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Many colleges and universities use the SAT as one indicator among others “” class rank, high school GPA, extracurricular activities, personal essay, and teacher recommendations “” of a student’s readiness to do college-level work. However, most colleges and universities admit military personnel to their programs without requiring either SAT or ACT scores.

The SAT Reasoning Test assesses how well you analyze and solve problems “” skills you learned in school that you’ll need in college. This test is in many ways different from the previous version, the SAT I, which was revised to “improve the alignment of the test with current curriculum and institutional practices in high school and college. By including a third measure of skills “” writing “” the new SAT will help colleges make better admissions and placement decisions. In that way, the new SAT will reinforce the importance of writing throughout a student’s education.”

The test is broken down into three areas: critical reading, mathematics, and writing. The total exam time is 3 hours and 45 minutes. There are also two mandatory five-minute breaks.

Critical Reading

The critical reading section of the SAT includes short reading and long passages, and sentence-completion questions. Reading passages range from 500 to 800 words. The short reading passages are paragraphs of about 100 words, followed by questions similar to those on the longer reading passages.


Extended reasoning: 36 – 40 Questions

Literal comprehension: 4 – 6 Questions

Vocabulary in context: 4 – 6 Questions

Total Questions:67

Time Allowed:

Two 25-minute sections, one 20-minute section

70 minutes


The math section measures mathematical problem solving and covers topics such as exponential growth, absolute value, and functional notation and places greater emphasis on such other topics as linear functions, manipulations with exponents, and properties of tangent lines. It uses five-choice multiple-choice questions, and student-produced responses (grid-ins).


Numbers and operations:11 – 13 Questions

Algebra and functions:19 – 21 Questions

Geometry and measurement:14 – 16 Questions

Data analysis, statistics, and probability:6 – 7 Questions

Total Questions:54

Time Allowed:

Two 25-minute sections, one 20-minute section

70 minutes


The writing section includes multiple-choice questions and an essay. The questions see how well students use standard written English and test their ability to identify sentence errors, improve sentences and paragraphs.

The essay measures the student’s skill in developing a point of view on an issue. Students must first think critically about the issue presented in the essay assignment, forming their own individual perspective on the topic. Then they must develop that point of view, using reasoning and evidence based on their own experiences, readings, or observations to support their ideas.


Essay:1 Question

Improving sentences:25 Questions

Identifying sentence errors:18 Questions

Improving paragraphs:6 Questions

Total:50 Questions

Time Allowed:

One 25-minute essay, one 25-minute multiple-choice section, and one 10-minute multiple-choice section

60 minutes

Order of tests

According to the College Board, “The 25-minute essay will always be the first section of the SAT, and the 10-minute multiple-choice writing section will always be the final section. The remaining six 25-minute sections can appear in any order, as can the two 20-minute sections. Test takers sitting next to each other in the same testing session may have test books with entirely different sections.”

Unscored section

The College Board also wants you to be aware that in addition to these scored tests there is “one 25-minute unscored section, known as the variable or equating section. This unscored section may be either a critical reading, math, or writing multiple-choice section. This unscored section does not count toward the final score, but is used to try out new questions for future editions of the SAT and to ensure that scores on new editions of the SAT are comparable to scores on earlier editions of the test.”


The results of the SAT Reasoning Test are available about eight weeks after test is returned for scoring.

George Jefferson is an Education Specialist with CompleteSchools.com (http://www.completeschools.com/). Complete Schools has Information on over 6,500 colleges and 120,000 public and private schools. Complete Schools also hosts a large resource section to help you achieve your educational goals. Resources include Student Loans.