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What’s all the hype about the SAT? Most college-bound juniors and seniors take the test at least once, and probably more than once, and many colleges specifically require the SAT. Some even have cutoff scores for admission. Entire books, courses, and classes have been devoted to the SAT exam. What is the SAT all about?

The College Board SAT, simply put, is a nationally-recognized college entrance exam that tests a student’s ability to logically reason. The full name of the SAT I, in fact, is the SAT Reasoning Test. Through the assessment of reading, writing, and mathematics abilities, the College Board assigns a score to a student. This score is considered “scaled” and based on the performance of other students on the same test in the same testing period. Each of the three sections is scored independently on a scale of 200-800, 800 being the top score. Thus, the highest cumulative score you could hope to earn is a perfect 2400.

In terms of reading, most of the passages on the SAT are at or below the high school reading level. The mathematics section only assesses students’ knowledge of algebra and a bit of geometry, and the writing section covers only the most common grammar errors. In fact, the writing section doesn’t even cover such common errors as comma use and conventions. So why do so many students stress out about the SAT?

One reason is the importance placed on the test. Many students become nervous and feel that the SAT is a “make-or-break” test that will solely determine their future. However misguided and silly this view may seem, it is actually common to many dire test-takers.

Another source of stress is the pure length of the test. The SAT spans three hours and forty-five minutes, plus breaks. It is broken down into ten sessions, including a 25-minute essay section. To many students, sitting through this ordeal can be more challenging than the test itself.

The SAT is by no means an easy test, and it is certainly not an exam to be taken lightly. In fact, it can have a large impact on where you go to university and the amount of money in scholarships you may receive, among other things. Hirers have even been known to request SAT scores on job applications. But the SAT is not something to be feared – it is actually a managable assessment of your ability to logically reason. You need not be a math whiz or a grammar nut to score high on the SAT, but you do need to think critically, logically, and in an organized manner. If you can do so, you will be impressed by your results.


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