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College 101

Article Type: Quick and Dirty

The SAT is the preppy poster boy of standardized tests for college applications: clean cut, wholesome, but with a subtle sexuality bubbling under the surface… umm, wait, that was just a strange SAT-related anxiety dream we had. But seriously, the SAT is the test that freaks the most people out. A huge percent of that freak-out quotient comes from not knowing what to expect. Remember: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering, and suffering sometimes leads to great art, but it also leads to the Dark Side. So, to help you avoid turning into Darth Vader, Shmoop is here to clarify some things about the SAT.

Six Facts About The SAT

1. What is it? The SAT is a standardized test that exists to drive college-bound high school students insane...oh, and to test their reasoning and logic abilities. If you're a good problem solver, you're safe; if you're not, you're screwed.

"Float like a butterfly, sting like someone who spent time on their SAT test prep."


2. What's on it? The test is divided into three sections: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing (part of which is the mandatory Essay). These are broken down into ten subsections (three from each section, plus an unscored variable section) and given separately on test day, with time limits ranging from 10-25 minutes. Sounds like your kind of rodeo, right?

3. How often is it given? The SAT is offered during every full moon, the better to channel the souls of the damned from the testing center to the Hot Place. And by “every full moon”, we mean eight times a year in the United States and seven times a year worldwide.

4. Where is it given? You can take the SAT, you lucky bugger, you, at official testing centers, AKA certain high schools, college campuses, or community centers.

5. When should you take it? Never. Oh, wait, you want to go to college. In that case, give yourself enough leeway to take the test multiple times, in case you want to improve your score.  (Note that there's no guarantee that taking the SAT over and over and over again will lift you up and over that 2350 you scored on attempt number one.) Most folks dip their toe in the SAT pool sometime near the beginning of their junior year.

6. How will schools look at your scores? If you don't get a 2400, most colleges will burn your application on a funeral pyre.  Others will take the highest section scores across test dates. Every school is different.

Standardized tests can haunt your dreams and harrow your soul, so we're sorry to have to say this, but, if you're an international student, there's no exact answer to Question #6. In most cases, however, your standardized test scores are going to be super-duper important, because they allow colleges to compare you to your peers in a way your transcripts can't.

Start preparing for the SAT with Shmoop.

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