SAT Guide

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The SAT measures what students learned in high school and what they will need to succeed in college, and is designed to be highly relevant to each student's future success. The best way for students to prepare is to do their homework, take challenging courses, ask and answer plenty of questions, and prepare for their tests and quizzes. Students should review what kinds of questions they will see on the SAT and what the questions measure. The components of the SAT are an optional essay, a reading test, a writing and language test, and a math test.

Many colleges and universities require students to submit their SAT scores to be considered for admission, and students should research whether their scores are needed for accounting programs before applying. The test is three hours long and an additional 50 minutes is added for students who choose to complete the essay section. The cost of the test is $47.50 and for students who choose to complete the essay it is $64.50. Scores are based on a 400-1600 scale, with 1060 being the average score.

This SAT guide for accounting students will walk you through the what, how, and when of the test, as well as offer some helpful tips and resources for those looking to prepare for the SAT effectively and efficiently.

SAT Subject Tests

Some colleges also require or suggest that applicants submit their SAT Subject Test scores. There are 20 different subject tests offered in five general topic areas including history, English, languages, mathematics, and science. Subject tests are multiple choice and last for one hour. They are scored on a 200-800 scale and administered six times a year on the same days and at the same testing centers as the SAT, but the language and listening tests are only offered in November. Students are not allowed to take the SAT and an SAT Subject Test on the same day.

What Does the SAT Look Like?

The SAT has three components: evidence-based reading and writing, mathematics, and an optional essay. The test features rights-only scoring, so there is no penalty for guessing. The optional essay is given at the end of the SAT and tests students' reading, writing, and analytical skills. Overall scores are reported on a 400-1600 scale and the evidence-based reading and writing and math tests are scored on a 200-800 scale. Essay scores are reported separately. There are subscores reported for every test to provide additional insight for parents, students, admissions officers, educators, and counselors.

The SAT focuses primarily on the skills, knowledge, and understanding of students preparing for college to determine their level of college readiness, and there is an emphasis on word choice including meaning, tone, and impact. There are 154 total questions on the SAT. For the reading portion, students are given 65 minutes to answer 52 questions. The writing and language portion is made up of 44 questions, and students have 35 minutes to complete them. Students are given 80 minutes for the 58 questions making up the math section.

Is the SAT Offered Online?

The SAT is now offering an online version that each school district has the opportunity to adopt. If a school chooses to pursue online testing, only students who have been granted special accommodations for a disability will be allowed to take the test on paper. Some schools may choose to do a mixed mode of testing which would allow students to choose their testing method. The SAT enforces a plethora of steps to prevent students from cheating and testing unfairly. The online test is an attribute to digital literacy in schools, and online SAT tests are likely to become a growing trend as the internet expands.

How Does the Online SAT Work?

For the online SAT, students will use school-owned desktops, laptops, or Chromebooks. The SAT's test administrator uses proctor caching to make sure each testing location uses its own local service to download and deliver the test. Once tests are delivered, they disappear from the computer. The online test still allows electronic scratch paper, and students will have the ability to highlight within passages to make testing easier.

Adaptive Test Taking

Adaptive tests adjust the question levels according to how the student performs on previous questions so students with lower scores are asked fewer of the harder questions and students with higher scores do not need to waste their time answering easy questions. Currently, the GRE and GMAT graduate exams are adaptive, but since adaptive testing demands a larger store of possible questions, it is not yet offered for the online SAT.

The Evidence-Based Reading Section

Skill Areas

The evidence-based reading section focuses on the knowledge and skills that students will need to succeed in college and evaluates reading and comprehension skills. Students will have to find evidence in a passage to support the chosen answer and identify how authors use a variety of evidence to support their claims.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

One of the biggest mistakes students make during the reading section of the test is mismanaging their time. You have 65 minutes to read about 3,000 words and answer 52 questions, and every passage is coupled with 10-12 questions — so don't spend more than 12 minutes on each passage. Students also often make the mistake of ignoring the context of the passage. There are five types of passages that are always found in the section: passages from contemporary or classic literature, passages from a United States founding document or a text in a greater global conversation, passages about a social science, and passages that examine developments in science. Familiarize yourself with these and identify them as you read along.

