Succeeding on the SAT exam

SAT examWhat is the SAT exam?

The SAT exam is used by most colleges and universities to consider an application for admission. College admissions officers will review the standardized test scores as well as high school exam results, school subjects, letters of recommendation, admission interviews, and personal essays. The SAT test skills learned in high school likely to be needed in college and in the workplace.

A higher score on the SAT means more options in attending and paying for college.

Most high school students take the SAT during their junior or senior year.

What does the SAT exam cover?

The SAT exam covers Maths and reading and writing. The SAT also covers an optional essay section. SAT Essay scores are reported separately from the other test scores.  Some colleges require the completion of the SAT essay.

The official SAT exam has three or four questions that ask you to provide information that is mentioned explicitly in the passage, i.e, summarizing the passage.

Explicit information questions will ask about facts. These questions might begin as follows:

  • According to the passage…
  • The passage states that…
  • The author indicates that…

The best answer will paraphrase the statement from the passage.  A common error is to refer to the wrong information in the passage.  Another common error is unsupported claims, for example, making a statement that makes sense but is not supported by the passage.

Evidence-based reading and writing

You will be asked to analyze, synthesize, and interpret data from a wide range of sources.  These can include graphs, tables, charts, and texts in the areas of literature, literacy, humanities, science, history, social studies, work, and career.

For each passage there is at least one question asking you to identify which part of the text supports your answer. There will be a question that requires analysis of given graphics, a chart or a table.

The SAT essay also tests your command of evidence.  You will be asked to determine how an argument in the text is used to persuade an audience through the use of evidence, reasoning, or persuasive devices.

The Math part of the exam

The math tests focus on three areas of mathematics:

  • Problem-solving and Data analysis – the use of ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning.
  • Algebra – linear equations and systems
  • Passport to Advanced Math –  complex equations and manipulation of these equations.

How long is the SAT?

The SAT exam is either three hours without the optional essay, or three hours and fifty minutes with the essay.

  • Reading test – 65 minutes with 52 questions
  • Writing and language test – 35 minutes with 44 questions
  • Maths test – 25 minutes and 20 questions with a calculator, and 55 minutes and 38 questions with a calculator.
  • Optional essay – 50 minutes

How is the SAT scored?

Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale from 200 to 800 points.  The total is the sum of each section’s scores. The highest score is 1600, not including the optional essay which is scored separately.

No points are deducted for wrong answers.  It is important not to leave anything blank.

How do you register for the SAT exam?

The SAT registration deadline is five weeks before each exam date.  You can register online at the College Board website 


Tips and strategies

1. The two-pass strategy for time management: 

The two-pass strategy.  This is a strategy for time management while working through a group of questions.  It can help to ensure that you do not run out of time before you have had the chance to work on the easiest questions.

Pass one: find the easiest questions and answer them first.

Make a tiny mark to the left of the number of the question on the answer sheet. This will reduce the chance of accidentally missing the question. Erase the mark before time is called on the section.

Reading test: In the reading test, if you find the first paragraph difficult to understand, consider skipping the entire passage and coming back to it later. By the time you come back to the passage, your subconscious mind will have been working on a solution.

Writing and Language test: Skip the questions that you are having the most trouble within each passage and come back to them later. There may be easier questions toward the end.

Math Test: In your first pass, do not spend more that one minute on each question.  Circles questions that you will come back to later.

Pass two: Choose the remaining questions in your remaining time.

Reading test: The right answer will have evidence that supports it in the passage, find the evidence and you have your answer.

Writing and language test: Answer the questions to do with grammar and punction first, these questions tend to be easier.  Questions about logical sentence order tend to be more time-consuming.

Math test: Leave the most difficult questions to last

2. The level of difficulty strategy for time management:

Every question is worth the same, so work on the easiest first.  Some questions might take a few seconds to answer and other questions might take five minutes, however, each question is worth one point.

Math Test: The question in each section increase in difficulty throughout the section.  Work on the first questions in each section first.

Reading Test: The passages in the reading test vary in complexity. Skip the hard questions in each passage.  You might find the last passage easier to answer.  Once you have work on the easy question, then go back and work on the easier questions in order of difficulty.

Tip: Do not overthink.  The questions are not designed to trick you.  If you answer the question that is being asked, and you choose the answer that has the best-supporting evidence, then you are most likely to succeed.

Tip: Do not spend too much time on difficult questions, however, do not jump around passages too much.  Going from one passage to another can create confusion.

Tip: Remember, there is no penalty for guessing.

Aaron Skudder


  1. Hi, this is an amazing article you have got here. In my country it is called the entrance exam or a test. The SAT Exam is carried out to ensure that the right/qualified candidates are admitted into the institution. Students who do well during SAT exam are student that equip themselves via; studying as well as getting the right information on how to succeed. However I consider this information important for all SAT candidates.

    thanks for sharing this with me.

  2. Hello there! Thanks for this amazing review, also have heard about SAT exams,but reading this review I now know the full meaning of SAT exams. I promise to tell this to  the younger ones so that they can be well informed about this exams. With this most people will be well prepared for the exams so as to avoid any form of misbehavior.

    Thanks for sharing this with me.

  3. Hello there! This is an amazing review you’ve got here, its highly informative and I’ve learnt a lot from this post especially how to manage time while writing the exams. I’ll save this post so I can share it with my friends and also go over it again to understand very well.


  4. Many people often lament about how difficult they find tests and exams and I used to be one of those people. The SAT is actually a tough exam but I believe with the right level of preparation and time management, one could pass in flying colors. The tips listed in this post are very helpful and I’ll be sure to tell my nephew, who’s looking to write his SATs.

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