SAT Test Format and Scoring

What is SAT? SAT Test Format and Scoring

The SAT is a standardized and general test of verbal and quantitative reasoning which is required by many US colleges and universities as part of their admission process. Originally, it was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and now it is known as SAT. It is a three-hour test that measures the verbal and mathematical reasoning skills that students have developed over time. Many colleges and universities use the SAT as one of the admission criteria among others such as, class rank, GPA, participation in extracurricular activities, personal essay and letters of recommendation.  SAT Test Format and Scoring

SAT consists of two different examinations:  SAT Test Format and Scoring

  • The SAT Reasoning Test (Earlier known as SAT I)
  • The SAT Subject Test (Earlier known as SAT II)

Some institutions require only one of these tests whereas some require both.

The SAT Reasoning Test:

It is a three hour and forty-five minute test which comprises of three sections: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. This test is designed to measure critical thinking and analytical skills.

1)    MATHEMATICS:  SAT Test Format and Scoring

In this section, students are tested on basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry and a few miscellaneous topics such as data interpretation and applied math.

Questions are of two main types:

  • Problem solving – multiple choice (5 answer choice)
  • Student-produced response questions (‘grid-ins’)

 The three sections are as follows:

  • One section contains 8 questions and 10 grid-ins (duration-25 minutes)
  • One section contains 20 questions (duration- 25 minutes)
  • One section containing 16 questions (duration- 20 minutes)

There are a total of 54 scored math questions in one test.

Each of the divisions has a maximum score of 800, giving a maximum overall score of 2400. Students can use calculators during the test.


The critical reading section tests the student’s ability to read and understand written English. There are two types of questions:

  • Sentence Completion
  • Reading Comprehension

3)  WRITING:  SAT Test Format and Scoring

 Writing skills are tested through:

  • One Essay – Duration being 25 minutes
  • Grammar questions – having two sections, one of 25 minutes and another of 10 minutes

The grammar questions are of three types:

  • Identification of errors in sentences
  • Sentence correction
  • Editing in context

The SAT Subject Test:

They are a series of one-hour multiple-choice tests in subjects such as Literature, US and World History, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

Some universities will also require two to three SAT Subject Tests, in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test. Some courses have specific requirements. A student can give up to three subject tests on the same day. However, it is not possible to sit for the SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests on the same day.

SAT Registration:  SAT Test Format and Scoring

Students have two registration options, namely- Online registration and postal mail registration.

For online registration, students must go to the College Board website. To register by mail, students have to get a SAT Paper Registration Guide. In online registration, registration fees must be paid via credit card. To register by postal mail, payment must be made by cheque.  The registration deadlines are generally three to four weeks before the test date.

What to bring during the SAT?  SAT Test Format and Scoring

  • Admission ticket
  • A valid photo ID
  • Pencils with erasers
  • A calculator
  • A watch to keep track of time

SAT Scoring:

In the Math, Reading and Writing Sections-

  • 1 point is awarded for each correct answer
  • In case questions are skipped or answered incorrectly there is no negative marking.
  • Total scores range between 400 and 800

Since marks are not deducted for incorrect answers, students should try to answer all the questions.

In the Essay-

Students are required to refer to the passage and write a well-thought out argument.

  • Two readers read and score a student’s essay based on his reading, analysis, and writing abilities.
  • Each reader gives the essay a score ranging between 1 and 4 points in each category, for a total possible score of 8 points.

SAT Results

The SAT score report will be available online approximately two to three weeks after the student has given his test. If a student is registered for the test online and wants to receive a score report on paper in addition to the online score report, then he must request for it at the time of registration.

Sending SAT Scores:

SAT score reporting policy, called the Score Choice, allows students to pick and choose which scores they want to send to the colleges, thereby giving students more control over how and when colleges receive their scores.

Every time a student takes the SAT, the scores for each test are maintained separately. If a student takes the SAT multiple times, he can select which test scores are to be submitted to the colleges. If a student does not use the Score Choice, all the test scores will be sent to colleges.

Students can select up to four colleges to send SAT scores at the time of registration. However, if a student decides to go for this option, he will not be able to view his scores before the score reports are sent to those four colleges.

Cancelling SAT Scores:  SAT Test Format and Scoring

A student can submit a request to cancel his SAT scores. However, cancelling scores is an extreme measure and hence it is recommended to do so only if a student had to leave the testing centre in the middle of the test due to an emergency which makes him believe that the score will not be good. Once such a request is made, the score will never be reported to the student or any college.