Nearly every high school student has heard of the SAT, that nearly four-hour exam that is supposed to gauge how well a student will fare academically in their first year of college. But what exactly is this test all about, why is it so important, who would benefit from taking it and what is a good sat score? Here are the answers to those and other questions commonly asked about the SAT Reasoning Test.
The history of the SAT
Developed in 1941, the SAT was first introduced as an IQ test and was known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Many people are surprised to learn that the SAT initials no longer stand for anything after there was debate over what the word “aptitude" really meant. “Scholastic Assessment Test" was also suggested but quickly rejected as English teachers pointed out the redundancy of using assessment and test since the words have basically the same meaning.
What is the SAT?
The SAT is a standardized test open to anyone over the age of 12 who plans to attend a post-secondary college or university in the United States. This test is usually taken by high school students prior to graduation and the only requirement is to pay the registration fee, which can be waived depending on circumstances. The student then has the option of sending their official test scores to the schools that they would like to attend.
The test consists of multiple choice questions and is broken down into sections, each containing sub-sections, that are designed to measure the student's knowledge of math, critical reading, and writing. The SAT is administered seven times each year during the months of January, March, or, at times, April, May, June, October, November, and December. The test is usually on the first or second Saturday of those months and generally begins at 8 AM and ends a bit after 12 PM.
The types of questions found on the SAT are sentence completions, which basically measure your knowledge of words and their meanings, critical reading, and grammar/writing questions. There are also two types of math questions (multiple choice and grid ins) as well as an essay question to complete.
Who should take the SAT?
If anyone is considering obtaining some type of post-secondary schooling, they should definitely consider taking the exam whether they think they'll do well or not. In fact, there are many colleges and universities who actually require that prospective students take the test to even be considered for admission. Many academic scholarships also require minimum SAT scores for eligibility and some even offer the scholarships based on the students scores and grade point averages. On the other hand, some schools are “SAT optional. "
Can the SAT be taken more than once?
Students should be aware that if they take the SAT more than once, many schools receive all of the scores from the College Board. It is for this reason that students should not take the test excessively (more than three times), and should also be sure to improve their score with each subsequent test. Some schools allow high schools to send student score reports.
However, a benefit to testing more than once is that many schools will generously take the highest score from each section and combine them into one final score. More and more students are taking the test just prior to their senior year of high school, but the latest it can be taken in order to be eligible for the next year's admissions is the fall of the senior year.
Bottom line: Check with your prospective schools about their policies surrounding SAT scores. You may find they don't even require the exam! If you DO need to take the SAT, learn more about SAT preparation .
Jason McDonald is an SAT tutor in the Portland area of Maine. He helps students across the country with a free SAT diagnostic exam analysis . Jason’s focus is on helping all students obtain a good SAT score .