Note: The SAT exam will be undergoing a big change in 2016. Changes include a new structure, new score, new sections, and a new approach to testing. Read all about the New SAT.
The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test, administered by the College Board, that lets high school students show colleges what they know and how well they can apply that knowledge. Most students take the SAT in 11th or 12th Grade, some even earlier, in 10th Grade. Almost all colleges and universities in the United States, and many colleges worldwide, use the SAT to make admission decisions.
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Topics Tested in SAT
The SAT tests skills taught in high school classrooms: reading, writing and math. A student’s knowledge and skills in these subjects are important for success in college and beyond.
- The critical reading section includes reading passages and sentence completions.
- The writing section includes a short essay and multiple-choice questions on identifying errors and improving grammar and usage.
- The mathematics section includes topics like arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability.
SAT Exam Duration
The SAT is a fairly long exam – 3 hours and 45 minutes in duration, and made up of 10 sections:
- One 25-minute essay
- Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
- Two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
- One 10-minute multiple-choice writing section
Each section of the SAT (critical reading, mathematics and writing) is scored on a 200-800 point scale, for a possible maximum total of 2400. Students also get two ‘subscores’ on the writing section: a multiple-choice score from 20 to 80, and an essay score from 2 to 12.
How Many Times Should Students Take the SAT?
At least half of all students take the SAT twice, and most students do see an improvement in their scores the second time they take the test. However, students should be cautioned against taking the SAT too many times, since there is no evidence that taking the SAT multiple times significantly changes your score. Instead, students should focus their time on other important components of their college application and on doing well at school. Students should also note that some universities might ask to see all your scores.
What are SAT Subject Tests?
SAT Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow students to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where they excel. Using SAT Subject Tests, students can differentiate themselves in the college admission process or send a strong message regarding their readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. In conjunction with other admission credentials, Subject Tests provide a more complete picture of a student’s academic background and interests to a college admissions officer.
Many colleges use the SAT Subject Tests for admission, course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Some colleges specify the SAT Subject Tests that they require, while others allow applicants to choose which tests to take. Some colleges might not require students to take Subject Tests at all, or might state them as optional. Students should undergo research to determine whether the colleges they are applying to require Subject Tests as part of the application.
Scored out of a total of 800, Subject Tests are available in a variety of subjects across English, World Languages, Math, History and Science (Physics, Chemistry, and Biology). Students should think about taking those Subject Tests that are required or recommended by the colleges that they are interested in, or in the subjects they excel in or may want to major in, and to showcase their strengths and interests.
Because the SAT Subject Tests are based on high school course content, the best way to prepare for them is through school coursework. Students should ideally take their Subject Tests towards the end of 11th Grade or beginning of 12th Grade, so that they can benefit from topics still being fresh in their minds from school.
SAT Test Schedule
The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are held in India 6 times a year, in the months of January, May, June, October, November and December. Test dates are released well in advance by the College Board, and can be viewed on the website: http://sat.collegeboard.org. Students can take up to three Subject Tests on one testing date. However, students cannot take the SAT and the SAT Subject Test on the same day. Check out: SAT Exam Dates
Registration and Requirements
Registration for SAT and Subject Tests takes place online on the College Board website. The deadline to register is roughly 4 weeks before test date, but students are encouraged to complete their registration well in advance, to ensure that they get a seat at a test centre of their choice. The SAT costs Indian students roughly $94.50 (additional costs for extra services chosen by students). Subject Tests cost lesser.
Students in India are currently not permitted to take the tests without a valid passport. Before registering, students should ensure they will have a valid passport on the day of testing. Expired passports, or letters from the Passport Office stating the Passport is in process of being issued are not acceptable. Only those students carrying a valid passport to the test centre will be allowed to take the test.
SAT Test Centers
There are currently over 40 centers in India where students can take SAT and SAT Subject Tests, spread across 20 cities across the country. The complete list of centers can be viewed by students when they are registering online. Additional test centers will be added in the future in cities where there is demand.
Test results are typically released within 4-5 weeks of the test administration, and can be viewed online. Students can choose to send their test scores to colleges of their choice. They also have the option to cancel their test score, or withhold them from being sent to certain colleges.
How Can Students Prepare for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests?
The College Board provides students with several high quality resources to prepare for the SAT and Subject Tests, many of which are completely free, such as ‘Question of the Day’, ‘Free Practice Test’ and online tutorials/videos on the Khan Academy website. Students can also purchase ‘The Official SAT Guide’ or the ‘Official SAT Online Course’ on the College Board website. Detailed information about several practice resources is available on http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice.
The SAT Redesign
The SAT is being redesigned, and the new exam will be administered for the first time in the spring of 2016. Students who plan to take their SAT in 2014 and 2015 will not get impacted by this redesign. Some of the key changes in the redesigned test will be – using a 1600-point scoring scale, the essay becoming optional, no negative marking, and limited use of calculators. Those who would like to learn more about the redesigned SAT should visit: https://www.collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat
About the author:
Lisa Jain is the Representative of The College Board in India. In her role, she works extensively with schools across India to help with the implementation of College Board programs. She also interacts directly with students and parents, educating them about how College Board’s programs and resources (such as SAT, AP, PSAT or Big Future) help in the college application and admission process.
Lisa was previously the Head of Marketing at an international school in Kolkata and has worked in the Equities division at UBS Investment Bank in London for two years.
She pursued her MBA at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad and her undergraduate degree in Industrial Economics at the University of Warwick in UK, on a scholarship. Lisa has also successfully completed Level II of the CFA Exam.
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