SAT Test FAQ: Most Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve just realized that you need to take the SAT, you probably don’t know much about it. That’s okay! In my first semester of junior year, I didn’t know a lot about the SAT either. All I knew was that everyone was taking it, and I needed to figure out how to get a good score. Over time, I’ve learned a lot about this scary, mandatory, standardized test. So if you have questions, I have answers for you!

How long is the SAT?

The new SAT is three hours long, with an extra 50 minutes if you choose to take the optional essay. Some colleges require the essay, so it’s probably a safe choice to take it if you’re unsure which schools you will be applying to. During the test, you get one 10-minute and one five-minute break. It’s a good idea to bring snacks to eat at this time so that you don’t get distracted by hunger while taking the test.

When and where do I take the SAT?

The SAT is administered several dates a year, so you have many opportunities to take the test. It’s usually offered in January, March, May, June, October, November, and December. (Starting in 2017, it will be offered in August and not January). Specific dates vary depending on the year, but tend to be around the same time in the month. Upcoming 2016 test dates are June 4th, October 1st, November 5th, and December 3rd.

Use the College Board website to find the test centers closest to you. Try to pick a testing center you’re familiar with so you don’t feel uncomfortable on test day. Ideally, the test site would be as close to your home as possible.

How much do my SAT scores matter?

This question depends on which colleges you are applying to. Some schools weight SAT scores very highly when they are reviewing applications. Others might look at grades and extracurricular activities first. But you can’t know how schools value your scores, so your best bet is to look at the average SAT scores for admitted students and try to aim for scores in that range.

When should I start studying for the SAT?

Most students take the test in the spring of their junior year, and they’ll begin studying a few months before. Giving yourself plenty of time to study allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, take lots of practice tests, and ensure that you get the best possible score. Try to start studying at the beginning of the year, so that you can take the January or March test, then potentially take the test a second time in May or June if you need to.

How do I register for the SAT?

Registering for the SAT online is a pretty straightforward process. Make a College Board account, provide your personal information and pick a test date and location. You’ll also need to upload a photo for your admission ticket and pay a registration fee. The fee is $54.50 with the essay and $43 without it. Finally, print your admission ticket and remember to bring it to the test center (along with your ID). You’re done!

What are the biggest changes to the new SAT?

The College Board has made several big changes to the test. First of all, it’s three hours plus an optional 50 minutes, rather than three hours and 45 minutes (all mandatory). The content of the SAT has changed, as it now features “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing,” in which you’ll have to read passages and answer questions about them. The math section has been redesigned, and the essay will now be evidence-based rather than persuasive. Also, the new SAT won’t test the obscure vocabulary that the old test did. Instead, it will test more commonly used words in different contexts. Another big change is that there is no penalty for guessing. With the old test, students got points taken off for incorrect answers. Lastly, the scoring system has changed from a 2400 scale to a 1600 scale.

Is the new SAT harder?

It may be harder or it may be easier, depending on your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are better at persuasive essay writing, the old SAT may have been easier for you. If you hated the obscure vocabulary on the old test, then perhaps the new test will be easier for you. The answer to this question will be different for every student.


  • Nadira Berman

    As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

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

2 Responses to SAT Test FAQ: Most Frequently Asked Questions

  1. David Amos Adibok October 23, 2019 at 6:44 pm #

    subject combinations to a student who wants to apply for psychology…!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 7, 2020 at 10:27 am #

      Hi David,

      That’s great that you have decided what you want to study! College admissions include a lot of factors, including test scores, GPA, and other factors. I recommend choosing a fe schools that you want to apply to and contacting their admissions departments to find out what they are looking for. That will give you a good idea of how to prepare yourself for the application process! Good luck 🙂

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