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Get to Know the SAT*

About the SAT

Overview
The SAT* is a standard college entrance exam that measures skills in math, reading, and writing. The first section is always a written essay, which takes 25 minutes, and the last section is always a multiple-choice writing section, which takes 10 minutes. The other parts of the test—six 25-minute sections and two 20-minute sections—can appear in any order. One of the 25-minute sections (you won't know which) will not count toward your score; it is used to try out questions for future SATs. Total test time is 3 hours and 45 minutes.

The SAT Critical Reading sections present you with reading comprehension questions about full-length and paragraph-length passages. They also include sentence completions.

The SAT Writing sections include multiple-choice questions on grammar, usage, word choice, and organization. The essay section asks you to respond to a prompt by developing a point of view supported by clear, well-organized ideas based on your experience and observations.

The SAT Math sections include multiple-choice questions and grid-in questions, which require you to generate a response. Topics include: numbers and operations; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; and statistics, probability, and data analysis.

Scoring
Each section (Critical Reading, Writing, and Math) is scored on a scale of 200 to 800. Essays, a sub-section of Writing, are graded on a scale of 2 to 12.


Need-to-Know Tips and Strategies for the SAT

Prepare with a Practice Test
Practice tests are an ideal way to begin your preparation. They’re affordable and will give you instant results to see how you might score if the test were today. You’ll learn your strengths and weakness, and be able to develop a personalized study plan. Try prepping with Peterson’s practice tests for the SAT.

Don't cram. You are being tested on knowledge that you have accumulated over the course of the year. Studying at the last minute will only stress you out. Go to a movie or hang out with a friend—anything to get your mind off of the test!

Critical Reading: Sentence Completions
Sentence completions test both your vocabulary and your understanding of the logic of a sentence. Each question is a sentence containing either one or two blanks. Your job is to figure out which answer correctly completes the sentence. As you read, try to predict what word should go in each blank. Sometimes you can guess the meaning of one blank, but not the other. In that case, scan the answer choices, look for a word similar to the one you've predicted, and then eliminate the answer choices that don't match up.

Critical Reading: Reading Comprehension
The Critical Reading test now includes both long and short reading passages. Skim each passage to see what it's about. Don't worry about the details—you can always look them up later if you need to. Just look for the main ideas. Then tackle the questions that direct you straight to the answer by referring you to a specific line in the passage. If you have time afterward, you can try solving the harder questions.

Writing: Multiple-Choice Questions
There are three types of multiple-choice writing questions on the SAT. The first group, Improving Sentences, tasks you with selecting the correct version—the one that is clearly written and grammatically correct—of an underlined portion of a sentence. Sentence Error questions ask you to figure out which part of a sentence contains an error. Those on Improving Paragraphs test your ability to organize and clarify information. For all of these question types, think about the simplest, clearest way to express an idea. If an answer choice sounds awkward or overly complicated, chances are good that it's wrong.

Writing: Essay
You will be given an open-ended essay prompt (topic) that asks you to state a viewpoint and support it. Essays are scored holistically, which means that the final score is based on an overall impression. It is important to develop your ideas and express them clearly, using examples to back them up. Your essay does not have to be grammatically perfect, but it does have to be focused and organized. The standard five-paragraph essay can be an effective way to make your point.

Math: Multiple-Choice Questions
As you work through the multiple-choice math questions, you'll be given reference information (formulas and facts), but you'll need to know how to use them. You're allowed to use a calculator, but it won't help you unless you know how to approach the problems. If you're stuck, try substituting numbers for variables. You can also try plugging in numbers from the answer choices. Start with the middle number. That way, if it doesn't work, you can strategically choose one that's higher or lower.

Math: Grid-Ins
These questions are not multiple-choice - you come up with an answer and fill it into a grid. The grid does not contain a minus sign, so there is no way to indicate that a value is less than zero. That means that an answer can't be a negative number. Unlike the multiple-choice questions, you won't be penalized for wrong answers, so make your best guess even if you're not sure. You can't grid mixed numbers, so if you get a mixed number as an answer, you'll have to convert it to an improper fraction or a decimal.




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