SAT Study Guide/Introduction
What is the SAT?
The SAT Reasoning Test, formerly the SAT I: Reasoning Test, is a college entrance examination administered several times a year by the non-profit College Board. The exam is used by many colleges and universities in the United States, among other factors, to determine acceptance into undergraduate school. The SAT is not the only test you can take for college admission, but it is the most widely used. The other most common test is the ACT. Interestingly, SAT does not stand for anything (neither does ACT). If you plan to attend college after graduating from high school, the SAT is one of the most important tests you will ever take. You should be sure to take it seriously and study hard, using books such as this one.
The SAT is a timed test of approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes, divided into three sections: the Math section, the Critical Reading section, and the Writing section, which includes a written essay. Each section is graded on a scale of 200-800. Scaling allows the College Board to correct minor variations in difficulty between versions of the tests. On the test itself, there are ten sets of questions: three from each section. Each section has a different time limit; each question has five answers. One of the Writing section sets is the essay, which is also always Section 1. One of the sections is known as an equating section and does not count in anyway towards your score; it is used to test new questions and compare the difficulty of different exams.
Until recently, the SAT had only two sections. The Writing section was added in 2005 and the other two sections were overhauled. As a result, you now have to use concepts from Algebra 2 in the Math section, but analogies have been removed from Critical Reading. Collectively, the new test is referred to as the New SAT. The maximum possible score on the new test is 2400. According to the College Board, only 107 students out of 330,000 scored a perfect score on the date of its first administration on March 12, 2005.
How is the SAT scored?
The SAT is scored in a different manner than most tests you are probably used to. On the SAT, a grading theory is used where the student begins with a raw score of zero. You earn 1 point for each correct answer, lose 1/4 of a point for each wrong answer, and receive no credit (but also lose no points) for leaving a question blank. However, note also that there are 10 questions in the math section which require you to provide your own numerical answer; fortunately, no points are deducted for wrong answers on these questions. The raw score is then converted using a chart developed by the College Board into a scaled score. Note that although scores under 200 are possible, the College Board cancels all scores which fall into this category.
For the essay, a special method of scoring is used. The essay is scanned into a computer and transmitted over the internet to approved graders. Two graders read your essay and give you a score of 0-6. A zero score is only awarded if your answer is completely off topic. If the two scores are more than one point apart, a third grader plays tie-breaker. The two scores are added together (or the third grader's score is doubled) to produce a score in the range of 0-12. This score is then used in conjunction with your writing multiple-choice raw score to produce the scaled score.
The reason for this method of grading is that the College Board's exam writers understand you are not likely to be able to answer every question on the test. They also know that guessing on these tests would ruin the accuracy of the scores. The loss of points for wrong answers is known as the guessing penalty.
How do I take the SAT?
You can register for the SAT in one of two ways, either via the College Board's website or by obtaining a mail-in registration form from your high school's counseling center.
Detailed instructions for registering and other related information are available from either location. Make sure to save a copy of your Admission Ticket and to bring it with you to the testing center, along with a Photo ID. It is recommended that you register online, as this will automatically tie your registration to an online account. About 4 weeks after you take the test, your score will then become available online, and you will be able to easily view it.
There are several options available: You can choose to order the Question and Answer Service, which provides you with your answer to each question, the correct answer, and the question itself, as well as why each answer is the correct one. You may also order the College Board's SAT Online Course. Other official study guides are available, and their purchase is up to you.
How do I get my scores?
Scores first become available online about 2 weeks after the date on which you took the test. After about 3 weeks, you will receive a Score Report in the mail, detailing your performance. If you registered online, you will simply need to log in to your College Board website account and click View my Scores in the My Organizer pane. If not, you will need to set up an account. You will need the SAT registration identification number found on your Admission Ticket, and all other related information. The website will provide with complete instructions on exactly what to do.