The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in theUnited States. Introduced in 1926, its name and scoring have changed several times; originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, it was later called the Scholastic Assessment Test, then the SAT I: Reasoning Test, then the SAT Reasoning Test, and now, simply the SAT.
The SAT is owned, developed, and published by the College Board, a private, non-profit organization in the United States. 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 to not be aligned with high school curricula, but several adjustments were made for the version of the SAT introduced in 2016, and College Board president, David Coleman, has said that he also wanted to make the test reflect more closely what students learned in high school.
On March 5, 2014, the College Board announced that a redesigned version of the SAT would be administered for the first time in 2016. The current SAT, introduced in 2016, takes three hours to finish, plus 50 minutes for the SAT with essay, and as of 2017 costs US$45 (US$57 with the optional essay), excluding late fees, with additional processing fees if the SAT is taken outside the United States. Scores on the SAT range from 400 to 1600, combining test results from two 800-point sections: mathematics, and critical reading and writing. Taking the SAT, or its competitor, the ACT, is required for freshman entry to many, but not all, colleges and universities in the United States. Starting with the 2015 -16 school year, the College Board also announced it would team up with Khan Academy, a free, online education site to provide SAT prep, free of charge.
The SAT has four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (no calculator), and Math (calculator allowed). 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). Some test-takers who are not taking the essay may also have a fifth section which is used, at least in part, for the pretesting of questions that may appear on future administrations of the SAT. (These questions are not included in the computation of the SAT score.) Two section scores result from taking the SAT: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. 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 no penalty for guessing on the SAT: scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly. In addition to the two section scores, three “test” scores on a scale of 10 to 40 are reported, one for each of Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. The essay, if taken, is scored separately from the two section scores.
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. Tables, graphs, and charts may accompany some passages, but no math is required to correctly answer the corresponding questions. 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. Each SAT Reading Test always includes one passage from U.S. or world literature; one passage from either a U.S. founding document or a related text; one passage about economics, psychology, sociology, or another social science; and, two science passages. Answers to all of the questions are based only on the content stated in or implied by the passage or passage pair.
Writing and Language Test
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. Reading passages on this test range in content from topic arguments to nonfiction narratives in a variety of subjects. The skills being evaluated include: increasing the clarity of argument; improving word choice; improving analysis of topics in social studies and science; changing a sentence or word structure to increase organizational quality and impact of writing; and, fixing or improving sentence structure, word usage, and punctuation.
An example of an SAT “grid-in” math question and the correctly gridded answer.
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. The multiple-choice questions have four possible answers; the grid-in questions are free-response and require the test taker to provide an answer.
Several scores are provided to the test taker for the math test. A subscore (on a scale of 1 to 15) is reported for each of three categories of math content: “Heart of Algebra” (linear equations, systems of linear equations, and linear functions), “Problem Solving and Data Analysis” (statistics, modeling, and problem-solving skills), and “Passport to Advanced Math” (non-linear expressions, radicals, exponential and other topics that form the basis of more advanced math). A test score for the math test is reported on a scale of 10 to 40, and a section score (equal to the test score multiplied by 20) is reported on a scale of 200 to 800.
All scientific and most graphing calculators, including Computer Algebra System (CAS) calculators, are permitted on the SAT Math Calculator section only. All four-function calculators are allowed as well; however, these devices are not recommended. All mobile phone and smartphone calculators, calculators with typewriter-like (QWERTY) keyboards, laptops, and other portable computers, and calculators capable of accessing the Internet are not permitted.
The research was conducted by the College Board to study the effect of calculator use on SAT I: Reasoning Test math scores. The study found that performance on the math section was associated with the extent of calculator use: those using calculators on about one third to one-half of the items averaged higher scores than those using calculators more or less frequently. However, the effect was “more likely to have been the result of able students using calculators differently than less able students rather than calculator use per sem. There is some evidence that the frequent use of a calculator in a school outside of the testing situation has a positive effect on test performance compared to those who do not use calculators in school.
Style of questions
Most of the questions on the SAT, except for the optional essay and the grid-in math responses, are multiple choice; all multiple-choice questions have four answer choices, one of which is correct. Thirteen of the questions on the math portion of the SAT (about 22% of all the math questions) are not multiple choice. They instead require the test taker to bubble in a number in a four-column grid.
All questions on each section of the SAT are weighted equally. For each correct answer, one raw point is added.No points are deducted for incorrect answers. The final score is derived from the raw score; the precise conversion chart varies between test administrations.
|Section||Average Score||Time (Minutes)||A�Content|
|Mathematics||527||80||Number and operations; algebra and functions; geometry; statistics, probability, and data analysis|
|Evidence-Based Reading and Writing||533||100||Vocabulary, Critical reading, sentence-level reading, Grammar, usage, and diction.|
The SAT is offered seven times a year in the United States: in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. The test is typically offered on the first Saturday of the month for the October, November, December, May, and June administrations. In other countries, the SAT is offered four times a year: in October, December, March, and May. The test was taken by 1,715,481 high school graduates in the class of 2017
Candidates wishing to take the test may register online at the College Board’s website, by mail, or by telephone, at least three weeks before the test date.
The SAT costs $45 ($57 with the optional essay), plus additional fees if testing outside the United States) as of 2017. The College Board makes fee waivers available for low-income students. Additional fees apply for late registration, standby testing, registration changes, scores by telephone, and extra score reports (beyond the four provided for free).
Candidates whose religious beliefs prevent them from taking the test on a Saturday may request to take the test on the following day, except for the October test date in which the Sunday test date is eight days after the main test offering. Such requests must be made at the time of registration and are subject to denial.
Students with verifiable disabilities, including physical and learning disabilities, are eligible to take the SAT with accommodations. The standard time increase for students requiring additional time due to learning disabilities or physical handicaps is time + 50%; time + 100% is also offered.
Raw scores, scaled scores, and percentiles
Students receive their online score reports approximately three weeks after test administration (six weeks for mailed, paper scores), with each section graded on a scale of 200-800 and two sub scores for the writing section: the essay score and the multiple-choice subscore. In addition to their score, students receive their percentile (the percentage of other test takers with lower scores). The raw score or the number of points gained from correct answers and lost from incorrect answers is also included. Students may also receive, for an additional fee, the Question and Answer Service, which provides the student’s answer, the correct answer to each question, and online resources explaining each question.
The corresponding percentile of each scaled score varies from test to test for example, in 2003, a scaled score of 800 in both sections of the SAT Reasoning Test corresponded to a percentile of 99.9, while a scaled score of 800 in the SAT Physics Test corresponded to the 94th percentile. The differences in what scores mean with regard to percentiles are due to the content of the exam and the caliber of students choosing to take each exam. Subject Tests are subject to intensive study (often in the form of an AP, which is relatively more difficult), and only those who know they will perform well tend to take these tests, creating a skewed distribution of scores.
The percentiles that various SAT scores for college-bound seniors correspond to are summarized in the following chart:
|Percentile||The score, 1600 Scale
|The score, 2400 Scale
|* The percentile of the perfect score was 99.98 on the 2400 scale and 99.93 on the 1600 scale.|
The older SAT (before 1995) had a very high ceiling. In any given year, only seven of the million test-takers scored above 1580. A score above 1580 was equivalent to the 99.9995 percentile.
In 2015 the average score for the Class of 2015 was 1490 out of a maximum of 2400. That was down 7 points from the previous class as mark and was the lowest composite score of the past decade.