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An inside look at the SAT

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

What should I expect in the SAT tests? This blog seeks to tell you what to expect in the SAT as you prepare to enter the exam room. Knowing what to expect can be a huge confidence booster for anyone preparing to take any given exam. Some of the key elements that you need to know about the SAT include measuring what you have learned in high school and what you need to succeed in college. It is imperative that you adopt habits that can lead you to success. Some of these habits include:

i. Taking challenging courses

ii. Doing your homework

iii. Preparing for tests and quizzes instead of cramming and memorizing words and facts

iv. Asking and answering many questions to expand your understanding.

The main takeaway is that you should be prepared to take charge of your learning process by learning as much as you can. The key to learning lies in knowing what to expect, and this applies to the SAT, too, as it consists of a wide array of questions measuring different elements. This blog will help clarify things that will make your preparation for the SAT as effective as possible. Let’s take a look at the key components of the test.

Key Content Features


The SAT consists of three types of tests. These are the Writing and Language Test, the Reading Test, and the Math Test. Even though these tests test unique parameters, they are guided by similar principles.

Words in Context

The SAT does not use obscure words that may push students into memorizing them just for the exam. On the contrary, its questions focus on words and phrases that can be found in different subjects. Moreover, the SAT will ask you to figure out the meaning of words based on their context. You are likely to encounter such words in college or the workplace, long after you have taken the test.

Command of Evidence

The other key feature of the SAT is its command of evidence, as it will not ask you questions from the blues. After reading the passages in the test, you will be asked to interpret, synthesize, and incorporate evidence from a wide range of sources. For instance, after reading a passage, you will be asked questions that seek to create a better understanding of the author's intentions and their approach to persuading the audience. You will have to analyze how the author incorporates evidence, reasons, or uses stylistic devices. Your critical reasoning and analytic capabilities are the elements that scorers will be looking for when grading you.

Analyzing Essay

The SAT has been redesigned to test your essay analysis skills. To this end, the SAT supports both students and teachers as they hone their close reading, clear writing, and careful analysis skills. You must be aware of the fact that the prompts in the SAT will be the same every time, but the source material you will be asked to write about will be different every time.

Real-World Context

The questions you will encounter in the SAT will always be grounded in the real world. You will also be tested on skills that will be beneficial to you in college and later on in life, such as editing, revising, and improving texts from different disciplines.

Writing and Language Test

This test asks you to edit and improve texts prepared specifically for the test. Such passages include deliberate errors. To edit and improve the texts, you will need to use practical skills such as reading, finding errors, and fixing them. These are skills you have developed since high school, and you will need them to succeed in college. This is why the SAT tests them. As you prepare to take the Writing and Language Test, there are a few things you need to know. These include the fact that the test does not test your prior knowledge, all the questions are based on passages, and some passages are accompanied by informational graphics that require no math.

The Writing and Language Test measures elements that include the command of evidence, word contextualization, analysis skills, expression of ideas, and Standard English conventions.

Reading Test

Like the Writing and Language Test, the Reading test include that focuses on everyday aspects. Essentially, the Reading Test measures how you absorb information, analyze it, and put it into use. You have had this skill set for years, and you still need it to succeed in college. Given that the Reading Test emphasizes applicable knowledge, you will not be tested on how well you cram or memorize words. The quick facts about the Reading Test that you need to know are that the questions are multiple-choice and based on the provided passages, some passages are paired with other passages, and informational graphics may accompany some passages, but no math is required.

From a general perspective, the Reading Test will require you to read passages, interpret informational graphics, and answer questions. Reading skills will be instrumental in college as you will need to apply them in all subjects, and more importantly, in the Reading Test. The elements that the Reading Test measures include the command of evidence, word contextualization, and analytic skills.

SAT Math Test

This test emphasizes problem-solving, modeling, strategic use of tools and the use of algebraic structure. Similar to the other tests, the Math Test also focuses on the real world by asking questions that you will encounter in your personal life, at the workplace, and in the different college courses. Some quick facts you need to know about the SAT Math Test include its majorly multiple-choice nature, some sections will require you to come up with an answer, some parts will include several questions about a single scenario, and its division into parts that require a calculator and those that do not. The Math Test focuses on three major areas but also draws on additional topics such as geometry and trigonometry.

As far as the Math Test is concerned, the three areas that it focuses on include the Heart of Algebra, Problem-Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. These three essential areas focus on the mastery of linear equations, quantitative literature, and complex equations and their corresponding manipulations, respectively. To measure fluency, the Math Test tests students’ abilities to solve problems quickly by using the most efficient approaches as well as their abilities to flexibly, accurately, and strategically care out procedures. Besides fluency, the Math Test also measures conceptual understanding and application of the concepts in the real world. Critically, you need to know when and how to use a calculator in the Math Test.

The grid-in questions stand out in the Math Test as they are not multiple-choice questions. For these questions, you will need to solve the problem and enter your answer in the provided grids.

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