Student Perspective

Facing the SAT: FAQs and Tips.

by Benjamin Skye | June 9, 2011 | Student Perspective 0 Comments

Tips from a former SAT Test Taker

I took the SAT in June 2007 and made an SAT score of 2080 out of 2400. Even though it has been several years since then, I still remember some of the things I wish someone had told me before I entered the exam hall to the SAT. I regret making certain assumptions about the test, which led to several mistakes. Thankfully, none of them were too bad and I made it out with a pretty good score. Here, I would like to share with you some tips that I think are helpful. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail me for free consultation.

Benjamin Skye
B.A. Psychology and Bible (Hardin Simmons University, Class of ’11)


Frequently Asked Questions About the SAT

1. What is the SAT?

  • The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. It tests your knowledge of reading, writing and math — subjects that are taught every day in high school classrooms. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, and almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions.

2. How is the SAT scored?

  • Briefly, the SAT is made up of three sections with each section worth 800 points adding up to a total score of 2400. The three sections are Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. Certain universities only consider the total scores of the Critical Reading and Mathematics sections since the Writing section was not introduced until several years ago. However, it is important for a student to do well on all three sections, since the Writing section is beginning to gain prominence as a measure of a prospective student’s readiness for university.

3. What is a good SAT score?

  • The lowest possible SAT score is a 600 out of 2400 (200 out of 800 in each section). The average score for high school students in the U.S. for the year 2010 was 1509. The breakdown of the scores are as below:
    • Critical Reading: 501 (Average)
    • Math: 516 (Average)
    • Writing: 492 (Average)
  • A student interested in getting into one of the top-ranking schools (i.e. Ivy League Universities) in the U.S will need to score around the 90th percentile, which would mean a score of 2100 or above. Most universities, however, will accept students who have scores as low as 1200.
  • In order to be eligible for substantial scholarships, students will need score at least a 1700 at most universities. With qualification for the Honors Programs reserved for students who score somewhere in the 1800 and above range.
  • An SAT score above 1950 will typically land a student with the top scholarship at one of our partner universities. Any score above 2000 is considered exceptional. In short, a good score would be one that is somewhere between 1700 and 2400.

- For answers to more FAQs, please click here.


Some Quick Tips on Taking the SAT


  • Generally, the average student will need about two to three months of preparation before taking the SAT. These two months or so should be spent on taking practice tests, learning new vocabulary and adjusting to the question styles of the SAT.
  • Time-management is very important if a student intends to do well at the SAT. Not only does a student need to manage his time while studying, he has to be able to manage his time while taking the test. As such, the idea of “practice makes perfect” is especially applicable here.
  • Take time to study the subtle differences between education systems. Especially if you are an international student, the examination styles in your country or culture may differ greatly from that of the American system. The SAT is very much based on an American standard of education which emphasizes the student’s ability to think critically and process information to draw conclusions. There is less emphasis placed on pure rote memory and more on understanding concepts and ideas. Students unfamiliar with this style of learning should give themselves more time to get acquainted with the SAT through much practice.

Reading Section

  • The critical reading section of the SAT requires the student to be able to process written data. Comprised of several readings of which the student is expected to answer questions on, it is of utmost importance that students facing this section of the SAT have a good background in reading English text.
  • Most questions in this section require students to not only understand the text, but also draw important pieces of information from it. Since students taking the SAT have limited time, proper comprehension of the text can only be made possible if the student has familiarized himself or herself with the practice of reading frequently and quickly.
  • During the test, be sure to use your pen or pencil to highlight important pieces of information. Doing so will help you find the information you need faster when you are answering the questions. Another tip that might be helpful is to read the questions before you read the text, this way, you will have primed yourself to spot certain pieces of information ahead of others.

- Math Section

  • The Math section is generally considered by many international students to be the easiest section on the SAT. That being said, it should not a section for students to underestimate.
  • The challenge in the Math section of the SAT lies not in the difficulty/complexity of the math but in the way the questions are phrased. Students who did not grow up learning math in English should be particularly wary of the linguistic obstacle here. Personally, the hardest part of the Math section for me was trying to understand what the questions were asking for. I learned Math in Malay in high school and so it took me some time to adjust to doing math in English.
  • In general, most of the questions in the Math section require students to solve a mathematical problem based on a situation described in a paragraph. Rarely does the SAT give the student a straightforward equation to solve. Students should expect to have to spend some time understanding the question and coming up with the equation to solve the problem themselves. Again, what we see here is the emphasis on data-processing and problem-solving.

Writing Section

  • A part of the writing sections requires the student to write a critical essay based on a prompt. Do not underestimate the difficulty of this section. Being able to write well within a short amount of time is not something that occurs overnight for most students. As such, students should take time to practice writing, even if the product is not being graded by a teacher.
  • The essay is the first section on the entire SAT – this means that before you do any math questions, or answer anything about readings, you have to write this essay. In this case, it is extremely important for a student to start well. From personal experience, writing a poor essay or incomplete essay will affect the rest of your test, since you are not allowed to go back and correct or complete your essay once the section is over – even if you have spare time from another section.
  • The multiple choice portions of the writing section require students to have a wider vocabulary, as well as a good understanding of grammar and syntax of the English language. My advice to you is that during your preparation, chances are that you might be challenged to change certain ideas you have learned about writing that you thought were right. Be prepared to unlearn any errors taught by your English teacher. In this case, having a good practice book for the SAT can be very helpful, especially one that explains to you the reason for the answers. Take time to study the mistakes you make during practices so as to avoid repeating them during the actual exam.

To contact the author of this blog post with questions concerning the SAT, or college applications, please e-mail him at


Visit the College Board website: for all kinds of resources on the SAT.

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