Helpful Tips

  • Eliminate Incorrect Answers: On more difficult questions, refrain from blindly guessing. Instead, try to eliminate some of the answers you know are incorrect to narrow down to the final answer.
  • Don't Always Go for the Obvious Answer Right Away: Sometimes questions and answers are designed to catch students who are rushing, so read carefully and thoroughly.
  • Don't Spend Too Much Time on One Question: Don't waste time struggling — circle the tricky question and come back to it later.
  • Don't Confuse Written Language with Colloquial Language: It is important to remember that the way people speak is not always grammatically correct. Sometimes, answers are set up to trick you in this regard.

The Evidence-Based Writing and Language Section

Skill Areas

The evidence-based writing and language section of the SAT requires students to edit and improve passages that contain deliberate errors. Students will have to read, find weaknesses and mistakes, and make corrections. Questions in the section are multiple choice.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

A common mistake that students make is falling for the "no error" trick. The "NO CHANGE" answer will only be correct about 20% of the time, so those who are rushing through the test and not noticing grammatical errors will choose that answer much more frequently than necessary. Coinciding with this is that many students skim through passages instead of reading them thoroughly to understand the bigger picture. Half of the questions in the section include command-of-evidence questions, which require students to understand the way each passage is structured and identify introductions, conclusions, and other elements that call for critical thinking and understanding of the entire passage.

Helpful Tips

  • Pay Attention to What is Changing in the Answer Choices: Sometimes answers will have everything in common except for one word or element. That word or element should be the thing you focus on in order to determine the correct answer.
  • Determine Wrong Answers Before Picking the Right Answer: Students often want to choose what they think is the right answer first, but by working backwards and eliminating incorrect answers, you can narrow down the choices to ensure you are choosing the right answer.
  • Build an SAT Prep Plan: There are many different ways to prepare for the SAT including practice tests, private tutors, and prep courses.
  • Learn from the Different Answer Choices: Sometimes answer choices can be used to reveal various mistakes that may not have been noticed in the sentence before.

The Math Section

Skill Areas

The math section of the SAT emphasizes problem-solving, using tools strategically, modeling, and algebraic structure. The questions focus on the math that students will rely on in a variety of real-world situations.

Question Types

Questions on the math section are mostly multiple choice, but some of them are called grid-ins and require students to come up with an answer. Some parts of the test include several different questions about one scenario. Questions focus on three main areas of math: the heart of algebra, problem-solving and data analysis, and passport to advanced math.

Can You Use a Calculator on the SAT?

Students are able to use approved calculators for most of the test, but there are some questions where it is better not to use a calculator — even when it is allowed. With these questions, the students who use their ability to reason and make use of structure will likely finish before the students who use a calculator.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

One of the most common mistakes students make on the math section of the test is not writing out all of the steps when trying to solve a problem. The problems on the test are intricate and not going through each step can lead to choosing an incorrect answer. Furthermore, at the beginning of the math section, the SAT gives students some formulas but don't provide all that will be needed. Research and do your best to memorize commonly used SAT formulas before test day.

Helpful Tips

  • Read Carefully: It is important to take your time and read each question carefully. Many answers can be similar and if you do not pay attention, you might accidentally choose the incorrect answer.
  • Use the Process of Elimination: On tougher questions, use the process of elimination instead of just guessing what the correct answer is. Sometimes incorrect answers are easier to identify than the correct answer, so if you can narrow down the choices, you will be able to choose the correct answer with ease.
  • Don't Spend Too Much Time on Individual Questions: If a question is proving to be more difficult than others, circle it and continue with the test. Come back to any circled questions once you have answered the others.
  • Pay Attention to Grammatical Errors: Sometimes answers will be written in colloquial language, but it is important to remember that written language is different than the way people speak — the way people speak is not always grammatically correct.

