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SAT Exam Pattern, Syllabus, Questions, Practice Test

Updated On - November 16th 2018 by JAINAB ALVI

SAT is a pencil-paper based test that assesses a candidate’s skills and knowledge of the education received in high school. The exam consists of two major section – Evidence based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. They are further divided into two sections each.

SAT RegistrationSAT ERBWSAT MathematicsSAT Preparation

Questions asked in the SAT are from the curriculum of high schools. Both sections, EBRW and Math, are scored on a range of 200-800. The test also has section of Essay of 50 minutes. Even though optional, it is required by a number of colleges using SAT. The score range for Essay section is 2 to 8.

  • Both sections of EBRW questions are multiple choice questions
  • Math is divided into two sets of questions – one to be attempted without using calculator and one with calculator
  • Most of the Mathematics questions are MCQs; some questions are grid-ins i.e. students must solve and fill in the answer on the bubble sheet
  • The exam is 3 hours long. SAT with Essay is 3 hours and 50 minutes long.
  • There is a time limit 100 minutes to attempt EBRW and 80 minutes for Math.

SAT Exam Pattern Highlights

Number of sections4 (2 EBRW; 2 Math)
Duration of exam180 minutes (without Essay)
Number of questions154
Score Range400-1600
Language of paperEnglish
Mode of examinationPencil-paper
Negative markingNone

SAT Exam Pattern Break-up

SectionSub-sectionNumber of QuestionsTime Limit (min.)Score Range
Evidence based Reading and WritingReading Test5265200-800
Writing and Language Test4435
MathematicsMath without Calculator2025200-800
Math with Calculator3855
Essay(optional)-1502 to 8
Total-154(155 with Essay)180 (230 with essay)400-1600

SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

Reading Test

  • 52 multiple choice questions in 5 passages to be attempted in 65 minutes
  • One literary passage from American or International work of fiction like short stories or novels
  • One passage or a pair of passages from U.S. founding documents or Great Global Conversation on topics like freedom, justice and human dignity
  • A selection of passages on economics, psychology, sociology, etc.
  • Two passages from work of science
  • Students are required to read the passage and answer the question by telling a story or making an argument or explaining a study or experiment

Types of Questions

Questions of this section are divided into three categories:

  • Information and Ideas - Questions focusing on the main idea of the passage, directly or indirectly
  • Rhetoric - Questions asking about the meaning , style or tone conveyed by the author
  • Synthesis - Questions asking to draw conclusions and make connections between two passages or between passages and informational graphs like tables, graphs, and charts, accompany some passages

Writing and Language Test

  • 44 multiple choice questions in 4 passages to be attempted in 35 minutes
  • Requires students to revise and edit passages
  • Topics explored are career, science, humanities, history and social science
  • Passage writing modes are narrative, argumentative and informative/explanatory
  • At least one passage on each of the above writing modes is present

Types of Questions

Questions asked are from the following two categories:

  • Expression of Idea - Improve the structure, organization and how the idea is being articulated in the passage as well as the overall effectiveness of language  
  • Standard English Conventions - Reorganize and fix errors in sentence structure, grammar, usage and punctuation

SAT Mathematics

  • Comprised of two sub parts - math with calculator and math without calculator
  • 58 questions to be attempted in 80 minutes
  • 80% questions are multiple choice while 20% are grid ins
  • Math with calculator has 30 multiple choice questions and 8 grid in questions
  • Grid in questions require students to enter the derived answers in the grids provided in the bubble sheet as shown below:

SAT Grid-in questions

  • Math without calculator has 15 multiple choice questions and 5 grid in questions
  • A set of formula and references are provided at the beginning of the test
  • The section is given specific attention for students going for science, technology, engineering or math
  • Questions are framed in real life settings on topics from science, social science, and career contexts.

Type of Questions

Math sections comprise of questions categories into three different areas of math:

  • Heart of Algebra - create, manipulate and solve algebraic equations like linear equations and systems
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis - interpret graphs and table and solve problems in real world situations using ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning 
  • Passport to Advance Math - Work on, manipulate and solve complex mathematics equations and function

Majorly comprised of questions from the above topics, the sections also have questions from additional topics in math which includes –

  • Area and Volume
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Basic Trigonometry

SAT Essay

  • Essay is optional but is required by most colleges to get a deeper insight into a student’s personality and his/her thought process
  • You must pay charges additional to basic SAT registration fee to take the Essay section
  • Students are required to write an essay on the topic given based on a passage within 50 minutes
  • Students must consider and explain how the author evidence, reasoning and styling elements to make the passage convincing in their essays
  • Three separate scores on a range of 2-8 is given
  • The essay sections helps students assess their skills in –
    • Reading - how well a student could comprehend the passage
    • Analysis - how well a student analyzed the author’s argument in the passage
    • Writing - how well a student could structure his/her response

Types of Questions

The passage for essay in every SAT may vary, however, all the passages consist of the following points:

  • Written for a broad audience
  • Argue a point
  • Express subtle views on complex subjects
  • Use logical reasoning and evidence to support claims
  • Examine ideas, debates, or trends in the arts and sciences, or civic, cultural, or political life
  • Always taken from published works

How to Prepare for SAT?

  • To prepare for SAT, students can buy online study material from College Board during registration
  • Khan Academy is among the most renowned organization to help students in SAT preparation
  • Take practice tests provided by Khan Academy.Click here for a free practice test
  • Download the Daily Practice App to make practice part of your daily routine
  • Analyze your practice tests regularly and work on the feedback received on the test

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College




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