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 The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions at undergraduate (Bachelor’s) level in the United States. The SAT is administered by the College Board corporation, a non-profit organization in the United States, and is developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The current SAT Reasoning Test is administered in about 3 hours and 45 minutes. After SAT's introduction in 1901, its name and scoring has changed several times. In 2005, the test was renamed as "SAT Reasoning Test" with possible scores from 600 to 2400 combining test results from three 800-point sections (math, critical reading, and writing), along with other subsections scored separately.

The College Board states that the SAT measures critical thinking skills that are needed for academic success in college. It is claimed that the SAT assesses how well the test takers analyze and solve problems—skills they learned in school that they would need in college. The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors. Specifically, the College Board states that use of the SAT in combination with high school grade point average (GPA) provides a better indicator of success in college than high school grades alone, as measured by college freshman GPA. Various studies conducted over the lifetime of the SAT show a statistically significant increase in correlation of high school grades and freshman grades when the SAT is factored in.

SAT consists of three major sections: Mathematics, Critical Reading and Writing. Each section receives a score on the scale of 200–800. All scores are multiples of 10. Total scores are calculated by adding up scores of the three sections. Each major section is divided into three parts. There are 10 sub-sections, including an additional 25-minute experimental or "equating" section that may be in any of the three major sections. The experimental section is used to normalize questions for future administrations of the SAT and does not count toward the final score. The test contains 3 hours and 45 minutes of actual timed sections.

 

Mathematics

The Mathematics sections of the SAT consist of three scored sections. There are two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section, as follows:

 

  • One of the 25-minute sections is entirely multiple choice, with 20 questions.

  • The other 25-minute section contains eight multiple-choice questions and 10 grid-in questions.

  • The shorter section is all multiple choice, with only 16 questions.

  

Critical Reading

The Critical Reading, formerly verbal, section of the SAT is made up of three scored sections, two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section, with varying types of questions, including sentence completions and questions about short and long reading passages. Critical Reading sections normally begin with 5 to 8 sentence completion questions; the remainder of the questions is focused on the reading passages. Sentence completions generally test the student's vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure and organization by requiring the student to select one or two words that best complete a given sentence. The bulk of the Critical Reading questions are made up of questions regarding reading passages, in which students read short excerpts on social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, or personal narratives and answer questions based on the passage. Certain sections contain passages asking the student to compare two related passages; generally, these consist of short reading passages as well as longer passages. Since this is a timed test, the number of questions about each passage is proportional to the length of the passage.

 

Writing

The writing section of the SAT, includes multiple choice questions and a brief essay. The multiple-choice questions include error identification questions, sentence improvement questions, and paragraph improvement questions. Error identification and sentence improvement questions test the student's knowledge of grammar, presenting an awkward or grammatically incorrect sentence; in the error identification section, the student must locate the word producing the source of the error or indicate that the sentence has no error, while the sentence improvement section requires the student to select an acceptable fix to the awkward sentence. The paragraph improvement questions test the student's understanding of logical organization of ideas, presenting a poorly written student essay and asking a series of questions as to what changes might be made to best improve it.

The essay section, which is always administered as the first section of the test, is 25 minutes long. All essays must be in response to a given prompt. The prompts are broad and often philosophical and are designed to be accessible to students regardless of their educational and social backgrounds. For instance, test takers may be asked to expound on such ideas as their opinion on the value of work in human life or whether technological change also carries negative consequences to those who benefit from it. No particular essay structure is required, and the College Board accepts examples "taken from [the student's] reading, studies, experience, or observations." Two trained readers assign each essay a score between 1 and 6, where a score of 0 is reserved for essays that are blank, off-topic, non-English, not written with no. 2 pencil, or considered illegible after several attempts at reading. The scores are summed to produce a final score from 2 to 12 (or 0). If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, then a senior third reader decides. The essay score accounts for roughly 30% of the writing score; the multiple-choice component accounts for roughly 70%.

 

Questions

Most of the questions on the SAT are multiple choice; all multiple-choice questions have five answer choices, one of which is correct. The questions of each section of the same type are generally ordered by difficulty. However, an important exception exists: Questions that follow the long and short reading passages are organized chronologically, rather than by difficulty. Ten of the questions in one of the math sub-sections are not multiple choice. They instead require the test taker to bubble in a number in a four-column grid.

The questions are weighted equally. For each correct answer, one raw point is added. For each incorrect answer one-fourth of a point is deducted. No points are deducted for incorrect math grid-in questions. This ensures that a student's mathematically expected gain from guessing is zero. The final score is derived from the raw score; the precise conversion chart varies between test administrations.

The SAT therefore recommends only making educated guesses, that is, when the test taker can eliminate at least one answer he or she thinks is wrong. Without eliminating any answers one's probability of answering correctly is 20%. Eliminating one wrong answer increases this probability to 25%; two, a 33.3% probability; three, a 50% probability of choosing the correct answer and thus earning the full point for the question.

 
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