The SAT: What You Need To Know


Many people say junior year is the worst year of high school. From harder classes to more responsibilities in your extracurriculars; no wonder people say this. One of the hardest parts about junior year is the preparation for the SAT and the stress that comes with it. So what even is the SAT?

The SAT is a three-hour Scholastic Assessment Test meant to test student readiness for college. It is not an IQ test but more of a college admissions test. 

Weedsport Jr. Sr. High School Guidance Counselor Jessica Bradtke calls the test a “college entrance exam.” She said, “…The way I describe it to students when they take their PSATs is that the SAT is essentially a test of what you know. They are testing you on the subjects of ELA and Math and a majority of the questions should be tested on what you already learned in high school with a few challenge questions woven in there with things you maybe just learned or have not quite learned but you have the concepts to put the answer together.”

The test consists of four passages: Reading, Writing and Language, Math No Calculator, and Math Calculator Ok. 

The Reading passage has 52 questions and 5 reading passages with 65 minutes to finish. These questions have to do with reading comprehension. The passages include a literary passage, a humanities passage usually an historical primary source, a natural science passage, a social science passage, and a paired passage which usually consists of two mini passages with conflicting views on something. One or more of the passages will include some sort of graph usually in the science passages. 

The Writing & Language section consists of 44 questions and 4 passages with 35 minutes to complete it. In this section, you will have to correct any grammar mistakes made in an underlined part of the passage. There will be a multiple-choice answer connected to the underline. The passages can be on a multitude of topics including careers, science, humanities, history, and social sciences. There is almost always a history and science passage. 

The Math No Calculator section consists of 20 questions to be done in 25 minutes. The Math Calculator Ok section consists of 38 questions with 35 minutes to answer them. Each section has four long answer questions and multiple choice. The math in the test consists of algebra, statistics, data analysis, geometry, and trigonometry

The SAT is scored on a range of 400-1600. There is no such thing as failing the SAT and wrong answers on the test are not counted when calculating your score. The test is scored on the amount and difficulty of what you got correct. The Math Sections and the ELA Sections are scored on a 200 to 800 range and those two scores combine to make your SAT score. The average SAT score is 1050. Bradtke recommends shooting to be in the 50th percentile so about 1200. Checking the average SAT score of the colleges you plan on applying to is also another way to find a goal SAT score. 

The SAT is offered seven times a year: March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. The closest SAT testing sites to Weedsport, NY is Auburn High School in Auburn, NY, and Liverpool High School in Liverpool, New York. June tends to be the lowest-scoring month because there are other tests like AP exams, finals, or regents. 

Online registration is open until four weeks before the exam. After that, the next two weeks will apply a late fee. Two weeks out from the test registration closes. Registration will require many things including a $52 fee, an uploaded photo ID for test day, etc. 

SAT scores that aren’t in the summer are released two weeks after the test date. June and August test scores are released six weeks after the test date because of the influx of test takers during those months. Colleges can receive your test scores 10 days after you receive them. 

You can also take multiple SATs in order to “superscore.” 

“Superscoring is for when you have taken the SAT multiple times and you are trying to get a better score. Superscoring is the option to send the best score out of all the tests you have taken so let’s say you took the exam in May, June, and October. You scored the best in ELA in the May Exam and the best in math in the October exam. I can take those two scores and put them together and that’s what’s going to make your SAT score that will go into the admissions process…” said Bradtke.

So what is the point of the SAT? 

“Ultimately, it’s to aid the admission office at specifically four-year colleges to try to see the most holistic picture of who you are in particular in the world of academics,” said  Bradtke. “It’s the standardized test everybody across the nation takes so it’s one thing everybody has had the same chance and the same opportunity to score well on and get ready for. The high school transcript varies from high school to high school because we (high schools) all have different abilities and different numbers of staff. It’s one thing that is the same throughout that the admissions offices can use in their formula for who is accepted.”

The only times a student would potentially need to take the SAT is if the student is planning on going to a four-year college. The military, the workforce, and community colleges do not require students to take the SAT. Some four-year colleges also don’t require SAT scores. 

“The SUNYs are remaining test optional,” said Bradtke. “Syracuse University is remaining test optional till 2025. Lemoyne College, Ithaca College, St. John Fisher, Nazareth College, and Cornell University are also test optional with Cornell’s deadline being the end of 2024. In the spring of 2024, as of this moment, Cornell does not plan on being a test-optional school. All the rest of them right now, don’t have a deadline…”

Bradtke still recommends taking the test and if you think your SAT score will hurt your application, not submitting them. 

“…The thing I have been told by admission counselors is that the two most important things are your strength of transcript and your letters of recommendation that comes from your teachers and myself. They take those into pretty significant account because not only are they getting an idea of who you are as an academic student but also your character. The test I think comes very much secondary to all that and the SAT has become less and less important with Covid and schools becoming test optional. Sometimes if your transcript is the exact same as somebody else’s transcript, the SAT may be the make-or-break factor. By and large, schools are really trying to look at the whole view of the student and recognize that not everybody is a good test taker and they can’t just rely on that to get you into college,” said Bradtke. 

The SAT is known to be a very learnable test meaning it can be very repetitive so consistent practice is recommended. 

There are many ways to study including using Khan Academy’s free Sat prep courses, downloading the SAT Daily app which gives you one SAT question from each section a day, buying an SAT prep book, taking the PSAT, and taking SAT Prep courses available at any local college.