What is the SAT? – The Comprehensive Guide


The SAT is the most frequently administered test by College Board, a nonprofit organization that runs programs such as PSAT (Preliminary SAT), AP, and CLEP. The SAT is used by many colleges and universities throughout the United States to determine who they are going to accept.

What is the SAT?

In 1926, College Board introduced SAT test, adapted from the Army Alpha which was an IQ test used to measure the intelligence of US Army recruits. Since then it has evolved into the modern SAT that is currently being administered by College Board.

Just like the ACT, SAT is a college entrance exam used by many colleges in the United States to determine the students they are going to accept. SAT is a multiple choice question type exam, pencil, and paper test administered by the nonprofit organization College Board.

The SAT is a 3-hour and 15 minutes long exam with breaks and it has two SAT sections which are the math section and the evidence-based reading and writing section. The perfect score for SAT would be 1600 and the average SAT score is 1060.

The number of students who have taken the SAT has increased in the last few years, in 2020 there were 2.2 million students who took the SAT test.

The Purpose of the SAT

The purpose of the SAT test is to measure high school student’s readiness for college and give colleges a common point to determine which students they are going to accept.

College admission offices will review your high school GPA, classes you took, and extracurricular activities. letter of recommendation from teachers and mentors and personal essays along with your SAT score to determine if they are going to accept you.

History of SAT

In 1926, The College Board introduced the SAT test as Scholastic Aptitude Test. However, later they found that aptitude means “the natural ability to do something” which really made no sense.

So, College Board decided to change what SAT stands for into the Scholastic Assessment Test in 1990. They also divided the SAT test into two parts called SAT 1: Reasoning Test and SAT 2: Subject Tests. However, again there was a collision since the word “assessment” was also a synonym for “test” making SAT mean Scholastic Test Test.

So, in 1997 College Board decided to change the name back to SAT where the acronym S-A-T had no meaning. Since 1997, the SAT test has been through multiple transformations to make the test better. Most of the changes and restructuring were made to fight off coaching and cheating.

The SAT is still the most frequented test by students for college entrance. In 2020; there were 2.2 million students who took SAT while there were 1.7 million students who took the ACT test for college entrance.

However, if you compare ACT vs SAT, you would find that they are more similar today than it was in the past.

What is on the SAT?


The current SAT test administered by the College Board has three sections including an optional essay section:

  • Reading – Test takers have to answer a series of questions using the paragraph they read. All the questions are multiple-choice questions and some questions will have tables, charts, or graphs. The total time given for SAT reading section is 65 minutes.
  • Writing and Language – Students have to read the passage and then identify and fix the mistakes in the language. The total time given for the Writing and Language section is 35 minutes.
  • Mathematics – Test takes are asked to answer mathematical problems from subjects such as Algebra, basic trigonometry, geometry, and complex problems. The total time for SAT mathematics section is 80 minutes.
  • Essay (Optional) – In the optional essay you have to read a passage and make an argument based on the passage. This part is completely optional and the total time given is 50 minutes.

How much time does SAT test take?

The SAT test is a 3 hours long exam with three sections, it would take 3 hours and 15 minutes with breaks included. If you decide to take the optional essay section then the SAT exam would take 3 hours and 50 minutes.

How the SAT is Scored?

Each section of the SAT test is scored on a 200-800 scale. So, the mathematical section would get a 200-800 score as well as the reading/writing section getting a 200-800 score. Your total score would be the total score you get on those two sections. The highest possible SAT score is 1600 which is the perfect SAT score.

Conclusion – What is the SAT?

The SAT is a multiple choice question test with two sections administered by College Board to help colleges decide who are they going to accept. The SAT exam takes 3 hours and 15 minutes with breaks included and the highest SAT score you can take is 1600 after the changes made to SAT in 2016.

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