The SAT and PSAT are exams that assess students in Evidence-based Reading and Writing, and Math.
Test Prep
SAT & PSAT

PSAT/NMSQT

The PSAT/NMSQT is a test usually taken by high school sophomores and juniors. It gives students a first look at SAT-style questions, but has slightly different score ranges and does not include an essay. The Reading and Writing section and the Math section are both scored out of 760, giving a combined max total score of 1520. Top scorers on the PSAT/NMSQT can qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

Similarly, some schools choose to offer the PSAT 8/9 to 8th and 9th graders, and the PSAT 10 to 10th graders to allow even earlier exposure to SAT material. While the PSAT 10 is scored using the same range as the PSAT/NMSQT, sections on the PSAT 8/9 are scored out of 720, giving a combined max total score of 1440.

Test Order

Test Section Time Number of Questions
Reading 60 mins 47
Writing and Language 35 mins 44
Math: No Calculator 25 mins 17
Math: Calculator 45 mins 31

SAT

The SAT I contains questions in two main categories: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing; and Math. These competencies are tested in four sections—Reading, Writing and Language, Math: No Calculator, and Math: Calculator—through multiple-choice questions with four possible answers and student-produced response questions. An optional Essay section is also offered and is administered at the end of the exam.

Scoring

Students receive one point for every correct answer and these points add up to their raw score. Based upon the global results for each test date, the College Board then scales the raw scores to provide students with their corresponding scaled score.

Test Section Included Subsections Scaled Score Range
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Reading
Writing and Language
200-800
Math No Calculator
Calculator
200-800
Total 400-1600

The optional essay is scored separately from the main test sections. Two readers—trained high school or college teachers—grade it in three distinct categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

Category Grader 1 Grader 2 Total
Reading 1-4 1-4 2-8
Analysis 1-4 1-4 2-8
Writing 1-4 1-4 2-8

Test Order

Test Section Time Number of Questions
Reading 65 mins 52
Writing and Language 35 mins 44
Math: No Calculator 25 mins 20
Math: Calculator 55 mins 38
Essay (Optional) 50 mins 1 Essay

Experimental Section

Students who choose to take the SAT without the essay may have to take a 20-min long experimental section. It is unclear whether or not any part of this fifth section will count toward their grade, and whether or not experimental questions can be scattered throughout the four other sections. Bottom line: if you choose not to take the essay, still treat every question as though it counts, and be prepared to work for 20 mins longer than the practice tests.


Reading Section Overview

CONTENT ITEM TYPES
Command of evidence, words in context, rhetoric, critical reading, synthesis, and graph interpretation Five reading comprehension passages of 10 or 11 multiple-choice questions each, including one paired-text passage

Writing and Language Section Overview

CONTENT ITEM TYPES
Grammar, usage, rhetoric, word choice, and graph interpretation Four passages of 11 multiple-choice questions each

Mathematics: No Calculator Section Overview

CONTENT ITEM TYPES
Heart of Algebra (Linear equations, inequalities, models…)- 8 questions
Passport to Advanced Math (Polynomials, radical and exponential equations, quadratic equations, functional notation…)- 9 questions
Additional Topics in Math (Geometry, trigonometry, complex numbers…)- 3 questions
15 multiple-choice questions and 5 student-produced responses

Mathematics: Calculator Section Overview

CONTENT ITEM TYPES
Heart of Algebra (Linear equations, inequalities, models…)- 11 questions
Problem Solving and Data Analysis (Rates, percentages, units, probability, data analysis, scatterplots…)- 17 questions
Passport to Advanced Math (Polynomials, radical and exponential equations, quadratic equations, functional notation…)- 7 questions
Additional Topics in Math (Geometry, trigonometry, complex numbers…)- 3 questions
30 multiple-choice questions and 8 student-produced responses

Essay Overview

The Essay section is optional and requires a separate fee. It is only available to students who select the Essay option upon registration for the SAT I. It is important to speak to your college counselor, and to consult the application requirements of your target universities, to ensure whether or not you should complete the Essay section.

  • The essay measures the ability to:
    • Accurately read a text.
    • Analyze an author’s argument and writing choices.
    • Organize and express ideas clearly.
    • Develop and support a main idea.
    • Use appropriate word choice and sentence structure.
  • Students are asked to analyze an author’s argument on an issue, using reasoning, evidence, and stylistic elements from the text to support their ideas.

Read a Sample Essay Prompt from the College Board.