The Essay Section

Should You Do the Essay Section?

The essay section of the SAT is not required, but students should check whether the schools they are applying to recommend completing it — a list of schools that recommend the essay can be found here. If a student is undecided on which schools they would like to apply to, taking the essay portion may be a good idea just to ensure they are covered no matter what school they attend. Students should keep in mind that the essay is an additional $17 and lengthens the exam by 50 minutes, and must be applied for separately.

Skill Areas

The essay section evaluates students' reading, writing, and analysis skills. Students will read passages, be asked to explain how the author of the passage builds their argument to persuade an audience, and then support their explanations by using evidence from the passage.

The Essay Prompt

The prompt requires students to read a passage and consider how the author uses facts and examples to support their claims. Students will have to explain reasoning and develop ideas to relate the claims and evidence to one another. They will then need to discuss the persuasive and stylistic elements to explain how ideas are expressed.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

A mistake a lot of students make during the essay portion of the SAT is leaving blank space. Many students are conditioned to believe that being concise and clear is the best way to write an essay, but SAT graders do not like half of a page left blank. The space is designed to be short enough for you to easily fill it without being redundant. Students also often make the mistake of using complicated words incorrectly, so only use complex words if you have an understanding of the meaning and if the word makes sense in the context.

Helpful Tips

  • Build a Prep Plan: Explore a variety of SAT prep practices such as tutoring, study guides, prep courses, and flashcards to determine what works the best when studying for the SAT.
  • Learn from Answer Options: There are often times when certain answer choices can inform you of a grammatical error you did not previously notice, so it is important to pay attention to the wrong answer choices as well as the right ones.
  • Budget Your Time: It is important not to spend too much time on an individual question. If you are having a hard time choosing an answer, circle the question, move on, and come back to it later.
  • Make Note of What is Changing in the Answer Choices: Sometimes answer choices vary by only one word or element, so pay close attention to these slight changes to ensure you are choosing the right answer.

How is the SAT Scored?

SAT scores are designed to help colleges develop a clearer picture of each student and their college readiness. The total score for the test is made up of two sections and is scored on a 400-1600 scale. The evidence-based reading and writing section as well as the math section are scored on 200-800 scales, while the reading, writing and language, and math tests are scored on 2-8 scales. The optional SAT essay is also scored on a 2-8 scale if students choose to take it.

There are cross-test scores that are based on specific questions in the reading, writing and language, and math tests; these scores demonstrate how well students use their skills to analyze various texts to solve problems and are evaluated on a 10-40 scale. Finally, the SAT has seven subscores that are evaluated on a 1-15 scale. Subscores assess students' ability to command evidence and words in context, their ability to express ideas and standard English conventions, and their problem-solving and data skills.

SAT SectionScore Range
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing200-800
Essay (Reading, Analysis, Writing)2-8

What's the Difference Between Score Ranges, Average Scores, College Readiness Benchmarks, and Percentile Ranks?

Score ranges show how scores might change with repeated testing as long as skill levels remain the same. If students took the SAT once a week for an entire month, their scores would vary, which is what score ranges represent. Average scores show the mean or average scores earned by students in each grade. College and career readiness benchmarks are scores that represent how prepared students are for college or a career. Percentile ranks are numbers between 1-99 that compare how well an individual student scores to how well other students scored on the SAT.

What's an Average Score on the SAT?

SAT SectionAverage Score
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing533
Essay (Reading, Analysis, Writing)5,4,5

What SAT Scores are Needed for Accounting Programs?

Total scores out of 1600 correspond to percentile rankings, and a test taker's percentile ranking is essentially what percentage of students they scored above. The 50th percentile score is the average, which is between 1050 and 1060. Schools and accounting programs may vary when it comes to what scores they want to see, so students should do their research ahead of time to find out what their target score should be.

