The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a standardized test created by the College Board that most colleges and universities use to evaluate incoming students. Schools use the test to evaluate college readiness in applicants, alongside their high school GPA, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities.

There are three main sections on the test: Reading, Writing & Language, and Math (both with and without a calculator). The fourth section, the Essay, is optional, but required by some colleges. There are 800 possible points on the Math section. The Reading and Writing & Language sections are combined for a possible total of 800 points. The composite score (the main score colleges look at) is the sum of these two scores. The SAT is three hours long. The optional essay comes at the end of the test and is an additional 50 minutes

The test is offered October through January, and in March, May, June, and August each year. The new test format emphasizes context of vocabulary, scientific reasoning, and your ability to form logical arguments in the reading section. The test evaluates the logic of your ideas and punctuation skills on the writing section, while data analysis and real world problem solving are crucial in the math section.

The SAT Subject Tests are subject-specific tests that may or may not be required, depending on where you plan to apply. There are currently 20 different subject tests, and you can sign up for up to three per test date. You’ll almost certainly have to take the SAT, but you’ll probably only need to take the SAT Subject Test if you’re applying to highly selective colleges. Nonetheless, you should check the testing requirements for each school you’re applying to since they can differ quite a bit.

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