The Scholastic Aptitude Test or SAT has been the de facto standard for college admission since 1948 and, today, is on the mind of every high school sophomore and junior seeking higher education. The concept grew out of an army IQ test given to soldiers in World War I. The exam was then modified for a test group of college applicants and soon become the norm. The landscape has changed somewhat with the introduction of ACT, a standards based college preparedness exam as well as the decision by some colleges to make standardized test scores optional. Still, up to 70 percent of colleges require SAT scores and the test remains an effective tool for assessing a student’s capabilities regardless of a school’s requirements. In other words, taking the SAT can’t hurt and prepping for the SAT is a good idea.
Students who decide to take the SATs must first register with The College Board. The form can be filled out and processed online at www.collegeboard.com or sent through the mail. The cost to register is $41.50, payable online by credit card or by a check in the mail. The SAT is given seven times a year, almost always on a Saturday morning starting at 9 am and lasting four hours.
The SAT includes three scored sections: Mathematics, Writing and Critical Reading. The math section lasts for 70 minutes and consists of approximately 50 multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions based on the principles of arithmetic, geometry, algebra and logic. Students need to become familiar with the vocabulary associated with these areas of math and not only solve sample problems, but grasp the concept behind these problems so they can apply that knowledge to similar problems on the test. Calculators are allowed, but students are encouraged not to depend on them.
The Writing section is 60 minutes long and divided into multiple-choice questions on grammar and linguistics and the essay, which tests the ability to develop, organize and communicate ideas in a proper written format. Essays are not graded on length or extensive vocabulary. The fact that students only have 25 minutes to accomplish the essay also is taken into consideration when the tests are scored.
Critical Reading is a 70-minute test that requires students to read short paragraphs and answer questions. The test includes a variety of paragraphs ranging from approximately 100 to 800 words long focused on several different topics in the fields of natural and social sciences, humanities and literary fiction. The corresponding questions require the student to determine the meaning of words, understand the main idea of the paragraph, analyze the information and evaluate the author’s arguments and style.
For example, the student will be given a sentence with a word missing and multiple choices options for the word that best fits into the sentence. A good way for students to prepare for this is to jot down unfamiliar words that they come across everyday and study the meaning. The better a student’s vocabulary, the easier it will be for him or her to differentiate between words with similar – but not exactly the same – meaning. SAT tools such as ePrep include a vocabulary-building tool in the program. Learn more about SAT Score Improvement options.