SAT Test Structure

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The SAT has four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (no calculator), and Math (calculator allowed). The test taker may optionally write an essay which, in that case, is the fifth test section. The total time for the scored portion of the SAT is three hours (or three hours and fifty minutes if the optional essay section is taken). 

Some test takers who are not taking the essay may also have a fifth section which is used, at least in part, for the pretesting of questions that may appear on future administrations of the SAT. (These questions are not included in the computation of the SAT score.) Two section scores result from taking the SAT: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math.

Section scores are reported on a scale of 200 to 800, and each section score is a multiple of ten. A total score for the SAT is calculated by adding the two section scores, resulting in total scores that range from 400 to 1600. There is no penalty for guessing on the SAT: scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly. In addition to the two section scores, three “test” scores on a scale of 10 to 40 are reported, one for each of Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. The essay, if taken, is scored separately from the two section scores.

Quantitative reasoning

The computer-based quantitative sections assess basic high school level mathematical knowledge and reasoning skills. The quantitative test is scored on a scale of 130–170, in 1-point increments (Before August 2011 the scale was 200–800, in 10-point increments). In a typical examination, each quantitative section consists of 20 questions to be completed in 35 minutes.

Analytical writing critical thinking skills

The analytical writing section consists of two different essays, an “issue task” and an “argument task”. The writing section is graded on a scale of 0–6, in half-point increments.

Writing and Language Test

The SAT Writing and Language Test asks you to be an editor and improve passages that were written especially for the test—and that include deliberate errors.