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Scholastic Aptitude Test

What Is the SAT Test?

The SAT, also known as the SAT Reasoning Test, is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test used as a college entrance exam. It is typically taken during the spring of your junior year, which leaves time for retakes if your score doesn't reflect your incredible intellect. It is administered seven times a year, so you have ample time to take it if you miss a registration deadline - not that you would.

Why Is the SAT Test So Important?

  • It's universally accepted. All major universities in the United States accept the SAT as a college entrance exam. Most take the ACT, but all take the SAT.
  • Your scores follow you around. When you apply for your first entry-level job, your SAT scores are going to be on your resume, because truthfully, your other jobs can't showcase your reasoning ability like a 2010 on the SAT can.
  • It can balance a low GPA. So maybe you hated World History, flunked it on purpose, and ruined that 4.0. That doesn't mean you aren't smart. Scoring high on the SAT can show off your brains when your GPA doesn't.

What Is on this Monstrous Test?

Relax. You don't have to remember the date President Lincoln issued War Order Number One. The SAT, although long, (3 hours and 45 minutes), is really a test of logic and reasoning.

It is subdivided into three scored sections - Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing - and one unscored experimental section. You will not know which one is experimental, however, so you'll have to try your best on them all.

How Do SAT Scores Work?

Since each section is worth between 200 and 800 points, the lowest possible score you can get is a 600 and the highest possible score is a 2400.

The average overall score (50th percentile) in the United States for 2007 was a 1511

If you want to get into one of the top-ranking schools in the U.S., you'll need to score around the 90th percentile, which would mean a score of 2100 or above. That sounds high, but since all universities look at things like your extracurricular activities, GPA, and school involvement in addition to your scores, getting into college isn't as difficult as it may seem.

Plus, starting in 2010, students who take the test multiple times can actually choose which scores are reported to the universities, so they'll have the option of knocking out the scores that didn't make the cut.

What are the SAT Subject Tests?

These are also standardized tests, but are not part of the SAT Reasoning Test described above. Some colleges use the Subject Tests for the following:

  • Admission. Spare yourself the agony of testing and check with your school of choice to see if a subject test is even required.
  • Course placement. Do you have to take English 101 or can you breeze through to 102, the one with the hot professor?
  • Course selection. You failed miserably on the German Subject Test, so it might be better to forego that trip to Munich, and sign up for Spanish instead.

You can take one of several tests under the headings of English, Science, Math, History or Languages - anything from Literature to Chemistry to Japanese with Listening.

Top 10 SAT Tips

  1. Use Process of Elimination (POE). Get rid of as many wrong choices as you can on the SAT before answering a question. Wrong answers are often easier to find. Look for extremes like "never" "only" "always" in Critical Reading; Look for opposites in the Math section like a substitution of -1 for 1. Look for words that sound similar in the Writing section like "conjunctive" and "subjunctive."
  2. Answer every question only if you can eliminate answer choices. Unlike taking the ACT, you are penalized one quarter of a point when you get an answer wrong on the SAT test. So the smartest thing to do is to only answer a question if you can use a process of elimination and get rid of two or three answer choices.
  3. Leave any question blank where you can't identify at least one wrong choice, except for the math grid-ins. There will be questions (not too many) on the test that you'll have no idea how to answer. None of the answer choices will seem familiar; you may not have ever even heard the words listed below. If you can't eliminate even one wrong choice from the answers, leave the question blank, except for the math grid-ins, where there is no penalty for guessing. On every other section, you'll get zero points for a blank question, which is better than a quarter point reduction for guessing incorrectly.
  4. Write in the test booklet. Use your pencil to physically scratch out wrong choices, write down formulas and equations, solve math problems, outline, paraphrase and underline to help you read. No one is going to read what you wrote in the test booklet, so use it to your advantage.
  5. Transfer your questions at the end of each section. Instead of going back and forth between the scantron and the test booklet, just write your answers in the test booklet and transfer them over at the end of every section/page. You'll make fewer mistakes and save time.
  6. Slow down. It's very hard to finish all the problems and maintain accuracy. Slow down a little bit, answer fewer questions correctly instead of guessing at the entire lot. (Remember, a blank answer = 0 points, whereas a wrong answer = -1/4 point). You'll get a better score if you answer 75% of the questions on the test and answer them correctly, than if you answer all of them and get 50% correct.
  7. Choose which questions to answer first. In every section except for the Critical Reading section, the questions are arranged from easy to difficult. However, that doesn't mean that the easy questions are going to be the easiest for you. After prepping for the test with practice questions choose your own order of difficulty and answer the easiest questions for you first. Just be sure to keep track of the numbers, so you mark the answers correctly on the scantron.
  8. Remember the order of difficulty. Because each section is arranged from easiest to most difficult, the obvious answers toward the beginning of a section may actually be correct. If you're in the final third of a section, though, beware of the obvious answer choices - they're probably distracters.
  9. Cross-check your ovals. If you have time at the end of a section, cross-check your answers with your scantron ovals. Make sure you didn't miss a question!

10.  Don't second-guess yourself. Statistics prove that your first answer choice is usually correct. Do not go back through the test and change your answers. Your first instinct is typically correct.

These ten tips may just be a lifesaver when you're taking the SAT, so be sure to follow them all!


SAT Test Day Checklist:

What to bring:

  • Your Admission Ticket: The Ticket must be printed through the SAT college board website
  • Two No.2 Pencils and a soft eraser
  • Photo Identification: National ID or Passport
  • An acceptable calculator:
          1. Graphing calculators
          2. Scientific calculators
          3. Four-function calculators

Nice to bring:

  • A watch
  • Extra batteries and backup equipment
  • A drink or snacks (for the break)
  • A bag or backpack

What not to Bring:

  • Cell phones
  • Blackberrys
  • IPods and I Pads
  • PDA’s
  • Pagers
  • Timers of anytime
  • Cameras or other photographic equipment
  • Laptops, notebooks, tablets or any other personal computing device