The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is administered by the College Board not-for-profit corporation in the United States and is developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

The current "SAT Reasoning Test" is administered in about 3 hours and 45 minutes.

College Board says that the SAT measures critical thinking skills that are needed for academic success in college. It is claimed that the SAT assesses how well the test takers analyze and solve problems—skills they learned in school that they will need in college. The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors. There are substantial differences in funding, curricula, grading, and difficulty among U.S.

SAT consists of three major sections: Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Writing. Each section receives a score on the scale of 200–800. All scores are multiples of 10. Total scores are calculated by adding up scores of the three sections. Each major section is divided into three parts. There are 10 sub-sections, including an experimental section that may be in any of the three major sections. The experimental section is used to normalize questions for future administrations of the SAT and does not count toward the final score. The test contains 3 hours and 45 minutes of actual timed sections, although most administrations, including orientation, distribution of materials, and completion of the biographical sections, run about 5 hours (15–25 minutes per each section) long.

Critical Reading
The Critical Reading, formally verbal, section of the SAT is made up of three scored sections, two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section, with varying types of questions, including sentence completions and questions about short and long reading passages. Critical Reading sections normally begin with 5 to 8 sentence completion questions; the remainder of the questions are focused on the reading passages. Sentence completions generally test the student's vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure and organization by requiring the student to select one or two words that best complete a given sentence. The bulk of the Critical Reading questions is made up of questions regarding reading passages, in which students read short excerpts on social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, or personal narratives and answer questions based on the passage. Certain sections contain passages asking the student to compare two related passages; generally, these consist of short reading passages as well as longer passages.

The Mathematics section of the SAT consists of three scored sections. There are two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section, as follows:

  • One of the 25-minute sections is entirely multiple choice, with 20 questions.
  • The other 25-minute section contains eight multiple choice questions and 10 grid-in questions.
  • The shorter section is all multiple choice, with only 16 questions.

Notably, the SAT has done away with quantitative comparison questions on the math section, leaving only questions with straightforward symbolic or numerical answers. Since the quantitative comparison questions were well-known for their deceptive nature — often turning on the student's recognition of a single exception to a rule or pattern — this choice has been equated to a philosophical shift away from "trickery" and toward "straight math" on the SAT. Also, many test experts have attributed this change, like the addition of the new writing section, to an attempt to make the SAT.

The writing section of the SAT, based on but not comparable to the old SAT II in writing, includes multiple choice questions and a brief essay. The multiple choice questions include error identification questions, sentence improvement questions, and paragraph improvement questions. Error identification and sentence improvement questions test the student's knowledge of grammar, presenting an awkward or grammatically incorrect sentence; in the error identification section, the student must locate the word producing the source of the error or indicate that the sentence has no error, while the sentence improvement section requires the student to select an acceptable fix to the awkward sentence. The paragraph improvement questions test the student's understanding of logical organization of ideas, presenting a poorly written student essay and asking a series of questions as to what changes might be made to best improve it.

The essay section, which is always administered as the first section of the test, is 25 minutes long. All essays must be in response to a given prompt. The prompts are broad and often philosophical and are designed to be accessible to students regardless of their educational and social backgrounds. For instance, test takers may be asked to expound on such ideas as their opinion on the value of work in human life or whether democracy represents an ideal system of government. No particular essay structure is required, and the College Board accepts examples "taken from [the student's] reading, studies, experience, or observations." Two trained readers assign each essay a score between 1 and 6, where a score of 0 is reserved for essays that are blank, off-topic, non-English, not written with no. 2 pencil, or considered illegible after several attempts at reading. The scores are summed to produce a final score from 2 to 12 (or 0). If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, then a senior third reader decides. The essay score accounts for roughly 30% of the writing score; the multiple choice component accounts for roughly 70%.

Most of the questions on the SAT are multiple choice; all multiple-choice questions have five answer choices, one of which is correct. The questions of each section of the same type are generally ordered by difficulty. However, an important exception exists: Questions that follow the long and short reading passages are organized chronologically, rather than by difficulty. Ten of the questions in one of the math sub-sections are not multiple choice. They instead require the test taker to bubble in a number in a four-column grid.

The questions are weighted equally. For each correct answer, one raw point is added. For each incorrect answer one-fourth of a point is deducted. No points are deducted for incorrect math grid-in questions. This ensures that a student's mathematically expected gain from guessing is zero. The final score is derived from the raw score; the precise conversion chart varies between test administrations.

The SAT therefore recommends only making "educated" guesses, that is, when the test taker can eliminate at least one answer he or she thinks is wrong. Without eliminating any answers one's probability of answering correctly is 20%. Eliminating one wrong answer increases this probability to 25%; two, a 33.3% probability; three, a 50% probability of choosing the correct answer and thus earning the full point for the question.


Average Score

Time (Minutes)





Grammar, usage, and word choice




Number and operations; algebra and functions; geometry; statistics, probability, and data analysis

Critical Reading



Critical reading and sentence-level reading

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