SAT Exam: Explanation and Preparation Strategies
Test Preparation

What is the SAT Test and How To Prepare For It?

What is the SAT Test and How To Prepare For It?

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Read the detailed explanation of the SAT test for undergraduate admissions. Know when and why you should appear in the SAT exam and also discover the hacks to ace it.

Gurbani Kaur Suri
Updated on:  11 Sep 2023  | Reviewed By: 
| 9.24K | 8  min read

SAT or the ‘Scholastic Assessment test’ is the test of an individual’s understanding of the English language and Mathematics conducted by the college board. Mathematics and English language are the two subjects on which the student’s ability is tested, and then scores are handed out between 200 to 800 in each section. So, a student taking the SAT exam can get a maximum score of 1600. Every year hundreds of thousands of students take the test to secure admission at universities in the US and Canada. The scores are used by top universities like Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and in fact, every top college in the US and Canada for undergraduate admissions. The SAT is a paper-pencil test that assesses a student’s understanding of mathematical concepts and English through a well-structured test format.

 In 2016, the SAT witnessed a significant overhaul, and some significant changes were made that made it possible for students to take the test with much ease. The new pattern put the impetus on smart work and strategizing the preparation so that students have to put in fewer hours into preparation. The things that have changed in the new pattern include the name of the subjects, the duration of the examination, and the valuation pattern.

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What is the SAT Exam Syllabus?

The examination syllabus is one of the moot questions that puzzle students after “What is SAT Exam?”. At times students solve old question papers and don’t really understand the difference between the new and old pattern. Due to lack of understanding, they either don’t use the old SAT practice test at all or even if they do, they don’t understand what to retain and what to reject? So, before embarking on the journey to the SAT, students must get hold of the syllabus and the new set of changes post-2016. 

Read more about: SAT Syllabus: Detailed Guide

The new pattern focuses on the Experience-based reading and writing section, Mathematics, and the optional essay section. We will be dealing with each section in great detail so that there is no space left for any confusion in the minds of test-takers who work hard to get excellent scores on the test. 


SAT Mathematics Section

The SAT mathematics section test is 80 minutes in duration, and the majority of questions are multiple-choice questions with a great deal of focus on algebra and advanced mathematics. The total score for the mathematical section is 200-800 points. There is a total of 58 questions, and students must give equal attention to each section as all of them are important from the SATs point of view. The objective test type contains questions where students have to select an appropriate option among the most likely ones while the rest of the questions the students are supposed to solve. After solving the question, students have to encircle or shade the appropriate numbers. The questions that are not of objective type are known as Grid-ins. 

Another important aspect of the mathematical section is the division of questions among calculator and non-calculator type problems. The majority of problems are from the calculator section, and a relatively lesser number of problems are from the non-calculator section. In the calculator section, there are 30 multiple-choice type questions, and 8 are from the grid-ins. In the non-calculator section, there are 15 multiple-choice type questions and 5 grid-ins. One of the best things about the SAT is that the students are provided with a set of formulas for reference.  

The mathematics section is divided into four parts, and each section is equally important for the test takers. At times questions are relatively more challenging from one section than the others, so it’s better to have a hold over all the sections to ensure maximum score in the test. 


Problem Solving and Data Analysis

The questions in this section will be centered on arithmetics, and primarily the focus is on ratio, percentage, data interpretation of pie charts, graphs, tabular columns, etc. 

Heart of Algebra
Algebra, an integral part of mathematics, holds utmost importance in the SAT. Students must put a great deal of effort into algebra since questions are of a decent standard, and one must develop analytical skills to master this section of the test. The focus is on linear equations, algebraic expressions, and other relevant topics found in the syllabus. One must also refer to previous year’s questions to solve more algebra problems and understand the test pattern. 

Passport to Advanced Math
Advanced mathematics is very important for students wanting to score well on the test. This section creates an instrumental difference between students at the top and those who don’t do sections of complex mathematical equations consisting of multiple variables, complex functions, etc. 

Additional topics in Mathematics
Students must practice a lot as this section comprises geometry, trigonometry, areas and volumes, etc. The section needs a lot of practice as trigonometric concepts and simplification of complex trigonometric functions can only be mastered with a lot of practice, and there is no substitute for it. 

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Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section

In this section, students have to showcase their proficiency in the English language. The section puts an impetus on the reading and writing ability of the test taker. One must start practicing these sections thoroughly, and we will discuss both sections in detail, that is 800 points.


