SAT Test Guide

SAT Test Summary
What: The SAT is a standardized college admissions test.
Who: High school students take the SAT, which is owned and published by the College Board.
Where: The test is administered primarily at high schools but also can be taken at approved test centers.
When: The SAT is offered seven times a year in the US: October, November, December, January, March (or April, alternating), May and June.
How: The SAT is a paper and pencil test.
Type: The test includes multiple choice questions and an essay.
Why: The SAT is required by many colleges, and a higher score helps with admissions and sometimes scholarships.
Time: The SAT Reasoning Test is four hours and 45 minutes, while each Subject Test lasts one hour.
Language: English and Spanish
Preparation: Many companies and organizations offer test preparation in the form of books, classes, online courses, tutoring and more recently, board games.
Cost: The SAT Reasoning Test is $45; Subject Tests are $29, with the exception of Language Tests with Listening, which are $40.

By Elizabeth M. Burkhart, Tests.com Contributing Writer

The SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests are standardized admissions exams taken by high school juniors and seniors who plan to attend college. The SAT measures a student’s basic knowledge and evaluates the likelihood a student will succeed in college-level classes. More than two million students take the test annually.

SAT Reasoning Test
The SAT Reasoning Test is comprised of three sections: critical reading, writing and mathematics. The entire test lasts three hours and 45 minutes.

The critical reading section includes two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. Students will be asked multiple choice questions based on one or two reading passages. Questions evaluate reading comprehension and sentence completion skills. A critical reading section score ranges from 200 (low) to 800 (high).

The writing section is comprised of a 35-minute multiple choice section and a 25-minute essay. The multiple choice questions will evaluate a student’s ability to improve sentences and paragraphs as well as identify errors in sentences. This section is scored from 200 to 800. A writing subscore is also issued, and scores range from 20 to 80.

In the short essay, students will be asked to assume a point of view on an issue and support that point of view through an essay. Essays are scored from 1 (low) to 6 (high).

The mathematics section is 70 minutes long, divided into two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. The math section evaluates students on math skills through the third-year college level, such as numbers, operations, algebra, geometry, statistics, probability and data analysis. Questions are either multiple choice or open. Scores range from 200 to 800. Students may use a four-function, graphing or scientific calculator on the math section.

SAT Subject Tests
Some colleges require SAT Subject Tests as part of their admission criteria. Students required to take the SAT Subject Test may choose from any of 20 subject exams in English, History, Mathematics, Science and Foreign Language, including:

  • English Literature
  • US History
  • World History
  • Mathematics Level I
  • Mathematics Level II
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Chinese with Listening
  • French
  • French with Listening
  • German
  • German with Listening
  • Spanish
  • Spanish with Listening
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Japanese with Listening
  • Korean with Listening

Each exam is an hour-long multiple-choice test. Students should check the requirements of each college for which they are applying for admission to ensure they take the proper exams.

Each subject test is scored from 200 to 800. Some subject tests offer subscores, which range from 20 to 80.

SAT Registration
Students may register for the SAT Reasoning Test or SAT Subject Tests online through the College Board (collegeboard.com) or through the mail. Students who register online will be asked to create an account, and then they will be able to select their test date and location. The exam is offered multiple times throughout the school year between October and June, often at high schools.

Students are assessed a $45 fee to take the SAT Reasoning Test. For the SAT Subject Tests, students are charged a $20 registration fee, plus $20 for Language Tests with Listening, and $9 for all other subject tests.

Is the SAT Reasoning Test in your future? Check out our SAT Test Directory to find test preparation materials that will help you ace your exam. For more on the SAT and preparation, read our interview with Karl Schellscheidt, SAT expert and founder of ePrep.