Everything you need to know about the SAT

Written by: A Nepalese former American School goer and two-time SAT test taker    Friday, 07 February 2020

The Scholastic Assessment Test, better known as the SAT, is an entrance exam created and managed by the College Board that tests a high school student’s readiness for university. College admission departments will use SAT scores alongside other parts of your student profile to consider your application; SAT scores are compared to one another as the scores are essentially part of one data set that can be used to calculate important information like the mean/average score, as well as the score distribution with percentiles assigned to each score range. While some show up in pajamas with zero hours of preparation simply because it is unimportant for their future, others spend months with tutors and prep books as a good score may be their gateway to the college of their choice. Fretting already? Here is everything you need to know about the SAT. 

REGISTERING FOR THE TEST

In the United States, the vast majority of schools will require or highly encourage students to take the SAT; therefore, they will guide them in the registration process. In the case of an overseas student, the SAT isn’t as common as it is in America, which is why this process may be confusing to several. If you’re comfortable with technology, the first option to consider is to register directly through College Board, “ collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register ”; the website is very student-friendly so it wouldn’t be much of a hassle to register on it. If you’re unable to register independently, the second option is to go to any authority at your school that know about tests like the SAT. The final option is to find a study-abroad agency near you, like one of the many Alfa Beta branches in Kathmandu, who will provide you with qualified counselors to aid you in the registration process. 

PAYING FOR THE TEST

As an overseas student, the fee structure to sit at a test center and write the three-hour-long SAT test is as follows: a flat 49.50 USD for the SAT without essay, or a flat $64.50 for the SAT with the essay—on top of the set fees, you must pay a “Non-US Regional Fee” which varies according to the region of the world that you’re taking the test in, ranging from $43 to $53. Other than that, there are additional fees that you may be charged; the test-answer service, changing of test dates, or the sending of test scores to universities all require you to pay additional fees. The SAT is undeniably pricey, especially if you live overseas; yet it may as well be a great investment if you’re able to score well and use the score to get accepted into the school of your choice. 

PREPARING FOR THE TEST 

The test preparation stage could be a game-changer for you and your score. You most probably know that there is an array of SAT prep books available, along with various tutoring services, and the plethora of resources that are available on the internet. So what should you do to prepare? 

💯Set a goal: Your first step should be setting a realistic score goal so that you have a rough idea of how much work you need to put into preparing for the test. If you're unsure of what your goal should be, check the SAT requirements for the college of your choice or take a practice test, score yourself , then decide on the score you want to attain.

📅 Plan: Prior to the actual preparation, take some time to effectively plan out when you will prepare for the test, how long you will prepare, and which days you will take practice tests. This step is crucial in staying organized and ensuring that you prioritize everything you need to in order to succeed. 

📝 Take practice test:. The College Board has published several tests and their answer keys from previous years so that students can download and practice with them for free. Before anything, take a timed practice test and score yourself using the given scoring guide at the back of the answer key; doing this will allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you utilize your time working on your weaknesses rather than aimlessly studying everything. You should aim to take practice tests regularly so that you are as familiar as you can get with the format and the test setting; this is also another method to practice for the test and track your progress.

📚 Obtain the necessary resource: There are many options available when it comes down to choosing a test preparation book. Some are better at preparing you for SAT math while others are better with SAT English. According to many successful SAT test-takers, the prep books created by CollegeBoard provide the best form of practice in terms of being the most similar to the actual test. Such test preparation books are typically available at any large bookstore, online tutoring service centers, or study-abroad agencies. Besides books, there is also the option of attending SAT classes like the ones that Alfa Beta provides, or hiring a personal tutor. It really depends on the level you are at with your learning and whether you are an independent learner or not. If you are an independent learner, then simply relying on prep books may be the way to go for you. Whereas, if you learn better with guidance, then taking classes or working with a tutor may be a better option for you. It really comes down to knowing your needs, which will most likely be determined by your learning style, your score goal, and the amount of preparation you really need to achieve this goal. 

The reading section is comprised of several passages followed by multiple-choice questions that tests a number of things: your understanding of the bigger picture/purpose of the passages, specific details from the reading, your ability to make inferences, your ability to find evidence, vocabulary, interpretation of data, and understanding of the author’s techniques. 

The writing section contains multiple-choice questions based on passages. It aims to test the following: your ability to manipulate writing in different ways and your reason behind it, your grammar, understanding of data depicted both in writing and visually, your use of words in context, and finally your ability to express ideas effectively. 

The two math sections test topics that CollegeBoard divided into three categories: Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis. You can find a detailed list of topics covered in the math section on “ collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/official-sat-study-guide-about-math-test.pdf 

The optional essay section tests your ability to read and comprehend a passage, then use logical reasoning and correct language to analyze and argue a point. 

How is the test scored?

The scoring process is better explained by visual representations of the scoring chart which can be found on “ blog.prepscholar.com/how-is-the-sat-scored-scoring-charts ”.  

AFTER THE TEST

And so the wait begins. It is important to remember that the SAT is only one way of representing your skills in math, reading, and writing; the score does not define who you are. In fact, many other factors play into the score you receive besides your actual knowledge like lack of time to prepare, lack of resources, or test anxiety. This test is also going through reforms so that it tests students on more relevant topics that are more applicable to the real world. On the controversial side, CollegeBoard receives a lot of backlash due to the SAT “favoring the wealthy” in the sense that test preparation is very costly, and only a select social class can afford it. All in all, you should do your best in utilizing what you have available to you in order to score the highest you can on this test. While scoring high is important, it is equally important to remember that this test does not determine the person you are and it is a mere depiction of some of your intellectual capabilities.