The SAT: a helpful guide for SAT-takers

Many colleges require scores from the SAT or ACT tests as a part of the admissions process. This means that your SAT score is a key component in your way to your dream school. But what is the SAT exactly, what will they test, what is the average SAT score and what can I expect? Ladies and gentlemen, we are here for you with answers. Sit back, relax and learn everything you need to know about the SAT.

What is the SAT?

Let’s start at the beginning. The SAT, which stands for Scholastic Assessment Test, is the most popular standardized college admissions test in the US. The test measure key skills like computational ability, reading comprehension and clarity of expression. If you want to apply to colleges or universities in the United States, you can be almost sure that you need to take the SAT. Depending on where you want to apply, your SAT score can account for as much as 50% of the admission decision. So yes, it is important you make this test well.

SAT sections

The SAT covers two sections, Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Both these sections are split into two subsections, as shown below. The total testing time is 3 hours.

1. Reading
Evidence-Based Reading contains 52 multiple-choice questions that you’ll need to answer in 65 minutes. It is focused on reading and interpretating passages, using the information to answer questions and vocabulary in context.

2. Writing
Evidence-Based Writing consists of a total of 44 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 35 minutes. You will read passages, find grammar or spelling mistakes and correct them. You will be tested on the building blocks of writing, such as usage, punctuation and sentence structure.

3. Math with calculator
This subsection is a 55-minute math section that contains 38 questions. 8 of these questions will be grid-ins. The rest of the 30 questions are multiple-choice questions. When answering these questions, you can’t use a calculator. The SAT Math test questions draw from four areas of math: algebra and functions, geometry and measurements, number and operations and data analysis, statistics and probability.

4. Math without calculator
This subsection is similar to the third section, but (as the title is obviously suggesting) without the use of a calculator. The section has 20 questions that you need to answer in 25 minutes. 5 of these questions are grid-ins. The other 15 are multiple-choice.

Before, there was also an optional SAT Essay that could be done. But in January 2021, the College Board announced that after June 2021, it would no longer be offering the Essay section of the SAT. A school can still decide to ask for some writing exercise. So always ask the school you want to apply to for specific requirements.

How is the SAT scored?

Let’s talk about how the SAT is scored first. Each section of the SAT is scored on a 200 to 800 point scale. Your SAT score is your sections scores combined. The highest possible score is 1600 and the lowest is 400 points. There is no deduction for incorrect answer, so always be sure that you answer every question. Even if you don’t know the answer! There can be a chance that your guess is the right answer.

What is an average (and good) SAT score?

The average SAT score for the class of 2020 is 1051 out of 1600. Compared to 1059, the score of the class of 2019, it is slightly down. But then, the question arises: what is a good SAT score? The rule of thumb is that any SAT score that places you in the top half of test takers is good. The higher above average your score is, the better. This means the opposite for a bad SAT score: the further you are below average, the less impressive your performance is.

For the class of 2020, every score above 1051 is a good SAT score. But of course, a “good score” depends on what you need to get into your dream school. If your university asks for a SAT score of 1300, then a score of 1200 is not good enough. Even if it is above average.

What SAT scores are needed for university?

Our recommendation is to get in touch with you dream school and figure out what minimum SAT score is required. For example, if you are applying to extremely competitive Ivy League-level schools, such as Harvard or Stanford, your goal score should be really high. This universities only look for the best of the best. Harvard’s average score for 2020 was 1515. The average score at Stanford University was 1480 in 2020. As you can see, you must put in some more effort to get into this universities.

But don’t get disappointed now. In the example above we only speak about the top Ivy League schools. If this is not your dream, your score doesn’t need to be this high too. For example, Penn State University’s average SAT score in 2020 was 1195. San Francisco State University has an average SAT score of 1050, and California State University Los Angeles’ average SAT score is 990. So, don’t worry too much. If you want to learn more about the SAT scores you need to get into your dream school, we found a list that shows exactly what SAT score you need for university. Work as hard as you can, go for the SAT score that you want and need, and you will find a school that suits you perfectly.

What’s next?

Start studying of course! Do you need help getting a dreamy SAT score? Or do you want to help other students by providing them your amazing SAT summaries, notes or document? Then head over to our SAT Exam Page to upload your documents, help other students and earn some easy money.