will mix and match your best scores for your entire test history. Even though schools look at only highest scores, it does not send a positive signal to admission officers when you take the exam too many times.



    Should I guess answers on the SAT?


    The SAT is designed so that random guessing will negatively affect your score. There is a quarter point deduction for wrong answer on multiple choice questions. However, it is often to your advantage to guess. If you can eliminate even one wrong answer, you can tip the odds in your favor and on average gain more points from strategized guessing than leaving a question blank.

    On the new SAT test in 2016, there will be no guessing penalty. Students taking the new test are encouraged to guess on all questions.

     


    When should I start to prepare for the SAT?

    It’s never too early to start preparing. Students in the US start preparing as early as grade 8. Younger students can prepare by enhancing fundamental academic skills like reading comprehension and writing. In particular, one of the best ways to prepare is to read a large number of books at an early age. We also encourage self-study by purchasing a few SAT preparation books.

     

    What scores do I need to be a competitive applicant for top US colleges?

    School Type Examples Estimated current SAT Score Needed Estimated new SAT Score Needed
    Most Selective Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT 2250-2400 1500-1600
    Very Selective UPenn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Duke 2150-2300 1430-1530
    Selective Emory, Chicago, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Rice 2050-2250 1370-1500
    Top NYU, Boston University, USC, Michigan 2050-2250 1370-1500

     

    How important is the SAT?

    The SAT is an integral part of the admissions criteria. US colleges utilize the SAT score in combination with the student's GPA and school rank to determine the student's "academic index," an indicator of the student's academic success and potential.

    In assessing students from less prominent high schools, admissions officers give the SAT extra weight.

    Students who are concerned that their school average and rank might fail to accurately depict their academic potential should view the SAT as an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

     

    Is it possible to combine different SAT I section scores from different tests?

    No. Although the College Board now (as of March 2009) allows students to choose which scores will be sent to their prospective colleges, all three SAT I sections from one test date must be sent together.

    However, the majority of schools explicitly assert that in assessing the student's performance on the SAT I, they focus on the student's best score for each section.

     

    How many hours should a student expect to study in preparation for the SAT I?

    Study time for the SAT varies significantly from student to student. The first step should always be to complete a diagnostic exam in realistic test conditions. Based on the results from this test, the student should determine a reasonable study schedule to improve on his/her weaknsses. Typically, the majority of students will need to dedicate at leaast 60 hours to maximize performance on the SAT I.

     

    What I should remember on test date?

    On Test Day, make sure to do the following things:

    • Eat breakfast! The SAT takes many hours to complete.
    • Bring snacks for the breaks between sections, and keep a bottle of water with you, as this is the only thing you are allowed to drink during the test.
    • Bring the correct supplies: at least two number two pencils (no pens or mechanical pencils), a good eraser, and an approved calculator.
    • Wear multiple layers, so that you can put on or take off clothing to adjust to the temperature of the testing room.
    • Don't forget to bring your picture ID and SAT admission ticket.

     

    How does the ACT differ from the SAT?

    The following chart outlines some of the most significant differences between the two tests.

      ACT Current SAT New SAT
    Testing Time • 3 hours, 25 minutes (including the 30-minute Writing Test) • 3 hours, 45 minutes • 3 hours 50 minutes (including the optional 50 minute Essay)
    Content • English (grammar), Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (essay) • Reading, Math, and Writing (grammar and essay) • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, Essay (optional and separate from the Writing Test)
    Question Format • Multiple choice (except for the essay) • Multiple choice (except for the essay and 10 math grid-in questions) • Multiple choice (except for the essay and 12 math grid-in questions)
    Time Structure • English Test: 45 minutes
    • Math Test: 60 minutes
    • Reading Test: 35 minutes
    • Science Test: 35 minutes
    • Writing Test (optional): 30 minutes
    • Seven 25-minute sections (two each of Reading, Math, and Writing, with one experimental section)
    • Two 20-minute sections (one Reading, one Math)
    • One 10-minute Writing section
    •Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section:
    Reading Test: 65 minutes
    Writing Test: 35 minutes
    • Math Section: 80 minutes
    • Essay (optional): 50 minutes
    Reading • 4 passages with 10 questions per passage • Sentence completion
    • Short and long passages
    • More emphasis on vocabulary
    • 4 individual passages, 1 pair of passages with 10-11 questions per passage
    1-2 graphics
    Math • Arithmetic
    • Geometry
    • Algebra
    • Trigonometry
    • Arithmetic
    • Geometry
    • Algebra
    • Algebra
    • Problem Solving
    • Data Analysis
    • Geometry, Trigonometry, and Complex Numbers
    Science • Data representation
    • Research summaries
    • Conflicting viewpoints
    • N/A • N/A
    ACT English Test vs. SAT Writing (Multiple Choice) • Multiple choice questions based on improving essays • Multiple choice questions based on improving sentences, identifying sentence errors, and improving paragraphs • 4 passages and 44 multiple choice questions based on improving the essays
    ACT Writing Test vs. SAT Writing (Essay) • 30 minutes
    • Score scale: 0-12
    • Does not affect the composite score
    • Topic related to high school students
    • Always last section of the exam
    • 25 minutes
    • Score scale: 0-12
    • Factored into the Writing score
    • More abstract topic
    • Always first section of the exam

    • 50 minutes
    Reading, Analysis, and Writing will be scored separately on a scale of 1-4
    Based on a passage
    Students must explain how the writer uses evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements to build and support their argument

    Scoring • Composite score of 1-36, based on the average of the 4 test scores
    • Each of the 4 tests (English, Math, Reading, Science) is given a score from 1-36
    • Score of 0-12 for the optional Writing Test
    • Total score of 600-2400, based on the sum of the 3 subject scores
    • Each subject (Reading, Writing, Math) score range is 200-800
    • Score of 0-12 for the Essay
    • Total scaled score from 400 to 1600, comprised of area scores from 200-800 in Math and in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
    • Essay score reported separately
    • Subscores and cross-test scores demonstrating skills in more specific areas
    Wrong Answer Penalty • N/A • ¼ point deducted for each incorrect response • None
    Score Reporting • You decide whether or not to send your test score • You decide whether or not to send your test score • You decide whether or not to send your test score

    If you’re unsure about which test is a better fit for you, give both tests a try.


     
     
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