The SAT: Where Do I Start?


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By Kathryn Puharic, Staff Writer

For many juniors and seniors, this time of year can be extremely stressful. Amidst AP classes and college applications, the SAT is often seen as a starting point for college planning. Scores on the SAT can help students determine what college they want to go to, and also help identify target and reach schools. But for many, preparing for the SAT is extremely difficult, as it is unlike most other tests that we take in high school. 

So..What is the SAT?

The SAT is a type of standardized test taken by students all around the country. The test itself is around 4 hours, composed of 5 sections: 

  • Section 1: The Reading Test. 65 Minutes with 52 questions
  • Section 2: The Writing and Language Test. 35 minutes with 44 questions
  • Section 3 The Math Test with No Calculator. 25 minutes with 20 questions
  • Section 4: The Math Test with Calculator. 35 minutes with 38 questions
  • Section 5: The Experimental Section (Either a Reading passage or Math). 20 minutes with about 10-15 questions

The test itself is challenging for many students (including myself!) due to the complex reading and math questions tested in such a short period of time. Preparation for the SAT is therefore necessary in order to do well on the test.

How do I prepare for the SAT?

Our school offers SAT classes for both Reading and Math that help students prepare for the exam. In these classes, teachers offer tips on how to solve questions and review practice exams with students. To prepare for the June SAT last year, I attended a practice session for Reading and found many of the tips to be very helpful!

Another beneficial tool to use in preparation for the SAT is the official SAT study guide, written by CollegeBoard (the creators of the SAT). The study guide includes tips and 8 realistic practice exams with questions for every section. This study guide is extremely helpful in preparing for the SAT as it prepares students for what the actual exam will look like. The study guide is only $20 on Amazon and is worth the cost for getting a good score! When finished, you can input your correct answers onto free websites and learn your practice score to better gauge what your actual score will be.

There are also many online options to help prepare for the SAT. Websites such as Khan Academy can partner with your CollegeBoard account to create a personalized experience and focus on questions that you may have gotten wrong on your PSATs. Khan Academy also has helpful videos and review questions for further instruction. The Princeton Review also hosts SAT prep classes for students that cover all areas of the SAT.

While the SAT is a very stressful experience, hard work and practice often pay off into a high score. Plus, in recent years many colleges have gone test optional and do not require students to send in SAT scores as a part of their application. While many schools do not require them, the SATs are a great way to improve your college applications and may even help you get scholarships in the future!