|SAT : Frequently Asked Questions|
SAT » Frequestly Asked Questions
SAT : Frequently Asked Questions
- If I already took the old SAT, should I take the new one too?
You should check with each college to which you are applying. Some colleges might accept scores from either the old or the new SAT for students entering college in 2006. However, many colleges will require the SAT with writing for students graduating from high school in 2006.
- What does the SAT cost? What about fee waivers?
The fee for the SAT Reasoning Test is $41.50. As was the case with the old SAT, students who cannot afford test fees can apply for fee waivers to cover test fees. Fee waivers are not permitted with late registrations except for the October 2005 test date. Read more about Fee Waivers.
- Is the new SAT harder than the old one?
The new SAT will be different, not necessarily harder. Quantitative comparisons in math have been eliminated. A few math questions on the new SAT will cover some topics from what students learn in their third year college preparatory math classes, including concepts in Algebra II. However, the test will still measure reasoning ability and problem-solving skills gained through activities and learning in and out of school. Since few students are exposed to analogies in their classrooms, the analogy questions have been replaced with more critical reading passages. With the addition of the writing section, students will have the opportunity to demonstrate how they have learned to develop, organize, and express their thoughts.
- How much time do I have to complete the SAT?
The total testing time for the SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes.
- Can I bring something to eat or drink during the test?
Although for security reasons, neither food nor drinks can be opened or consumed in the test room, you are encouraged to bring snacks in a book bag on test day. These snacks are easily stowed under desks or chairs in the test room and can be consumed outside of the test room during breaks.
- What do SAT scores look like?
The SAT has three scores, each on the scale of 200 to 800. Your score will include writing (W 200-800), mathematics (M 200-800), and critical reading (CR 200-800).
Your math and critical reading scores on the new SAT can be compared to the math and verbal scores on the old test. This is something colleges need for consistency in admissions requirements. However, the SAT writing score is completely new.
- Can I find out more detailed information about my results?
For certain test dates, the Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) is available for a fee. You can see the actual questions and correct answers, as well as whether you answered correctly, incorrectly, or omitted the question. QAS includes information on question types and levels of difficulty. You will have access to a copy of your essay via your free online score report.
For all other test dates, Student Answer Service (SAS) is available. SAS does not provide the actual questions, but it does send you a list of question types and difficulty levels, along with a description of how you answered the questions. Again, you will have access to a copy of your essay via your online score report.
- What will I be asked to write about in the essay?
The essay question will ask you to develop a point of view on an issue and support it with examples from your studies and experience. You can answer the question successfully in many different ways. You won't have to have any prior knowledge about the topic to write an effective essay. However, you will have to answer the essay assignment directly. See Strategies for Success on the SAT Essay for more information on how to do your best on the SAT essay.
- Will colleges see my essay? How will they use the new writing score?
A college will be able to view and print a copy of your essay only if you sent an official score report to that college.
Different colleges will use your writing score in different ways. Writing scores may be used for admissions decisions and possibly for placement in English Composition or related courses. However, for the first few years, some schools may choose to use writing scores for research purposes only, and not for decisions about admissions or placement.
- What about students with disabilities?
Students with disabilities, whose documentation has been validated by the College Board, will receive testing accommodations. Students with disabilities that necessitate the use of a computer for writing will be able to do so for the essay portion of the writing section. Learn more about Services for Students with Disabilities.
- Is the SAT Subject Test in Writing still offered?
Because the SAT Reasoning Test now includes a writing section, the Subject Test in Writing is no longer offered. The last administration of the Subject Test in Writing was January 2005.
- What do the initials "SAT" mean?
Originally, SAT was an abbreviation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. In 1993, the test was renamed the SAT I: Reasoning Test. At the same time, the former Achievement Tests were renamed the SAT II: Subject Tests. In 2004, the numerals "I" and "II" were dropped and the tests are now named the SAT Reasoning Test (or just SAT) and SAT Subject Tests. SAT is a simple and recognizable way of referring to the SAT Reasoning Test.
- What are the similarities and differences between the SAT and the PSAT/NMSQT?
Both the SAT and the PSAT/NMSQT measure critical reading, writing, and math reasoning skills. The PSAT/NMSQT contains actual SAT questions, but it is designed to be slightly easier than the SAT. The PSAT/NMSQT is two hours and 10 minutes, whereas the SAT takes three hours and forty-five minutes. The SAT is used for college admission, but PSAT/NMSQT scores are not sent to colleges. The PSAT/NMSQT Score Report gives you personalized feedback on areas in which you could improve, along with specific advice on how to improve. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT gives you a chance to qualify for scholarship and recognition programs and is the best practice for the SAT.
- Is it true that you get a 200 on the SAT just for signing your name?
Theoretically speaking, if you just sign your name and don't complete the answer sheet, you would get a score of 200. That's because we don't report scores that are lower than 200. In reality, if we received an answer sheet with no answers, it would be considered an automatic request to cancel scores and no scores would be reported.
- Are some SAT tests more difficult than other ones?
