SAT is very important for a student to demonstrate his or her academic horse power that the student is academically capable to handle the coursework and other academics in his or her university of choice. In addition the factors such as teacher recommendations, class rank and extracurricular activities have huge impact on college admissions.
Here are 20 frequently asked questions from parents and students about taking the PSAT/SAT.
What is the SAT I?
The SAT Stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test, which is a standardized test required for admission to most U.S. colleges. The SAT I measures critical reading, math, and writing skills, which are elements that are considered essential for success in college. The test takes 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete and includes the following three sections.
- Critical ReadingThere are sentence completion questions, short and long reading passages followed by multiple-choice questions.
- MathThere are multiple-choice and student-produced response questions covering numbers and operations, algebra I and II, geometry, statistics, probability, and data analysis.
- WritingThere are an essay session and a grammar session including multiple-choice questions on sentence and paragraph improvement, as well as identifying sentence errors.
For more information, please refer to How to Prepare for SAT.
What is the PSAT?
The PSAT stands for Preliminary SAT, which is designed to be a warm-up for the SAT I, it is also used for applying the National Merit program. The PSAT is not just a shortened SAT I, it contains a Writing Skills section that does not appear on the SAT I, it is actually a grammar test. Although the Writing Skills section is not found on the SAT I, it is very similar to the Writing Test in the SAT II.
For more information, please refer to How to Prepare for PSAT.
What is the SAT II?
The SAT II is called SAT Subject Tests, which are an additional group of standardized tests required by some of the most competitive colleges. Unlike the general SAT I, the SAT II test the student’s knowledge in a variety of subject areas. The University of California system, Stanford, and most Ivy League schools require the SAT II tests, and consider the SAT II tests as a significant component in computing the student’s Eligibility Index. For more information refer to each school which the student is interested in.
For more information, please refer to How to Prepare the SAT Subject Test SATII.
Should the student take ACT instead of the SAT I?
The ACT is an alternative national college admissions examination to the SAT I, which is particularly popular in the Midwest, while the SAT is more common on the coasts. The ACT test consists of subject area tests in English, Mathematics, Reading and Science, a broader range than the SAT I. Almost all colleges accept either SAT I or ACT scores although some state preferences for one over the other, students should check the admission requirements at each school to which they are applying. Another approach is that the student takes the ACT in addition to the SAT, which can give him or her another chance, because he or she can decide which score to submit. For more information on the ACT see the ACT Program.
What the SAT I scores look like?
For Critical Reading, Math and Writing, each section is scored on a scale of 200 to 800. The total score will range between 600 and 2400. The Writing section has two sub-scores, which are a multiple-choice sub-score on a scale of 20-80 and an essay sub-score of 2-12 that are combined to yield a final score out of 800.
When to take the SAT?
Since most students applying to competitive colleges now take the SAT more than once, a typical schedule involves taking the PSAT in October of the junior year, taking the SAT I in March of the junior year, and taking SAT II’s in June of the junior year. It is recommended that perfect timing for SATII is before the summer so that the student still can study to repeat the SAT I on the fall test dates.
How many times can or should a student take the SAT I?
A student can take the SAT as many times as he or she likes, but it is suggested that plan to take it no more than 2 or 3 times, because frequently taking the test does not help the student improve the score much. Since almost all schools now take a student’s highest score when evaluating them for admission, students and parents do not need worry about multiple scores. As long as a student does his or her best to prepare, by trying 2-3 times the student should achieve his or her full potential.
What is a good score on the SAT I?
It depends which college the student wishes to attend. Basically there are no cut-off or guarantee scores. Namely, even the student’s score is higher than a school’s median does not mean that he or she will get in. For more information on the median score ranges for accepted students refer to each college.
What will the student be asked to write about in the essay?
The essay question asks the student to take a position on an issue and support it persuasively with examples from studies and experience. It is an open-ended question, so the student can answer it successfully in many different ways.
What are the biggest pitfalls students make when taking the SAT?
Not practicing enough. We know that in order to succeed in doing anything, we need prepare well, with the SAT, no exception. Many successful stories tell us that practice for the SAT does make perfect. The more the student gets used to the type of questions the SAT asks, the better he or she can do. The SAT is known to keep math questions and sentence completions almost the same. For the grammar section, the more the student memorizes the rules, the more his or her score goes up. The best way to do that is to familiarize with the format of the test and to review the content areas the test covers.
Where can a student improve?
Each student needs to look at his or her PSAT scores to find out where the most help is needed.
- In the Critical Reading section, which part is his or her weakness? Is it in the vocabulary, the short readings, or the long readings? Can the student understand them with the time limit? Start using flash cards for SAT words, practice timing on the readings, and practice taking tests are definitely good approaches.
- In the Math section, is the student missing the early easy ones and making careless mistakes? How did he or she do on the medium-hard questions? If it is just the hard ones at the end, perhaps skip the last 1-2 questions. Review thoroughly on Algebra and Geometry which is the math given on the SAT.
- In the Writing section, to improve the student’s understanding on the rules of grammar is the key. He or she needs to know where to find a double negative, subject-verb agreement, common English idioms, adverbs, when to use I or me, the “W” rule, when-time, who-people, where-place, etc. Once students know the rules of grammar, they can really bring up their Writing score. The Writing section is 2/3 grammar, 1/3 the essay.
What does it cost to take the SAT?
The current fee to register for the SAT is $45.00 (USD). There is an additional fee for various services dealing with score reports and student questions.
How to register for the SAT?
All registration must be done through the College Board, online, by mail or by calling (800)728-7267, there is an additional fee to sign up for the test by phone.
Can the student eat or drink during the test?
No, during the test in the test room for security reasons, however the student is encouraged to bring snacks in a book bag on test day, which can be consumed in designated areas during breaks.
Will colleges see the student’s essay?
A college will be able to view and print the student’s essay only if he or she sends that college the test scores.
How do colleges use the SAT writing score?
Different colleges use the writing score in different ways. Writing scores may be used for admissions decisions. It is said that writing is actually the strongest predictor of college success.
When will the students get his or her scores?
In about 2 weeks after the student takes the test, scores will be available by phone for an additional fee (1-800-SAT-SCORE). In about 3 weeks after the test, score reports will be mailed to the student and the colleges that he or she has designated.
Does the student get a copy of his or her test with scores?
Only if the student request and pay for it on certain dates. The Question-and-Answer Service for the SAT I is available only on certain test dates. The student can receive a copy of his or her exam in about 6 weeks after the test date, and it will be very useful in helping the student assesses what he or she did right and wrong. For any other test date, or for the SAT II tests, there is no way to obtain a copy of the student’s exam.
What are the good resources for PSAT/SAT/SAT II?
Great Stuff for PSAT/SAT/SAT II/ACT Preparation
What a student needs to prepare for PSAT/SAT?
The student needs index cards, pencils, a timer, a calculator and dictionaries.