What is SAT?


Students all over the world compete for a place in a college or university of their choice. Colleges use a variety of tests and criteria for selecting the best candidates with the greatest likelihood of successfully completing their college degree program.

SAT is the most popular of all the college entrance tests worldwide and is used by students to secure admissions to colleges in the United States. Most other countries worldwide such as UK, Canada, Australia, India, Singapore and Malaysia use SAT scores as a way to evaluate foreign students for admission to their respective colleges and universities.

The General SAT test is predominantly used for college admission selections but the SAT subject tests have been discontinued and students are asked to utilize the AP subject tests instead for indicating their competency in individual subjects for admissions or for advanced placement in college.

SAT: Scholastic Aptitude Test

SAT tests measure English reading and writing skills and Math, with some science questions sprinkled throughout the test. The optional essay has currently been discontinued and the College Board encourages students to showcase their writing skills via their college essays instead.

The main SAT test costs $55 and it is entirely in the multiple choice format. There is no eligibility restriction so anyone can take the SAT test. High school students typically take the SAT test sometime in their junior year and then retake the test in their senior year or 12th grade.

All questions in the general SAT test are multiple choice questions. The math portion of the test covers algebra, geometry, numerical calculations and some statistics. The reading part includes sentence completion and passage-based reading. The writing part involves improving sentences, identifying sentence errors and improving paragraphs.

Each of the english reading/writing and the math have a maximum score of 800 which totally add up to a total maximum score of 1600.

A score at about 1200 in the general SAT is considered a good score. But this again depends on the requirements of individual colleges and their admission policies.

Khan Academy has a great section on SAT preparation and SAT practice tests which has been provided in collaboration with the College Board. The College Board administers the SAT tests and many other tests such as the GRE, GMAT and the CLEP for college credits.

What Age Do You Take SAT In America?

For younger students to start preparing for the SAT, students in their 8th, 9th and 10th grade can take the PSAT 8/9, followed by the PSAT 10 and PSAT/ NMSQT tests for the 10th and 11th grades.

Schools typically administer the PSAT tests, the PSAT 10 for sophomores is offered in the spring and PSAT/ NMSQT is offered in the fall. Not all colleges offer the PSAT tests to students, so you will have the check with your school if you live in the US.

For US students who prefer skipping the PSAT and take the SAT directly instead, and for international students, it’s ok to directly take the SAT test multiple times, say once in the 10th grade and subsequently once in the 11th grade and the final one in the 12th grade. College Board has found that students who retake the SAT a second or third time are able to obtain much higher scores.

As for the age, anytime from age 14 or 15, students can start taking the PSAT tests and then move on to taking the SAT at 16 years of age onward.

There is no lower or upper age limit for taking the SAT tests. So students well over 18 or 20 years or more are free to take the SAT if they want to.

Though younger students are also allowed to register for the SAT, for most students, it makes sense to start taking the SAT at about 16 years of age, so that the student is ready for it and can benefit more from the testing and practice tests.

What Are The PSAT Tests Used For?

PSAT tests are Preliminary SAT tests and act as a primer to the SAT. Though the college board offers the tests about 3 times a year, it is up to your school to administer the test for its students. So its more likely that your school will offer the PSAT once a year from the 8th to 11th graders.

Unlike the SAT, the PSAT costs a lot lesser from about $10 to $20 and your school may charge a small additional fee for administering the test. The test guides will also be provided as part of this cost.

If your school offers the PSAT, it’s a good idea to use this opportunity and take the PSAT as a practice for the SAT. The advantage of taking a PSAT is that it will be at a level of difficulty that someone in the 8th to 11th grade generally learns in school.

With the PSAT/NMSQT scores, students will be eligible for National Merit Scholarship Program which is a competition for recognition and scholarships based on the test scores.

Note that students can take the PSAT/NMSQT tests anytime between the 9th to 11th grades. Students are allowed to only take one PSAT test in each academic year.

Should I Take the SAT As A Freshman Or Sophomore?

The PSAT is likely to be a better fit for freshman and sophomores so that the test difficulty will match what the student generally learns in their school classroom.

But for some overachieving students, the SAT in the freshman or sophomore years (8th, 9th grade) could work out nicely. As for the eligibility, SAT does not have any specific age restriction for taking the tests.

Do You Have To Take The SAT?

Most high school students and graduates choose to take the SAT for gaining admission into their chosen colleges in the US. Higher scores are required for the more selective colleges where the competition for college acceptance is much tougher.

