Top SAT FAQs

  • What is the SAT?
    The SAT is the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The SAT gauges a student’s academic college readiness. Most colleges and universities require the SAT or other standardized tests as part of the application process to benchmark students. Isn’t that what grades are for, you ask? Yes, however, high school curriculum varies from state to state, and that doesn’t even include independent and parochial schools which are exempt from federal and state standards. The SAT offers colleges and universities a standardized measurement for all high school graduates to demonstrate their readiness for college-level coursework.
  • What subjects are on the SAT?
    The SAT is comprised of two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading. It also offers an optional Essay section. Some colleges require an ACT essay, so make sure to check with the colleges you’re applying to.
  • How are my test scores calculated?
    You’ve heard of the elusive 1600, a perfect score. That 1600 is composed of your Math and Reading Section scores (up to 800). The optional essay is scored separately.
  • Should I prep for the SAT? How much?
    The SAT is 3 hours long, almost 4 hours if you take the essay section, and has a major impact on college admission decisions. With anything of that magnitude, a little test prep is in order. Plus, higher score reports make you a more competitive applicant for both colleges and scholarships. Do you want to see score improvements? While everyone is different, Peterson’s recommends at least six weeks of preparation for test day, longer if you are looking for a substantial score increase.
  • How do I register for the SAT?
    SAT registration deadlines fall approximately five weeks before each test date. Register online on the College Board website. The College Board may require SAT registration by mail under special circumstances.
  • How many times can I take the SAT?
    Colleges will usually consider the highest SAT score obtained, so we recommend taking the SAT at least twice—in the spring of your junior year and the fall of your senior year. Most students get a higher score the second time they take it, and most colleges consider a student’s highest SAT score when making admission decisions.
  • What is a “good score” on the SAT?
    That can be a tricky question to answer. While there is no ‘passing’ or ‘failing’ grade on the SAT, different students and colleges have different definitions of what a ‘good’ score is. So, let’s break down how the SAT is scored: each section (Math and EBRW) is scored 200-800 each, which can total 400-1600 total. The average score for all SAT takers in the school year 2019-202 was 1050; 520 Math, 530 EBRW. SO, if you had taken the SAT in the 2019-2020 school year and scored above 1050, congratulations! You did better than the median, meaning better than most other test takers that year. But there is no one hard-and-fast ‘rule’ for what constitutes a good score. You should aim for your score to match that of the median incoming freshman of the colleges you want to attend. And that, of course, requires preparation–and that is what Peterson’s can offer you.
  • How do I receive my SAT score?
    Roughly one to two weeks after you take the exam, your scores are available. Multiple-choice scores become available first, and about a week later, the optional essay portion is ready for viewing. Ten days later, scores are sent to colleges. Learn more about score reporting.
  • What is the difference between the SAT and the ACT?
    The ACT has an entire dedicated section to science, while the SAT does not. The SAT does test scientific information through its other sections, however. College counselors and advisors have repeatedly stated that neither test is more difficult nor more desirable than the other, and most colleges accept both for admission. As the test taker, you should check with the colleges of your choice to see which exam the colleges you apply to accept.