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How Hard Is the SAT?

Thousands of high school students set their sights on college each year, which means thousands of students are taking the SAT. Understandably, they want to know what they are up against. Most of them ask me before they start studying, “How hard is the SAT?” But I can’t answer this question. There is no easy answer. How can we say if it is hard without having a point of comparison? We need some context to know how hard the SAT is, and that is exactly what I intend to do in this article.

 

How hard is the SAT compared to tests in high school?

The tests that you take in English and Algebra are not as hard as the SAT. Now each high school is different and administers different tests, but in general, the SAT will be harder than your typical high school test simply because of the length. Not too many high schoolers are taking tests that last for nearly four hours, have 170 questions, and include an essay. The mere length of time that students must be focused and engaged will make the SAT more challenging than tests in high school.

The difficulty of the SAT is also based on the types of questions. You probably have tests in school that are multiple choice, true/false, fill-in the blank, or short answer response. And the SAT has some questions like this—multiple choice and fill-in the blank. But the wording of the questions will be more difficult. Wrong answers on the SAT won’t stand out as much as the wrong answers on high school tests. And you will see question types you probably haven’t seen before, like some in the Writing Section.

 

How hard is the SAT compared to other standardized tests in high school?

The difficulty of the SAT will be closer to the difficulty of a standardized state test, largely because of the material covered on the SAT. And I am not talking about the standardized tests you took in middle school. A standardized test for an 11th grader will be closer in level and difficulty to the SAT. Sample STAR questions, which is the standardized test given to students in California, look similar to SAT questions. Most likely, the SAT is harder than most of the standardized tests that you’ve seen.

But the types of skills you were tested on—reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, math facts, and logical reasoning—are the same skills tested on the SAT. So there are some similarities.

 

How hard is the SAT compared to building a website?

The SAT is not as hard as building a website. The knowledge, time, and energy to design, build, test, and release a website to the world is more of a challenge than the SAT. The SAT is predictable in a lot of ways since it is a standardized test. We know how many questions are on the test, and how much time we have. We know the format of the test, and we can learn the different questions types in each section and how to answer them correctly. And we know what we should not do on the SAT.

But building a website is fraught with unknowns. Problems lurk in places you don’t even expect. You have to understand pathing, multiple computer languages, file structures, color design, layout, readability, fonts, browser versions, mobile and tablet compatibility, technological turnover, deprecation,…. And that is just on the tech side of building a website. If you are building one for someone else, your task is even harder. Now you have to be concerned about the opinions, expectations, and desires of another person. But the SAT requires none of this specialized knowledge, and it is definitely not based on the whim and fancy of a single person.

 

But how hard is the SAT compared to…?

Depending on what you are doing, the SAT might be hard and it might be easy. I guarantee this guy thinks that SAT is pretty easy since he helped build the Mars Rover. But his difficulties are not our difficulties.

Maybe you actually think the SAT is hard. Maybe you think it is easy. You tell me what you think is harder or easier than the SAT. Because all I know is that building a web site is really, really hard.

Some plans to point you in the right direction

Here are some study plans for those of you out there who find the SAT interminably difficult:

You can also watch a short video with tips on studying for the SAT, and don’t forget the value of taking some full-length practice SATs before test day. They’ll help you with your test-taking endurance and time-management skills, all while making you more comfortable with the test.
 

About the Author

Kevin has taught for over ten years from San Francisco to Japan, helping students prepare for tests, like the GRE, GMAT, and SAT. He enjoys sharing what he learned, so even more students can achieve their goals. When he is not helping students dominate standardized tests, you can find him in the Pacific Ocean or on a granite dome in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter @KevinRocci!

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