The SAT is a standardized test that colleges use to evaluate candidates. The test measures a student’s ability to understand and process elements of mathematical and verbal reasoning. SAT scores are calculated based on a student’s performance relative to other test-takers, and have proven to be an indicator of collegiate success.

The SAT consists of ten sections:

  • 3 writing sections—one 25 minute student-written essay, one 25 minute grammar section and one 10 minute grammar section
  • 3 math sections—two 25 minute sections and one 20 minute section
  • 3 critical reading sections—two 25 minute sections and one 20 minute section
  • 1 “experimental” section—an additional 25 minute section (unscored)

There are short breaks every hour.

The Writing Section

The writing section measures a student’s ability to recognize and conform to the conventions of standard written English. This section consists of one student-written essay and multiple-choice questions. The multiple-choice questions carry a .25-point penalty for incorrect answers. The writing section contains three types of multiple-choice questions:

  • Identifying Sentence Errors
  • Improving Sentences
  • Improving Paragraphs

The format of the two multiple choice sections is:

  • 25 minutes: 11 Improving Sentence questions, 18 Identifying Sentence Error questions, and 6 Improving Paragraphs questions
  • 10 minutes: 14 Improving Sentence questions

Math Section

The math sections measure a student’s ability to reason quantitatively, solve mathematical problems, and interpret data presented in graphical form. These sections focus on four areas of mathematics that are typically covered in the first three years of American high school education: Arithmetic, Algebra and Functions, Geometry, and Data Analysis. The Algebra section was recently expanded to include basic College Algebra. To test these skills, the SAT employs two different question types:

  • Multiple Choice
  • Grid-Ins

The multiple-choice questions carry a .25-point penalty for incorrect answers. The grid-in questions carry no penalty for wrong answers, because the likelihood of guessing the correct answer is negligible.

The format of the three sections is:

  • 25 minutes: 20 Multiple Choice questions
  • 25 minutes: 8 Multiple Choice questions followed by 10 Grid-ins.
  • 20 minutes: 16 Multiple Choice questions

Critical Reasoning Section

The Critical Reasoning section of the SAT measures a person’s ability to understand and analyze written material. The questions carry a .25-point penalty for incorrect answers. The Critical Reading Section consists of two types of questions.

  • Reading Comprehension—this includes both long and short reading passages
  • Sentence Completion

The format of the three sections is:

  • 25 minutes: 8 Sentence Completion questions followed by 16 Reading Comprehension questions
  • 25 minutes: 5 Sentence Completion questions followed by 19 Reading Comprehension questions
  • 20 minutes: 6 Sentence Completion questions followed by 13 Reading Comprehension questions

The Experimental Section

The experimental section of the SAT is an additional 25-minute section. It can be a math, critical reading, or grammar section. It does not count towards the examinee’s score. The inclusion of this section within the SAT ensures a more fair and balanced scoring method, and allows the College Board to compile data on previously unreleased questions.