How Do You Register for the SAT?

The first step to registering for the SAT is to create a free College Board account. Students need to provide their full name as well as other identification information. To register, the name provided needs to match the name shown on a photo ID. There are optional questions students can answer about themselves to help scholarship organizations and colleges find them easily. Then, students will need to decide if they would like to take the SAT with the essay by researching what schools require it. Finally, students will upload a picture meeting the specific photo requirements and print their admission ticket.

When Should You Take the SAT?

Students thinking about taking the SAT should consider how much time they will need to prepare for the test, how busy their schedule is, and how many times they plan on taking the SAT before settling on a test date.

How Much Does the SAT Cost?

For students taking the SAT test without the essay, the fee is $47.50, and for students taking the test with the essay, the fee is $64.50. Low-income students may be eligible for a fee waiver to take the test. School counselors will identify eligible students and distribute waivers to them.

How Many Times Can You Take the SAT?

The SAT can be taken an unlimited amount of times, and the test is offered seven times throughout the year. Some colleges require students to submit their scores for every time they have taken the SAT, so for students applying to those colleges, it is recommended not to take the test more than six times.

Preparing for the SAT

At-Home Study Methods

There are a number of at-home study methods that accounting students can use when preparing for the SAT.

  • Printed Study Guides: Printed study guides are studying materials that are beneficial to students since they are able to go through them at their own pace and come back to questions as needed.
  • Flashcards: Flashcards provide students with a quick, convenient way to study material for the SAT. Flashcards are particularly helpful when trying to get used to answering questions under a time limit.
  • Private Tutoring: Private tutoring is a way for students to obtain one-on-one assistance with someone who is familiar with test questions, as well as SAT policies and procedures.
  • Studying Apps: Studying apps serve as a convenient on-the-go way for students to prepare for the SAT from their tablet or mobile phone.
  • Online Practice Tests: There are several online practice tests available. Some are from the College Board and contain questions that have appeared on previous SAT tests.

SAT Prep Courses

There are several online and in-person SAT prep courses that students can enroll in. Kaplan is one of the largest and most well-known providers for both in-person and online SAT prep courses. Both the online and in-person courses cost $1,299 to enroll. Kaplan's unlimited prep gives students access to SAT, ACT, and PSAT classes and materials at any time. Prep courses can be customized by accessing a variety of live, scheduled channel sessions.

Studying Tips for the SAT

  • Determine the Best Way to Study for the SAT: There are a variety of ways to study for the SAT, including online programs, classes, self-study, tutors, or a combination of the above methods. To best prepare for the test, explore the different study methods and proceed with those that work best for you.
  • Decide on a Target Score: By setting a target score, you have something to work toward that will make your studying more intentional. Be sure to check if the programs you are applying for require a minimum score, as this can help inform what your target should be.
  • Identify Mistakes: Throughout practice tests, keep track of common mistakes to help identify weaknesses. Knowing weaknesses will help you focus your studying and make strides toward improvement in those areas.
  • Use Realistic Practice Tests: There are practice tests on the College Board and the Khan Academy websites that are created by the makers of the SAT. Some of them have been on previous SAT tests. These are going to be the most accurate and effective choice if you choose to use practice tests in your studying.
  • Practice Under Time Restraints: It is beneficial to prepare yourself to complete questions in a set amount of time. This can help relieve some of the pressure when you are taking the SAT and dealing with time constraints.

