College entrance exams

The SAT is the standardized test used to assist colleges and universities in evaluating potential entrants. The SAT (previously called the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the Scholastic Assessment Test) was first developed in 1926. The test is administered by the College Board, a private, non-profit organization. Scoring is performed by the Educational Testing Service.

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The New SAT

The old SAT had only two sections - math and verbal - and was scored out of 1600, with each section accounting for 800 points. Recently revamped, the test is now often referred to as the SAT II. It consists of math, critical reading and writing sections, and is now scored on a scale of 200 to 800 for each of the three sections. Thus, a perfect score is now 2400. Less than ten percent of students score higher than 600, and the math section is said to be equally as difficult. The average SAT score is 1500.

The new SAT contains multiple choice questions for the grammar portion, which falls under critical reading. In the revised math section, extra algebra and short reading passages replace the analogies and quantitative comparisons of the older version.

A fourth section of experimental questions is included on the test, but is not scored. It's used to help develop questions for future versions of the SAT. Students aren't told which section is the experimental section.

Preparing for the SAT

Upon registering on the College Board's website, a number of SAT preparation materials will be available for downloading, including the popular option of practice questions.

Peterson and Kaplan are both reputable names in SAT preparation, but many other preparation programs and services are available online. It's a good idea to check out several different sites to compare services and costs.

Preparation begins with the individual, so your best strategy for success is to study hard. Follow these steps to get the results you're looking for:

  • Familiarize yourself with the format of the test. Prepare ahead of time for the wording and phrasing you'll encounter in the questions. Remember that mistakes, incorrect guesses and accidental marks on your test sheet will cost you.
  • Choose a date for taking the test, and plan your studying around that date. Get an early start, so you have time to learn everything and review the material several times. Cramming the night before will not benefit you.

Many prospective SAT writers choose to take the PSAT, which is a practice version of the actual SAT.

Taking the Test

Students have seven chances to write the SAT every calendar year: October, November, December, January, March / April, May and June. The test is typically written on the first Saturday of the month.

International Students

Students from outside the U.S. who wish to attend an American college are often expected to write the SAT - it is used to gauge their academic abilities, and how they compare to U.S. students.

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