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Increase Your SAT Scores by Knowing What the Test Is About

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wondering what’s up with the SAT? Read on and find out!

SAT testing: The Critical Reading section

When your parents took the SAT, there was a "Verbal" section on it. Now, it's called Critical Reading. Why? The entire section consists exclusively of critical reading questions designed to test your reading skills at the sentence, paragraph, and passage level.

This 70-minute portion of the test includes two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute segment. The questions include paragraph-length critical reasoning problems, sentence completions, and reading comprehension passages. The topics of the given texts represent a wide range of subjects, including science, literature, humanities, and history.

SAT testing: The Math section

The Math section of the SAT now includes some Algebra II. This section also includes five-choice multiple-choice and student-produced responses. It's the same length as the Critical Reading segment, with two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute portion. (And yes, you can use a calculator!)

SAT testing: The Writing test, part one

The Writing section consists of two parts: an essay and a multiple-choice section. The essay portion is always the first part of the SAT and allots you 25 minutes to answer an essay question that asks you to agree or disagree with a point of view. A good essay will support your chosen position with specific reasons and examples from literature, history, art, science, current affairs, or even your own experiences.

Essays are graded on a scale of 1 to 6 by two independent readers, and the two scores are combined to form an essay sub-score that ranges from 2 to 12. If the two scores vary by more than 2 points, a third reader also scores your response. The evaluators are high school teachers and college professors who teach composition. To ensure that essays are scored in a timely manner, they are scanned and made available to readers on the Internet for grading purposes. (If you view your SAT scores online, you can access this scan, which can help you to understand your score.)

SAT testing: The Writing test, part two

The Writing section also includes thirty five minutes of multiple-choice grammar and usage questions. Some of these questions ask you to improve given sentences and paragraphs. Others present you with sentences and require you to identify mistakes in diction, grammar, sentence construction, subject-verb agreement, proper word usage, and wordiness.

SAT scores

The highest possible score on the Writing section is 800. (Your essay counts for about a ninth of that score.) Scores on the essay and multiple-choice section are combined to produce a single score. A Writing sub-score is also be assigned. The highest possible scores on the Critical Reading and Math sections are 800 each, making 2,400 a perfect score.

SAT prep is a proven way to increase your scores. While you need to have a strong foundation in writing, reading, and math to score well, SAT test prep will teach you strategies to get the most from the knowledge you have. SAT help will allow you to determine your weaknesses and focus on improving them. Check out the free SAT practice test available here at Peterson's to get some great prep right now.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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