Top 10 Questions About the SAT
Here are the answers to the top 10 questions we get about taking the SAT.
We get asked a lot of questions about the SAT, so here are answers to the top 10 questions we get. If you have one that's not covered, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll help you out.
1. How many times should I take the SAT?
You should take the SAT at least twice! It does cost money to take the test, but check with your guidance counselor to see if you qualify for a fee waiver, which grants you 2 free SAT tests.
Even if you don't study any extra after the first time and before the second time (which you should), you're likely to do better the second time. You'll be more comfortable and have an idea of what to expect because you will have already done this once. You'll make fewer careless errors and that sets you up to score higher.
If you don't have time to take the SAT twice, then simulate, as closely as possible, taking the test at home:
Pick a practice test.
Find a quiet spot in the house.
Figure out what time you have to wake up to get to the SAT and wake up then.
Start the SAT at the time you would start it on test day.
Take the practice test and time yourself the same way the SAT does. You can find the time per section on the first page of each section in your practice test.
2. Do colleges see all my scores?
If you take the SAT more than once (which you should), the next question we get is whether colleges see all your scores or just the one you scored higher on. The answer is it depends. Some schools require you to send all scores and others only want your highest one. Make sure you check the requirements from the college (Google search [college name] application requirements).
But, if you score low the first time and high the second time, that's still a good thing - it shows you grew and learned from your mistakes. What you don't want is to score pretty high the first time and super low the second time, so make sure you do some extra studying before the second test.
3. What's a good SAT score?
Generally, you want at least a 1000 for any four-year college, at least a 1200 for higher tier schools, and at least a 1400 for an Ivy League. However, every school is different, and the best idea to figure out what a good SAT score is for the college of your dreams is to Google search [college name] class profile and look at the range of scores for the most recently admitted class.
Make sure you go to the official page from the college - the URL should have the college name and end in .edu. For example,
4. Should I do the optional Essay on the SAT?
While the SAT makes it optional, some colleges do require you to do the Essay section of the SAT. Check the requirements of the schools you want to apply to by Googling [college name] application requirements. And if you're not sure which schools you want to apply to, then we recommend doing the optional Essay just in case.
5. What's the best way to study for the SAT? Which test-prep book is the best?
We're biased, but we think the best way to study for the SAT is to follow this plan:
Take a practice test and figure out which types of problems you struggle the most with. Maybe you still aren't sure how to solve a system of linear equations problem or you never really learned how to use a colon (we've been there).
Build up those skills using our practice problems, which are broken out by skill area.
Once you master them (a.k.a. you no longer need our trusty explanations to guide you through them), if you want more practice, check out the problems on Khan Academy.
Go through our SAT guides to make sure you know the grammar rules, vocabulary, reading strategies, and math concepts that you need.
Take another practice test! Rinse & repeat - the brain is a muscle, so we have to exercise it 💪🏿💪🏽💪🏻.
If you do want a test-prep book, look for the ones directly from College Board - they're the ones writing the test, so their books will be the closest to what you'll get on test day. Some of the others are harder / easier than the actual test, and we think there are enough problems between us + College Board to help you study without dealing with that uncertainty.
6. Should I take the SAT or the ACT? What's the difference?
The SAT and ACT are different in a couple of ways, but at the end of the day, you'll still have to study, so best to pick one and commit.
Both the SAT and ACT cover Reading, Writing (Grammar), and Math and are about 3 hours long. Here are the key differences:
The ACT has an additional Science section, which is similar to the science passages you get on the SAT, but it's a whole section of them.
The ACT lets you use a calculator for the whole Math section, but the SAT only lets you use it for 1 of the 2 Math sections. BUT the ACT is way stricter about the types of calculators you can use. For example, you can use a TI-89 on the SAT, but not on the ACT.
You get less time per question on the ACT.
Because the ACT has more quantitative-style questions (i.e. the Science section), we recommend you pick the ACT if that's your strong suit. If that's not the case, try doing some practice questions from each (ACT, SAT), and see which one feels more comfortable.
7. Can I take the SAT online?
No, the College Board has not made the SAT available online 😢.
8. Should I take the SAT even if it's optional for my college?
Good question! We have a whole guide on this - check it out here.
9. How do I reduce my anxiety for the SAT? 😓
The best way to reduce anxiety is to build confidence. A lot of times, our anxiety comes from feeling unsure of ourselves or the situation. If we can build up our confidence that YES we can do this and YES we are going to crush this test, then we'll feel less anxiety.
So, practice questions, master skills, and simulate the test-taking environment when you take your practice tests. Your body will naturally become more accustomed to it, and on test day, you'll feel less anxiety.
10. Should I take SAT Subject Tests? What even are SAT Subject Tests?
Some schools require 1-2 Subject Tests (although if they've gone SAT optional this year, they likely are SAT Subject Test optional as well).
Subject Tests are more detailed versions of the SAT in one specific subject area. Here are all the subjects they cover:
Math Level 1 & Math Level 2 - they cover similar topics, but Level 2 is just harder (more info here)
English (like one long Reading section 😬)
Languages (Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin, Japanese, Korean)
If the college you're applying to doesn't require any, then no need to study for them - unless you've already studied hard for the AP exams in these areas and want to flex a little 💪🏻💪🏽💪🏿.
Hope we were able to answer your question - if not reach out to us at email@example.com 🎉.