[Video Post] SAT Scoring and Pacing

In these last several pages, you’ve probably learned several surprising facts (and I’m not just talking about the fact that someone would actually name a bunch of smart kids “termites”, after “Term”an, of course). Not to be outdone on the “surprise index” is the following tidbit: every question on the SAT is worth the same number of points.

That’s right, the very first math question that the 6th grader down the street could get right, to the one of an upside down pyramid that would confound a team of Cal Tech scientists. This pattern holds true across every section. Whether the correct answer is “disingenuousness” or “notable”, you always get the same number of points for answering it correctly. .

Go for the low hanging fruit

So how does this fact affect your pacing? Well, imagine a giant apple tree with apples of the exact same quality scattered throughout its mighty branches. Would you climb to the very top branch to get the exact same apple that you could easily fetch from the lowest branch? Well, the answer is “yes”, only if you’ve already plucked all the apples from the lower branches. Essentially, you would work your way up the tree, picking the hardest-to-get-to apples only once all the other apples are exhausted (all this is assuming you run an apple pie business).

In the same way, you don’t way to spend your time wrestling with the most time consuming questions, which are typically the difficult questions. The good news is the SAT has given us a nifty little way to determine the difficulty of a question: the higher the number of question, the harder question. Question #1 in math will be really easy and the last question of the section will be very difficult. There isn’t always a perfect matchup between question number and difficulty. So question #10 might be harder than question #12. But question #14 is most likely not going to be harder than question #9.

Don’t Forget…

An important point: there is no relation between the question number and the difficulty for reading comprehension passages. The easy questions can be at the end, in the middle, at the beginning, or on some passages, entirely absent.

The next important point: within each section, if there is a different question type, the difficulty level “resets”. For example, in the Writing Section there are these sentences with one long underlined portion. As soon as that section ends at question #11, and new question type begins at #12. #11 will be hard; #12 will be very easy.

So do the easy and medium questions first, skipping around question types within a section. For instance, on the Critical Reading section don’t knock yourself out trying to answer the last couple of questions. Save time—and brainpower—for the reading passages.



  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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