What to Know About the SAT

Why do I need to take the SAT?

The SAT is an important standardized test used by many colleges and universities to help evaluate students when considering their admissions applications.

What is the difference between the SAT and the PSAT?

You may have also heard of the PSAT: while the tests have similar format and content, their purpose differs. The SAT is used for college admissions, while the PSAT is typically used as a practice test for the SAT. In fact, there are actually several variations – the PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT, taken in 8th/9th grade, 10th grade, and for purposes of qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship, respectively. These tests are meant to help students identify any areas of weakness before taking the actual SAT.

When should I take the SAT?

Students should start thinking about and preparing to take the SAT well in advance. It’s possible to take the SAT any time from freshman year, it’s most common to take the test in spring of junior year for the first time and you can retake it in fall of senior year if needed.

Is it too late to take the SAT senior year?

This depends on if you are considering early admissions. If you are, even the October test date may be too late for you, but check with the admissions office. November may be OK for regular admissions but it is too late for early candidates. The December test date is likely to be too late for almost everyone– regular deadlines are in early January and February, so you will need to check carefully if you can use this test date.

How long should you study for the SAT?

The answer to this question depends on you. What are your goals? Where do you want to go to college? How much do you need to improve your score? Certainly, you should plan to study at least 10 hours– there’s not much point in taking the test without putting in at least that much effort. Most students will start studying between 1 and 6 months before the test and will study over several months (NOT weeks or days!). During your study period, the SAT should be a major commitment– most students put in something like 10-20 hours a week during their intensive prep phase, but this number could vary depending on your score. Some helpful strategies are blocking out a consistent time slot to practice in, and scheduling regular timed practice tests. SAT prep takes time and commitment and you need a realistic picture of your performance under real test conditions.

Just what IS a good score on the SAT?

Again, this will depend on you and your goals; the perfect score is 1600 and the minimum score is 400, but a good score is defined by the colleges you are aiming for. A superscore above the national average will be a plus for your application while a low score can hurt you. The higher your score, the better your chances at highly selective colleges, as well as your options for merit-based assistance. A last word on the SAT subject tests: these are multiple choices standardized tests that assess students’ abilities in individual subjects. They are typically used by US universities. How many subject tests should you take? Many colleges require at least two, but if you are prepared, you should take as many as you can score well on (within reason)!

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