SAT Tips And Facts Every Student Should Know (2023)

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As your junior year of high school rolls around, it’s time to schedule and sit for the SAT, the most popular standardized test for admission to college in the United States.

A good score on this exam can go a long way toward getting into the school of your dreams, and a few SAT tips and tricks can make a big difference. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about taking the SAT exam.

For more information about the undergraduate application process, including a month-by-month timeline, check out our guide on how to apply for college.


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What Is the SAT?

SAT stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test. Junior and senior high school students across the U.S. take the SAT, typically in the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year, as part of the college application process. The test is mostly multiple-choice, is taken using pencil and paper and is administered by the College Board.

The questions included on the SAT are meant to measure college readiness. In addition to standardized test scores, most colleges and universities consider high school transcripts (including GPA), extracurricular activities and personal statements. These materials help admissions officers understand applicants’ well-roundedness and how successful they might be as college students.

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What Are the SAT Sections?

You’ll find four sections on the SAT. Most comprise multiple-choice questions, plus several “grid-in” questions in the math section, for which you’ll have to write in your answers.


The test begins with the reading section, which features six reading passages and multiple-choice questions regarding each passage. This section comprises 52 questions in total.

Four reading passages are standalone and 500 to 750 words each. The fifth and sixth passages are presented as a pair and comprise 500 to 750 words in total. One passage comes from a work of fiction, one to two come from U.S. founding documents or related texts, one comes from a social science work and two come from scientific works.

The questions are based on the content in the presented passages and not on prior knowledge.

Writing and Language

This multiple-choice section asks you to fix mistakes and weak points in four passages, each of which contains 400 to 450 words. The passages vary in complexity and cover a variety of subjects. Expect to answer 11 questions about each passage. The questions test your ability to improve idea expression and your ability to correct mistakes in grammar, usage, punctuation and sentence structure.


The math section is split into two parts: a calculator-friendly portion and a portion that doesn’t permit calculator use. This section focuses on algebra, advanced math and problem-solving and data analysis. Some questions involve geometry and trigonometry as well. Algebra is the most important category of questions in the math section.

How Long Is the SAT?

It takes three hours to complete the SAT exam, which comprises 154 questions in total. The allotted testing time breaks down among sections as follows:

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  • Reading: 65 minutes, 52 questions
  • Writing and Language: 35 minutes, 44 questions
  • Math: 80 minutes, 58 questions

If you’re comparing the ACT vs. SAT, note that the SAT provides 43% more time per question, according to College Board.

How Much Does the SAT Cost?

SAT registration costs $60. The SAT registration fee gives you access to take the exam and includes four score reports sent to your choice of schools.

Additional services may incur additional registration fees, such as those listed below.

  • Late registration. You’ll incur a fee of $30 if you register for the SAT after the deadline (which varies by test date).
  • Change fee. If you end up needing to change your test date there’s a $25 fee to do so.
  • Additional score reports. After the four free score reports, you’ll pay $12 to send your scores to each additional school.
  • Rush reporting. For a fee of $31, you can rush your scores to the school of your choice within 2 days.
  • Hand scoring. Machines score SAT exams these days. To have a human hand score your report to ensure there were no scoring errors, it’s $51.

What Is a Fee Waiver?

For those who qualify, an SAT fee waiver allows you to take the exam two times for free and provides two chances to access answer services. The fee waiver also comes with college benefits, such as free score reports to unlimited colleges and waived application fees at some participating schools. With a fee waiver, you are exempt from late registration and cancellation fees as well.

Low-income high school juniors and seniors in the U.S. may qualify for SAT fee waivers from the College Board.

What Should You Bring to the SAT?

The most important thing to bring on test day is your admission ticket. Just like a concert ticket, this serves as proof that you’re scheduled to take the SAT exam on that particular date and in that location.

Here’s what else you’ll need on test day:

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  • Face mask
  • Photo ID
  • Two No. 2 pencils with erasers
  • Calculator

How Many Times Can You Retake the SAT?

While you’re technically able to take the SAT as many times as you’d like, there are only seven test dates per calendar year, and you’ll have to pay a fee each time you take the exam. It’s best to start preparing for the test well in advance, and aim to take the SAT only a few times at most.

The most popular time to take the SAT is in the spring of junior year of high school. This means test dates and locations in March, April and May can fill up quickly. Register in advance of your desired test date to ensure you get a spot on the date you’d like to take the test.

How Should You Prepare for the SAT?

To minimize the number of times you sit for the SAT exam, make sure to plan ahead and prepare for the test in advance. Start by determining when you’d like to take the SAT. Then, figure out how long you’ll need to study to get your best score.

You can pursue a few avenues for SAT preparation:

  • Use an SAT workbook. These helpful guides often include practice questions and tests, along with helpful strategic tips. They’re widely available on Amazon or at your local bookstore.
  • Take a full-length practice test. The College Board offers access to several free full-length SAT tests that you can take online or print out.
  • Take a prep course. Online SAT prep courses are a popular option for students hoping to boost their SAT scores. The Princeton Review offers a popular course, as does Khan Academy.

SAT Tips and Tricks

These strategic SAT tips can help you put your best foot forward on test day.

Find The ‘Best’ Answer

Instead of spinning your wheels trying to find the right answer to a question, begin by eliminating wrong answers. Some wrong answers are obvious; others may require more thought. Each SAT question only has one right answer, so tackling wrong answers first can help you narrow down your options, making it more likely that you’ll arrive at the correct answer.

Read the Passages Carefully

The writing and language section tests your reading comprehension skills, so take your time reading each passage. Consider reading each passage’s corresponding questions first so you know which elements to look for in the passage at hand.

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Always Read the Section Introductions

Carefully read the introduction for each new section as you move through the exam. These intros often include important information that can be missed if you skim too quickly.

Consider Memorizing Rules and Formulas to Save Time

The SAT provides math formulas, but you should consider memorizing some algebraic formulas and grammar rules so you can move through the exam content more quickly.


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