Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) - All You Need to Know

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a Standardised College admission test for admissions into colleges at the undergraduate level in the US and in a few other countries. The SAT is conducted by the College Board, a private, not-for-profit Corporation in the US that owns and publishes the SAT an also administers the PSAT and the AP (Advanced Placement) program. It is administered on behalf of the College Board by the Educational Testing Service, which until recently developed the SAT as well. The test is intended to assess students' readiness for college. The SAT was originally designed not to be aligned with high school curricula.

The SAT is a standardized test meant to show schools how prepared you are for college by measuring key skills like reading comprehension, computational ability, and clarity of expression.
SAT Exams in progress

History of SAT:

During the 1900s many college entrance exams in the US were specific to colleges and thus students were expected to go to these colleges and give these tests. This created a lot of stress for the students as they had to write multiple tests for various colleges in order to have a wide range of options in hand.

The College Board, a consortium of colleges, was set up in the year 1900 to formulate a uniform entrance test at the national level based on the existing high school curriculum. The objective here was to test the students seeking admissions into Colleges/Universities at the undergraduate level on the knowledge acquired by them at school. The Board initially formulated a series of Essay tests which were to be implemented across all member colleges and in other colleges as well. The tests were accepted as a common examination for admissions into the Ivy League, the Seven Sisters and other American colleges.

During the early 1900s schools in America had started administering IQ tests to students, which served the purpose of identifying bright minds and helping them pursue higher education at a young age. This model of IQ tests was adopted from the Army Alpha tests conducted by the government for recruiting freshers into the army. This led the College Board to design an aptitude test in the lines of the other existing tests, which ultimately lead to the development of SAT.

In the year 1934 James Conant, then President of Harvard University and Henry Chauncey, Founder and then President of the Educational Testing Service, used the SAT as a means to identify recipients for scholarships to Harvard University. The test was used to award scholarships to students who did not belong to the traditional northeastern private schools (a large number of Harvard grad students back there were from the northeastern parts of America) by way of measuring the intellectual and Academic promise they displayed.

The success of SAT as a scholarship test prompted the College Board to nationalise the test. Thus the Essay tests gave way to the SAT as a standardised College admission test for admissions into colleges. By the 1940s, it had become the standard test for all college applicants and was administered to over 300,000 people across America.

Now tests are written by students across countries who seek admissions into Universities/Colleges either in the USA or in others countries where colleges accept SAT scores for entry at the undergraduate level. (SAT scores are accepted by Universities across various countries)

SAT Pattern:

The SAT has four sections:

  • Reading - The Reading Test of the SAT is made up of one section with 52
    questions and a time limit of 65 minutes. All questions are multiple-choice and based on reading passages. There are five passages (up to two of which may be a pair of smaller passages) on the Reading Test and 10-11 questions per passage or passage pair. SAT Reading passages draw from three main fields: history, social studies, and science.
  • Writing and Language - The Writing and Language Test of the SAT is made up of one section with 44 multiple-choice questions and a time limit of 35 minutes. As with the Reading Test, all questions are based on reading passages which may be accompanied by tables, graphs, and charts. The test taker will be asked to read the passages, find mistakes or weaknesses in writing, and to provide corrections or improvements.
  • Mathematics - The mathematics portion of the SAT is divided into two sections: Math Test – Calculator and Math Test – No Calculator. In total, the SAT math test is 80 minutes long and includes 58 questions: 45 multiple choice questions and 13 grid-in questions. There are two sections under the Mathematics section, which are-
  • The Math TestNo Calculator section - has 20 questions (15 multiple choice and 5 grid-in) and lasts 25 minutes.
  • The Math TestCalculator section - has 38 questions (30 multiple choice and 8 grid-in) and lasts 55 minutes.

All scientific and most graphing calculators, including Computer Algebra System (CAS) calculators, are permitted on the SAT Math – Calculator section only.

The test taker may optionally write an essay which, in that case, is the fifth test section. The total time for the scored portion of the SAT is three hours (or three hours and fifty minutes if the optional essay section is taken).

SAT Marking Scheme:

Section scores are reported on a scale of 200 to 800, and each section score is a multiple of ten. A total score for the SAT is calculated by adding the two section scores, resulting in total scores that range from 400 to 1600 (there is another 2400 scale as well). There is no penalty for guessing on the SAT: scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly.

SAT pattern, ACT Pattern

The SAT's dominance of college admissions testing was challenged with the creation of the ACT in 1959. Though initially much less popular than the SAT, the ACT took hold in the Midwest and the mountain states and, in 2010, actually surpassed the SAT to become the most popular college admissions test. Thus internationally all high school students who wish to take up college education in the United States (or in certain other countries) need to appear for SAT (or any other entrance test, eg.ACT).

Vidyalai offers online interactive one-to-one classes from subject experts for SAT exam, providing a personalized learning experience i.e. individually-paced and targeted learning.

Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) - All You Need to Know
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