SAT Test -What is the SAT and do I need to sit it?

The SAT Test (The Scholastic Aptitude Test) was established in the US in 1926, and is now known simply as the SAT.

The SAT test has undergone a number of changes over the years, but its aim remains constant: to determine whether candidates have the reading, writing, and numeracy skills they need to succeed at university in the USA.

During the period of coronavirus uncertainty, many US universities temporarily suspended the SAT Test requirements, while others made sitting the SAT and ACT optional.In 2024,MIT, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Brown reintroduced SAT exams and other are likely to follow.Check with Elab whether the college you wish to apply to is still test-optional, or not.


SAT scores remain important if you want to go to an American university, and admissions boards certainly take them into consideration when assessing applications, particularly in the more prestigious universities.

SAT Test -How is the Digital SAT Test organised?

The paper SAT Test  has been discontinued,  as has the optional essay.

You will therefore now have to sit one Digital computer based test, which includes Reading and Writing, and Math sections. Reading and Writing can be scored 200-800, Math 200 – 800.  This means that the total score you could potentially get in the SAT is 400-1600. Bear in mind that it is rare, but possible, to get full marks!

The test lasts for 2 hours 14 minutes.

Subject Number of questions Time allocated
Mathematics Stage 1 22 35 minutes
Mathematics Stage 2 22 35 minutes
Reading & Writing Stage 1 27 32 minutes
Reading & Writing Stage 2 27 32 minutes
International students
International students are normally offered 7 dates a year for sitting the SAT, and receive their results two-three weeks later. You may sit the SAT as often as you want or need to.

SAT Test -What is a good SAT score?

Average scores for the SAT Test in 2023 were 1028 -508 in reading and writing and 520 in maths – a slight dip from the 1050 average in 2022.

You need to be aware that Ivy League universities expect applicants to score at least 1460 – and above – to stand a chance of being offered a place, while Yale expects 720-780 for the Reading and  Writing and 740-800 in the Mathematics paper. As you can see, these scores indicate that the average score is just that -average – and you need to aim for 1460 upwards, in spite of the fact that many universities claim that they have no minimum SAT score threshold when sifting through applications.

SAT Test -The Digital SAT Reading and Writing Test

The Section is split into two parts – Stage 1 and Stage 2, which last 64 minutes as a whole.

During that time, the applicant is presented with 54 passages and question sets. One short reading passage (50 to 150 words) per one question.

Reading questions are presented in the first half of Reading and Writing stage and are organised by domain and then question type:

  1. Craft and structure
  2. Words in Context
  3. Text structure and purpose
  4. Cross text connections
  5. Info and ideas
  6. Central ideas and details
  7. Command of Evidence (Textual or Quantitative)
  8. Inferences

Keep in mind that difficulty increases within each question type.

Writing questions are presented in the second half of each Reading and Writing stage and are organised by domain and then question type.

  1. Standard English conventions
  2. Info and ideas
  3. Rhetorical Synthesis
  4. Transitions

SAT Test -The Digital SAT Mathematics Test

The Mathematics Test is divided into two stages, both of which allow you to use an approved calculator.  Of the 44 questions you will have to answer, 33 are standard multiple choice questions, while the remaining 11 are the questions, where you provide an answer by yourself.

The Mathematics Test includes four categories of content:

  • Algebra
  • Advanced Maths
  • Problem-solving and data analysis
  • Geometry and trigonometry

Calculators for the SAT Mathematics Test

For this part of the SAT Test,you cannot bring in any instrument  which can connect to the internet, namely a mobile phone, a tablet, or laptop, etc. If you try to use one of those, you will have to leave and your test will be null and void.

You can, however, bring in scientific or graphing calculators.

It has been determined in a number of research studies that students who use calculators most often tend to score higher in the SAT  Mathematics test, so practise and get to know every function of your calculator before the test.

Do not buy a new calculator the night before you sit this Test, in the hope that you can familiarise yourself with what it does in a few hours. In addition, if you are thinking of brushing up on your skills through workshops or coaching, this has been shown to make a great difference in the Mathematics Test.

The aim of this paper is to determine whether you can solve problems and apply mathematics to real-life situations. It will test your mental speed, abstract and analytical thinking, and accuracy.

SAT Test -How do I register to take the SAT Test?

  • Go to the SAT website 
  • Create an account, this must be done at least 29 days before you sit the SAT
  • Nominate a test center
  • Upload photo ID
  • Pay the application fee
  • Five days before test day, go to the Bluebook homepage and find your SAT under Your Tests.
  • Complete the short exam setup, and get your admission ticket. You can take a picture of your admission ticket, print it, or email it to yourself. This is an important document and you need to ensure that you keep it with you when you leave the examination room, to take a break during the SAT Test, in order to be let back in once the break is over.

SAT Test -What happens on the day I sit the SAT?

You need to bring your admission ticket and a photo ID with you to the test centre and aim to arrive between 7.30 am and 8am. If you are late, you will not be allowed in to sit the test, and will have to reschedule for the next date – which is normally three months later, if you are an international student. The test itself will start between 8.30 and 9 am. 

You are permitted to bring two No.2 pencils with erasers, and an EpiPen, if needed, which has to be put into a see-through plastic bag and placed below your desk.

You may not bring the following items to the test centre:

  • ruler
  • protractor
  • compass
  • highlighters
  • coloured pencils
  • coloured pens
  • dictionary
  • food or drink
  • cellphone
  • a watch which has an alarm feature – unless this is turned off

All electronic equipment will be taken from you before you enter the test centre to sit the SAT, and returned once the test is over. You are advised to leave your mobile and tablet at home so you have one less thing to worry about on the day.

You must listen to the invigilator carefully at the beginning of the SAT, since they will outline all the rules relating to the test. For example, they will make it clear that you have to start and end each stage when they tell you to. As a result, you  may not go back to a section once the invigilator has informed you that the time allocated to that section has ended. Neither can you jump ahead and start working on the next section if you find yourself with time to spare. SAT test centres are professional environments and any form of rule breaking will invalidate your test.

If you are an independent learner, you should work your way through old papers, so you are familiar with the format and the type of questions you will have to answer.

If you would like to practise for the SAT in a supportive environment, and learn techniques and shortcuts which will help you to maximise your scores, then call or email us, here at Elab, so we can work together and give you the practical advice and help you need to sail through the SAT and start planning your life studying in the amazing USA.

  • Introduction
  • Diagnostics
  • Personal Profile Map
  • Research
  • University Report
  • Final application choices
  • Application process plan
  • Mentor Program
  • Exam and Interview prep
  • Document completion
  • Application portal setup
  • Submission
  • Acceptance
  • Pre-departure procedures
  • Finances
Enjoyyour studies abroad!
Send us a postcard!

Contact Elab

Leave your details and an Elab Education Consultant will contact you within 48 hours to turn your academic aspirations into reality.