Just the Facts
1.1 Just the Facts
1.2 Know the Score
1.3 The PSAT
1.4 The SAT FAQs
Just the Facts
The SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes long. It covers three major topics—Critical Reading, Math, and Writing—divided into seven timed sections. Each section is graded on a scale from 200–800, and a perfect score is a 2400.
The Critical Reading Section
Here are three important factors about the Critical Reading section.
  • 70 minutes in three timed sections. The SAT tests Critical Reading for 70 minutes divided across three timed sections: two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section.
  • 67 Questions that come in three types. The Critical Reading section contains a total of 67 questions broken into three question types. It has 19 Sentence Completions, 8 Reading Comprehension questions about short paragraphs (100 words), and 40 Reading Comprehension questions about longer passages (500–800 words).
  • Critical Reading Skills. Unlike the old Verbal section, which was basically a glorified vocabulary test, the Critical Reading section really does test reading skills.
We provide much more detail about the three Critical Reading sections and the questions they contain in the chapter devoted to Critical Reading later in this book.
The Math Section
Here are the basic facts of the SAT Math section.
  • 70 minutes in three timed sections. Math on the SAT is tested for 70 minutes in three timed sections: two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section.
  • 54 questions that come in two types. The Math section contains 54 total questions. Those questions are divided into two types: 44 multiple-choice questions and 10 grid-in questions. Quantitative Comparisons have been cut.
  • New math topics. Math questions cover topics in basic numbers and operations, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. The algebra in the SAT now includes a bunch of topics from Algebra II.
We’ll give you more detail about the three Math sections and all the topics and types of questions they contain in the chapter devoted to Math later in this book.
The Writing Section
The Writing section is the one that strikes fear into most students’ hearts. An essay! Grammar! Aaargh! But, actually, it’s just as beatable as every other part of the SAT.
  • 60 minutes in three timed sections. Writing on the SAT will be tested in three timed sections. In one section, you will be given 25 minutes to write an essay. The other two sections contain only multiple choice questions. One is 25 minutes, and the other is 10 minutes long.
  • One essay topic. For the essay, you’ll have to take and justify a stance on a broad topic. You won’t have a choice of topics.
  • 49 Multiple-choice questions. The Writing section contains three types of multiple-choice questions that make up a total of 49 questions: 25 Improving Sentences, 18 Identifying Sentence Errors, and 6 Improving Paragraphs.
  • Writing skills. The essay and the multiple-choice questions test both your writing skills and your understanding of grammar and language usage.
We’ll teach you everything you need to know about the three timed Writing sections and the essay and questions they contain in the chapter devoted to Writing later in this book.
The “Variable” Section
In addition to the three Writing, three Critical Reading, and three Math sections, the SAT also contains a tenth section. This section is a 25-minute “Variable” section. The Variable section doesn’t actually count toward your final score on the SAT. In fact, it’s in the test just so that the test-makers can try out some of their new questions on you.
We know what you’re thinking: It would be nice if you could figure out exactly which section was the Variable section and, since it doesn’t count toward your score, just blow it off during the test. You can’t do that. The Variable section will look exactly like one of the other 25-minute sections on the test, so don’t go guessing which section is the Variable section. You could very easily guess wrong. You need to treat every single section of the test as if it counts.
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