Helpful Resources

  • College Board Practice Tests: College Board practice tests are created by the makers of the SAT, and each test has the same kinds of questions that students will see on test day. Four of the practice tests available have been on previous SAT exams.
  • Khan Academy: Khan Academy is an online resource that provides practice recommendations and eight different practice exams from the College Board. Students can use the resource to download and complete a full-length practice test.
  • Magoosh SAT Prep YouTube Channel: This channel provides students with a variety of videos to help prepare them for the SAT, including videos on how to improve scores, math tips, and last-minute tips and strategies.
  • Supertutor TV SAT YouTube Channel: This is another online channel showing videos on how to prepare for the SAT, including tips to get perfect scores, what to bring to the test, and what SAT Subject Tests the top colleges require.

What Should You Expect on Test Day?

The doors to the testing center open at 7:45 a.m. on test day and close at 8 a.m. unless otherwise noted on the admission ticket. Students are not able to be admitted once testing has started. Those who are late or absent on test day can reschedule for a fee. Testing begins between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., and students will be told when to start and stop each section of the test. They may not go back to a section once it has ended. When the test is finished, the coordinator will collect and count test booklets to make sure all of the materials have been turned in prior to dismissal.

What Should You Bring with You?

  • Valid Photo ID: Students will need to bring a valid photo ID on test day. Test center staff members will compare the information on each student's admission ticket and photo ID to the information on the test center roster to verify registration and identity.
  • Admission Ticket: Upon registration, students will be issued an admission ticket. They will need to print the ticket on their College Board account and bring it with them to the test center, otherwise they will be denied access to the facility.
  • No. 2 Pencils: Pencils will be provided on a limited basis at the test center, but students will need to bring two No. 2 pencils with erasers on test day.
  • Approved Calculator: Students will need to bring an approved calculator with them on test day. Students are not allowed to share calculators and are encouraged to bring a calculator they are comfortable with as opposed to a brand-new one. Some of the calculators allowed for use are scientific calculators, most graphing calculators, and all four-function calculators, though those are not recommended.
  • Watch: Watches without audible alarms are suggested for students to bring on test day. Watches help students keep track of how much time they have left as well as how much time they are spending on each portion of the test.
  • Layers of Clothing: In case of varying room temperatures, students are encouraged to wear layers of clothing to remain comfortable throughout the duration of the test.

What Should You Leave at Home?

  • Math Tools: Math tools, such as protractors and compasses, are prohibited during the SAT. Students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge without the use of additional tools.
  • Unapproved Electronics: Students should leave all electronics at home except for an approved calculator. Test administrators approve calculators prior to test day.
  • Books: Books, including dictionaries and study guides, are prohibited in the testing area.

Accommodations for Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-Associated Needs

Students with documented disabilities may be able to receive accommodations when they take the SAT. Some of the most common accommodations are extra time to complete the test, longer breaks, and reading or seeing accommodations for students who are hearing or vision impaired. All accommodations must be approved by the College Board's Services for Students with Disabilities. Test scores will be cancelled if students complete the test with accommodations that were not approved by the College Board prior to the test.

Submitting Your Scores

When Will You Get Your Scores?

Students will receive their scores within a couple of weeks from their test date. When scores are ready online, an email will be sent explaining how to access the scores through the online portal. Paper score reports can be requested during registration, and phone scores start on the day scores are released and are available for a fee.

How Do You Submit Your Scores to Schools?

The majority of colleges require students to send their official SAT scores directly from the College Board. Many colleges do not accept online score report copies or score report labels on transcripts. Students can request that their scores be sent to specific colleges before or after their test date.

What Scores Will Schools See If You Take the Test More Than Once?

Each college has different score policies that students can research prior to sending in their scores. Most colleges consider the student's highest scores if the student took the SAT more than once and wants to submit all of their scores for consideration. Students can utilize the score choice option to decide which tests they would like to send. They can only choose tests that have already been scored, and there is no fee.

How Long Will Your Scores Be Valid?

Test scores are archived once students have graduated high school and have not been tested for one year, but scores can still be retrieved for reporting to students, colleges, universities, and scholarship programs. Scores that are five or more years old are sent with a message explaining that the scores may not be completely representative of the student's potential college academic performance.

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