There are just a few days to go for the first major international competitive test, The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is scheduled for March 14, 2015. The test is designed to check your academic preparedness for admission to a US college. Offered several times a year, the SAT and SAT subject tests help students inch closer to the possibility of getting financial support and scholarships.
In April 2016, the SAT will be changing format. The revised test’s writing section will be optional. Questions in the critical reading and mathematics sections will be updated to better align with high school curricula and real-life situations. The new test will be scored out of a total of 1600 points – 800 for mathematics and 800 for critical reading.
What is SAT?
The SAT is created and administered by the College Board and is designed to measure critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for success in college. The SAT I covers three areas: critical reading, mathematics and writing. Each section is worth 800 points, so the highest possible score is 2400. Students have three hours and 45 minutes to complete the test. In India, it is offered six times a year: January, May, June, October, November and December.
What is considered a good score in SAT?
“For the best colleges in the US such as the Ivy League ­colleges, a minimum score of 700 in each section, with a total score over 2300 is preferred. For less ­competitive colleges, the scores will vary but a good score for a reputable college would be above 2000,” says Kimberly Wright Dixit, co-founder, The Red Pen, an overseas education ­consultancy. However, there is no ‘best score’ on the SAT and SAT scores are not used as cutoffs by US colleges. “It is still an important component of the application and, therefore, each student should try to score his or her best in the standardised tests. Students could use SAT scores as a parameter to shortlist universities,” says Zafeena Suresh, senior education advisor, United States India Educational Foundation (USIEF).
How often should one take the test?
“Ideally only once, but to improve on particular sections and achieve a higher ‘super score,’ the test can be taken an unlimited number of times. We typically advise students to complete their testing by October at the latest, otherwise continued test prep can interfere with the focus required for other parts of application,” says Dixit.
Importance of SAT
SAT is an indicator for highly selective colleges in the US, but there are many good colleges which are “test optional” and consider other components of an applicant’s background to be a better indicator. For a list of test optional colleges check fairest.org. “The SAT subject test assesses a students’ knowledge and skills across five subject areas: history and social studies, mathematics, sciences, English and languages. Some US colleges US require that students submit SAT subject scores with the SAT/ ACT test scores,” says Suresh.
A few days before SAT...
“Take as many complete practice tests under simulated testing conditions as possible, ie these tests should be early in the morning, in a quiet room, with timed sections. On the test day, candidates should take their valid passport, strategise their timing on the test sections and go unprepared. They shouldn’t let test pressure affect their performance,” adds Dixit.
Students can also practice from the Official College Board Guide or Big Blue Book that comprises questions from the actual test. Candidates can also subscribe to the official SAT online course at the official website of College Board (collegeboard.org) to familiarise themselves with all aspects of SAT.
“The SAT exam pattern is different and not based on the curriculum taught in India. Therefore, it is important that a prospective test taker become familiar with the test structure, pattern and scoring. I would also advise students to do practice under simulated test conditions,” adds Suresh.
3 websites you must check out
Follow SAT on Twitter
The SAT Program @OfficialSAT