A good score on the SAT can also bring in more favorable college scholarships and grants for merit students.

However, community colleges and a few US colleges such as Excelsior, Charter Oak or WGU do not require any SAT test scores for admissions.

Additionally, as of 2020 and subsequently in 2021 due to the pandemic, many of the US colleges that typically require the SAT have made SAT test scores optional and are not using SAT scores as part of the college acceptance process. This is likely to continue as we move into 2022 and 2023, but when in doubt, please check with the respective colleges on their current SAT and admissions policies.

What Is A Good SAT Score?

Allen Cheng from Prep Scholar got a top score of 1600 in 2014, so though it’s nearly impossible to get a perfect score in the SAT, there is still a 1% chance of getting the perfect SAT score. But for the last several years, it’s been almost impossible to get a perfect score and anything above 1500 already puts you ahead of 99% of test takers.

But to get that perfect SAT score, Allen believes that a student will have to get all questions correct in the Math section of the SAT, can miss just 1 or 2 questions in the Reading and get a maximum of 1 question wrong in the English Writing.

While a score 1200 and above is considered a good SAT score, 1400 and above is considered an excellent SAT score.

Getting a score above 1400 is an absolute must if you’re looking to get into an ivy league. In fact it’s even better to have a score at or above 1460 for the best chance of an ivy league acceptance letter.

What Is The Best Month To Take The SAT?

Before looking at the best month for SAT, let’s get one thing cleared up about the SAT test dates and its relation to the SAT scores. Taking the SAT tests at certain months or times of the year than others will not result in better SAT scores. This is because the College Board uses a process called equating to adjust the scores for any easier tests such that the overall scores on whether it is an easier or harder test are always the same.

But personally, it might help high school students to take the SAT test at times when they do not have hectic school schedules such as in May. So test prep tutors typically recommend taking the SAT in the fall or say August so you will have sufficient time to study for the test during your summer holidays. There are plenty of test prep training centers that will get you ready for your SAT in the summer, so you don’t just laze off in the summer before your SAT tests.

How Many Times Can You Take The SAT?

The College Board and many well known testing tutors recommend taking the SAT 2 or 3 times for the best SAT scores.

May is usually a hectic month as many students have their AP tests in May, so its usually best to avoid May for SAT tests.

Ideally, the SAT tests should be taken continuously with a comfortable gap of several months before the next SAT retake. Also, the Question-and-Answer-Service of the College Board for US students is only available in March, May and October tests. So its best to take the 1st and 2nd SAT testing when the QAS service is available.

The QAS service provides the questions, the correct answer, scoring instructions and a form for requesting your answer sheet. So having this QAS service for your 1st and 2nd SAT test taking will allow you to understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can learn from those for your final SAT preparation.

So I would recommend taking the SAT once in October of Junior year, then next March of the Junior year and then subsequently the final (3rd retake) SAT in August of Senior year with all round preparation during the summer months.

What Is The Best Way To Prepare For The SAT?

For a good introduction to getting ready for SAT, start with Khan Academy’s SAT preparation and practice tests. Other than this, Magoosh offers quality in-depth SAT preparation for an affordable cost.

Or if you’re ok to spend a couple of thousand dollars, the Princeton Review has the 1400+ program that guarantees a 1400+ SAT score.

What SAT score is required for Harvard

Harvard and Yale are the 2 ivy leagues with the strictest score requirements for admissions. So anything below 1460 will not be sufficient for the slightest chance of getting into Harvard.

But it’s important to note that SAT test scores are not the only criteria, but that will be used in conjunction with other things such as high school GPA, the college essay and additional awards or test scores which will be factored in for their admissions.

Why Were The SAT Subject Tests and Essays Discontinued?

The College Board has clarified that these changes have been made to reduce the burden on students in these more difficult times.

It also appears that the discontinuation of the SAT Subject tests and the optional essay in 2021 is related to financial considerations since there has been a great reduction in SAT test takers since 2020 due to the pandemic and the lockdowns.

The college board recommends that students who wish to showcase their writing skills do so while writing their college essays. Measuring a student’s reading and writing skills are also a major part of the general SAT test itself. The AP tests can be used as a great alternative to the SAT subject tests.

Each AP subject test costs about $95 which is much more than the SAT subject test cost of about $30. Also, by removing the optional essay in the general SAT test, the college board might be looking to automate the test scoring process since the main SAT test is completely made up of multiple choice question-answers.

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