SAT: The Main Questions

Most of us have heard the phrase “SAT”, but don’t really know when to take it, how to prepare for it, or why it’s important. SAT stands for “Scholastic Aptitude Test” and no, it isn’t an IQ test. It is a common exam high school students take to be able to send their scores to American Universities they are applying to. It is supposed to measure what you learned in high school, to predict your success in college. Performing well on this exam can mean more options when choosing a college and even more scholarship opportunities. Most colleges do require that you take this exam and report your score in their application. However, you should check the specific requirements for any college or university you are interested in, as each could have different requirements.

What’s on the Test?

Reading: 52 Questions 65 Minutes 

This portion of the test is all multiple choice and based on passages they provide you. Reading tests always include one classic literature piece, one significant historical document, one selection in social science, and two science-related passages.

Writing and Language: 44 Questions 35 Minutes

This portion of the test is all multiple choice and based on passages they provide you. You will mainly be correcting grammatical mistakes, word choice, and other errors such as sentence placement.

The result of both are combined.

Mathematics: 58 Questions 80 Minutes

The first 20 questions are without a calculator, the next 38 are with a calculator.In each half of the mathematics part, there will a few questions that require you to handwrite an answer instead of pick a choice. The rest of the questions will be multiple choice. Questions will cover topics up to material taught in Algebra 2.

Essay: 1 Question 50 Minutes

According to the College Board, this is the usual prompt given on the SAT:

“Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.”

This portion of the exam is not required. When you register to take the exam, you must state whether or not you will be taking the SAT with an essay portion. Although most colleges today do not require you to take the essay portion, there are still some exceptions. It is advised to have an idea of the schools you want to apply to so you can check if they have the essay as a requirement before taking the SAT.

*Don’t worry! You get breaks throughout the test!

How do I register?

First, you have to make an account with Once you have your account, search for a “Complete Your SAT Registration” icon to begin registration.

When should I take it?

It is advised to have at least completed Algebra 2 in your high school classes, to be prepared for the Mathematics portion. Students usually begin taking the SAT in their third or junior year of high school, but you can start earlier or later. Once you feel that you are academically prepared, feel free to sign up!

 Do I have to pay? How much does the SAT cost?

You are eligible for an SAT Fee Waiver if:

  • You are eligible for free or reduced lunch 
  • You receive public/government assistance
  • You are an orphan/ward of the state
  • Your income falls within the guide lines below:

The SAT Fee Waiver Includes:

  • Two free SAT tests with/without essay
  • Two Question-and-Answer (QAS) or Student Answer Service (SAS) reports. (These basically report to you the types of test questions on your SAT and how you answered them. You can use this to prepare for a second try.)
  • Unlimited free score reports
  • Coverage of the late registration fee
  • Six free subject tests (A post explaining these is coming up)
  • College Application Fee Waivers (unlimited as long as you are choosing from their list of 2,000+ schools)
  • Coverage of fees for students testing internationally
  • Fee waivers to apply for nonfederal financial aid

If you are not eligible for the waiver, an SAT exam usually costs about $65 with an essay and $48 without an essay. This number can change if you register late, change the date of your test, etc.

How do I get an SAT Fee Waiver?

Visit your high school counselor/ CAP advisor for help on getting your fee waiver.

How do I prepare for the exam?


Khan Academy offers one of the best resources to practice for the SAT. For free, you can create an account, create a personalized schedule for short daily practice, and take up to 8 full-practice tests. Based on what questions you get wrong in the full-tests, they recommend specific practices for you.

*These exams are also available in print-out version on the college board website if your eyes get tired from using the computer.


  • Companies that offer SAT Books with Practice Tests:
    • Kaplan
    • The Princeton Review
    • Barron’s
  • Prep Courses:
    • Kaplan
    • The Princeton Review 
    • Manhattan Review
  • Personal Tutoring Sessions

*The SAT exam can be taken unlimitedly and remember that universities always choose your highest grade and even some colleges combine your highest scores in each section and combine it to create a super score.

We wish you Good Luck!

*Disclaimer: All content posted by School Bell Blog is subject to change and should be verified either through personal research or through a qualified counselor, before taken as fact.