Why It’s Important to Know What’s on the SAT


Being prepared for what’s on the SAT and understanding the structure of the test is the number one way to decrease your stress and increase your score. It’s important to study not just the material you’ll be tested on, but the test format. This frees up your time and mental space for the important part – answering the questions correctly.

The SAT has four required sections and one optional section. The SAT test parts are Reading, Writing & Language, Math With No calculator, and Math With Calculator. There is also an optional essay.  Some colleges require that you complete the essay section in order to apply.  It’s a good idea to take the essay portion in order to keep all of your college options open.

 If you know the format, instructions, time and goals for each section - plus the best strategies for smart testing - you’ll do a lot to help yourself.

 Here’s a list of Score Smart’s top hints for knowing what’s on the SAT:

 Understand Each Section’s Instructions: Time is limited on each section of the SAT. Don’t waste time on the day of the test trying to read and understand the instructions. If you know these ahead of time, it’ll only take a quick once-over to reacquaint yourself with them.

 Know The Time and Number of Questions For Each Section:

When you know ahead of time how many questions there will be and how much time you have, you’ll know about how quickly you need to move through the test.  The newest format of the SAT –with a maximum of 1600 points without essay – has the following sections:


Evidence-Based Reading and Writing:

Reading: 65 minutes, 52 questions

Writing & Language: 35 minutes, 44 questions


Math, no calculator: 25 minutes, 20 questions

Math, with calculator: 55 minutes, 38 questions

Essay (Optional): 1 question, 50 minutes

Total Test Time: 3 hours without essay, 3 hours 50 minutes with essay

Know the Goals and Formats of Each Section

It’s important to know what to expect on each section so you’re not surprised by the content or the presentation of materials. For example, in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections, you may be presented with passages to read along with charts or graphs for analysis. Some questions may ask you to interpret meaning while others may ask you to edit for improvement or apply evidence. Did you know that it’s better to answer all the questions on each section even if you don’t know the answers rather than to leave some answers blank? This is because you are scored only on the questions you answer correctly. On the essay, you are asked to critique the author’s argument, not make your own argument. If you don’t fully understand this, you could score very low even if you write an excellent essay. These are pieces of information imperative to your success on the SAT.

Take Practice Tests: Not only will this test your mastery of the material, but taking practice tests will help understand the instructions and how to approach each section. You’ll get a good idea of what the time limits feel like and where you might be most challenged.  You’ll get to know and memorize the directions for taking each part of the SAT.

 Learn the Best Strategies for You Personally

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Taking practice tests, using study materials, and working with a tutor will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. If you understand which sections you may struggle on or where you need to pay closer attention to time, you’ll be able to make the most headway with your preparation.  Learning methods for strategic test taking from an experienced tutor will give you an advantage on test day.  Time spent with a one-on-one tutor is probably the very best and most efficient way to learn everything you need to know about taking the SAT.

Whether you are taking the test in the U.S. or in a Middle Eastern location such as Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, or Saudi Arabia, learning the format of the test and strategies for approaching it can make your SAT testing experience substantially more enjoyable – and bring your score higher than you ever dreamed.