Reading Section

The reading section consists of 5 passages that students have to analyze and then answer the questions based on it. The questions are strictly evidence-based, and students have to brainstorm on the hidden intent behind the passage’s content. The total time duration for this section is 65 minutes, and there are 52 multiple choice questions to be answered. One must practice a lot since the time per question is slightly more than a minute, so any lag in practice will directly affect the test scores. 

The passage’s content is derived from historical events from the US, scientific breakthroughs, and standard literary sources from across the globe. However, this doesn’t imply that students have to read all this. These topics are used to develop the passage, and all the information needed to answer the question will already be there in it. The questions are primarily framed in three ways: straightforward factual questions. The second type of question will be drawing conclusions based on the intent of the subject matter written in the passage and substantiating the data mentioned in graphs, charts, etc. The third type of question will be on understanding the tone of arguments conveyed in the passages and then writing about the meaning of the content written in the passage. 

All these sections are crafted to do a holistic test of an individual’s understanding of the English language. And there is a common myth that students from English-speaking countries are at an advantage, which is entirely baseless. It’s equally competing for students from all the countries of the world, and anyone ready to devote the required time can ace the test with great scores. 


Writing Section

The writing section consists of 44 questions that have to be answered in 35 minutes. There are four passages, and questions are based on them only, wherein students have to do some editing in the passage based on their understanding of the English language. The students have to thoroughly analyze the passage’s content, root out any grammatical changes and edit it to make it in the best presentable form. Students should practice a lot to be able to edit and rectify all the errors that are there in the passage with utmost precision. 

The passages are mainly narrative, informative, explanatory, and argumentative in nature. They also consist of pie charts, tabular columns, graphs, etc., and students are expected to answer questions based on them. The questions are usually of two types. The first one is wherein students have to correct the grammatical errors and ensure that they are error-free. While in the questions of the second type, a student has to improve the language of the passage by doing suitable edits in the content of the paragraph. 


Essay Section (Optional)

A passage will be given in this section, and students have to analyze and present an essay that requires writing an explanation that is in coherence with the content. There is no requirement of writing for or against the passage. It is only concerned with evidence-based presentation and writing an explanatory passage. Although this section is not compulsory, many colleges require students to take this test, and it’s mandatory. So, it’s in the best interest of the students to take the test and be assured of even those institutions that explicitly ask for essay scores. 

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SAT Preparation Tips

The preparation must start at least three months prior to the SAT exam dates. One needs to devote at least five to six hours per day for a three-month window in order to get a good score that could land them into the world’s best universities. Here are some tips for students taking the test.

Writing Section Tips

  • list items Devote a considerable time to the grammar section. Strong grammar can help students get a perfect score in this section, which can bring a substantial impact on the overall scores. 
  • list items Keep the focus only on the important parts while reading the passage. Practice with standard texts available with SAT preparation material to develop the ability to filter the helpful information from the passage. 
  • list items Practice is key to preparation. One must solve as many papers as one could since developing familiarity with the content type is perhaps the only way to ward off the pressure that will be there at the time of the test. 
  • list items Always recheck the answer, and it can only be achieved if the test is completed at least five to seven minutes prior to the stipulated timings. 

Mathematics Section Tips

  • list items Focus overly on algebraic expressions and trigonometric formulas. Students should understand as well as memorize the key trigonometric expressions so that they can be used directly at the time of the test. 
  • list items Reducing the dependence on calculators can help students in saving way more time than any other tips. Calculating in the head gives them the confidence to solve the problems faster than others; it also gives students the time to return to those problems they weren’t able to solve in the first go. 
  • list items There is no other way than practice to be good at mathematics. It holds true for all the exams. There is no dearth of study material for students wanting to practice for the SAT mathematics section.

Reading Section Tips

The first and foremost tip is that students should read the passage carefully, but that doesn’t mean they have to remember every information that is there in it. Once read, the information will automatically come into the mind after seeing the questions. 

Don’t get stuck on questions. If it’s taking more than a minute, it implies that it’s not worth giving a shot. 

Try to finish as many questions as possible in the first go and then revisit the unattempted questions. 

Since there is no negative marking, one must attempt all the questions. Attempting all the questions can only enhance the chances of getting a good score. However, that doesn’t mean students should resort to blind guessing. A calculated guess pays not a blind one. 

Try to manage the time. It is of utmost importance and the most neglected aspect of the whole preparation. Students tend to solve a lot of problems in every section, but the time management aspects are left unattended. Those students who learn to manage their times are seen to score way more than others who don’t. Even students with less practice and less knowledge have gotten great scores just because they were good with time management. 

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