All editions of the SAT are developed using the same test specifications. Even if there are tiny differences in difficulty from test to test, a statistical process called "equating" ensures that a score for a test taken on one date or at one place is equivalent to a score for a test taken on another date or in another place. The rumors that the SAT in one month, say in October, is easier, are false.
- Are all SAT questions multiple-choice?
All of the SAT is multiple-choice except for the 25-minute written essay and 10 student-produced response math questions, which ask you to fill in or "grid-in" your own answers using a special section of the answer sheet.
- What's the difference between the SAT and Subject Tests?
The SAT measures the critical thinking skills you'll need for academic success in college. It assesses how well you analyze and solve problems. SAT scores are used for college admission purposes because the test predicts college success. The Subject Tests are one-hour, primarily multiple-choice tests in specific subjects. Subject Tests measure knowledge or skills in a particular subject and your ability to apply that knowledge.
- How many times can you take the test?
You can take the test as many times as you want. Your score report shows your current test score, in addition to scores for up to six SAT and six Subject Test administrations.
- What test should I take first, the SAT or the Subject Tests?
Most students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year of high school. Most students who take Subject Tests take them toward the end of their junior year or at the beginning of their senior year. Because Subject Tests are directly related to course work, it's helpful to take tests such as World History, Biology E/M, Chemistry, or Physics as soon as possible after completing the course in the subject, even as a freshman or sophomore, while the material is still fresh in your mind. You'll do better on other tests like languages after at least two years of study.
- Which test should I take?
To find out which test(s) you should take, contact the colleges you are interested in attending or use our College Search to determine admissions requirements and deadlines. Most colleges require the SAT for admission and many other schools require both the SAT and Subject Tests for admission purposes or placement. Additionally, some colleges require specific Subject Tests while others allow you to choose which tests you take. It's best to check directly with the college admissions offices.
If you're uncertain about your readiness to take a specific Subject Test, visit the Subject Test FAQ
- What do my SAT scores tell college admission staff about me?
Your SAT scores can tell admission staff how you compare with other students who took the test. That's because all scores are reported on the 200-to-800 scale. For example, if your scores are about 500 on each section, which is the mean (average) score, college admission staff would know you scored about as well as half of the students who took the test.
The SAT is the best independent, standardized measure of a student's college readiness. It is standardized across all students, schools, and states, providing a common and objective scale for comparison. High school grades are a very useful indicator of how students perform in college, yet there is great variation in grading standards and course rigor within and across high schools.
Remember, too, that the SAT is only one of a number of factors that colleges consider when making admission decisions. Other factors, like your high school record, essays, recommendations, interviews, and extracurricular activities, also play a role in admission decisions.
- Can the SAT really show how well I'll do in my first year of college?
No test can accurately predict with 100 percent certainty what your grades will be in college. That's because many factors, including personal motivation, influence your college grades.
However, college admissions offices use SAT scores to help estimate how well students are likely to do at a particular college. For example, a college looks at the SAT scores, high school grade-point average (GPA), and college grades of its freshman class. A college may find that students who scored between 450 and 550 on the SAT and maintained a "B" average in high school are the students who perform well at that school. Knowing your SAT scores and high school GPA helps the college make a decision about how likely it is that you'll succeed in college.
- Why does the SAT have the kinds of questions that it does?
The SAT was designed with questions that reflect or show your reasoning abilities, not just the amount of information you've accumulated during school. As an example, many math items can be answered by using complex equations, but they can also be answered correctly if you can reason through the problem. Reading passages don't just test that you can read but require extended reasoning in order to answer the questions related to the passage. This means that you have to be able to make inferences, assumptions, and interpretations based on the passage provided, in order to understand what the author is trying to say.
- Why don't the questions on the SAT ask about the things I'm learning in my high school courses?
The SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills you'll need for academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well you analyze and solve problems—skills that you develop over years of schooling and in your outside reading and study. The test is designed to allow you to demonstrate your abilities in these areas regardless of the particular type of instruction you've received or textbooks you've used.
These important abilities—understanding and analyzing written material, drawing inferences, differentiating shades of meaning, drawing conclusions, and solving math problems—are necessary for success in college and life in general. This doesn't mean that the SAT is irrelevant to your course work, however; the SAT is closely aligned with the type of skills being taught in the classroom and necessary for college success.
- Who comes up with questions on the SAT or Subject Tests?
Test development committees comprised of educators and subject-matter experts determine the test specifications and the types of questions that are asked, including topics and areas that should be covered. Internal test developers write the questions, which are then submitted to another test committee, made up of high school and college faculty and administrators, which reviews the test questions and makes recommendations for improving them, if needed. Some test questions are also submitted by high school and college teachers from around the country.
- Why can't I have more time to take the SAT?
Much effort is made to ensure that most students are given enough time to attempt every question on the test. But even if more time were given, not all students would be able to answer all the questions.
Studies are done to find out whether most students have enough time to attempt to answer all the questions in each test section. These studies show that time limits are appropriate if all students taking the test answer 75 percent of the questions in each section and if 80 percent reach the last question in the section. Based on studies like these, the time limits are appropriate for the majority of students.
Students with Disabilities may request extended time for taking the SAT.