The Beginner’s Guide to the SAT

SAT Prep | Admissionado

The SAT is a critical part of the application process to U.S. colleges. If you’re just getting started looking into the SAT, it can definitely seem a bit overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve put together a helpful SAT overview here that includes information about how the SAT is structured, the topics it tests, how it’s scored, and how to register. Keep reading to learn all of these things and take an important first step in your journey towards college!

What’s tested on the SAT?

The SAT consists of three separate sections: Evidence-Based Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. The Evidence-Based Reading Test is half of your reading and writing score and consists of 52 questions on a series of passages. These passage topics range from literature to natural sciences, and test your ability to think and read critically. You’ll have 65 minutes to work through these 52 questions, so you’re going to have to move pretty quickly. But don’t worry, that speed will come with (lots of) practice!
The other half of your reading and writing score on the SAT comes from the Writing and Language test. You’ll have 35 minutes to take this part of the SAT where you’ll answer 44 questions about grammar and writing style. If you’re curious about how writing can be tested in a multiple choice format, check out these sample writing questions.

In addition to these two sections, you’ll also have to complete a Math section that tests your knowledge of algebra, geometry, and a little trigonometry, too. While the Math section does make up half of your score, you don’t have the same amount of time for it. You only have 80 minutes for the Math section compared with 100 minutes on the Reading and Writing section. Also, it’s important to note that you won’t be able to use a calculator on the whole Math section. There’s one 25 minute section where a calculator is not permitted, so be sure to brush up on your pencil and paper math skills!

While that probably sounds like a lot to learn—and it is a lot—you can totally do it. All you need is to stick to a really good SAT study schedule. With a solid SAT study plan that outlines how long to study, what study materials to use, and what to study each day, you’ll be able to crush the SAT in no time at all (well, at least a month of studying!).

Now that you know what’s tested on the SAT, let’s take a look at how the SAT is scored.

How is the SAT scored?

A perfect score on the SAT is a 1600, which is comprised of 800 points from the Writing and Reading section and 800 points from the Math section. The score for each of these two sections ranges from a 200 to an 800 and is based on a scaled score, rather than your raw score, which is just the total number of questions you got right. So, when you take an SAT practice test, remember to use the scoring conversion table to see what your actual SAT score would be, not your raw score.

It’s always a good idea to have an idea of what schools you’d like to go to and what scores they require. This information will serve as a tremendous motivator when you’re studying!

How do I register for the SAT?

Now that you have a sense of what the SAT tests and how it’s scored, let’s take a quick look at how to register for it. You can register online for the SAT by creating an account with College Board, the organization that administers the SAT. College Board also offers some free resources to help you learn more about the SAT and how to study for it, so be sure to spend some time on their site getting familiar with the SAT structure and question types.

Once you’ve registered for the SAT and picked your SAT test date, you’ll want to decide how you should study for the SAT. Most students find it helpful to sign up for an SAT prep course to help them stay on track and to have a teacher that can answer questions. However, some students prefer to study on their own, so don’t rule that out if you’re a diligent student who prefers to work at her own pace.

No matter whether you take a course or study on your own, you’ll need a good SAT study plan to help you organize your time. To learn more about how and what to study for the SAT, check out a free SAT study guide like this free SAT ebook. Spend a little time up front deciding how you want to study and what materials you want to use. This initial planning will make your SAT study time that much more efficient—and leave some free time for the things you love!


The SAT is a crucial part of your college application, but it should not be an overwhelming task. Spend some time learning about the format and subjects tested on the SAT, and then find a study plan that works for you and your school schedule. With some help from a great tutor or helpful study guide, or both, you’ll be on your way to getting your target SAT score and into the college of your dreams!


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