Introduction to SAT
Many colleges and universities require their applicants to take a standardized examination called the SAT. Consequently, most of you as high school juniors or seniors will take this test as part of the college admissions process. The SAT, which is written and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), purports to evaluate students’ reading, writing, and mathematical reasoning abilities. As a result, you will actually get three scores: a critical reading score, a math score, and a writing score, each of which will lie between 200 and 800. For each part the median score is 500, meaning that about 50 percent of all students score below 500 and about 50 percent score of 500 or above.
In addition to your application form, the essays you write, and the letters of recommendation that your teachers and guidance counselor provide, colleges receive two important pieces of numerical data. One is your high school transcript, which shows the grades you have earned in all your courses during a 3-year period. The other is your SAT scores, which show how well you did on a 33⁄4-hour test one Saturday morning. Which is more important? Your transcript, by far. However, your scores on the SAT definitely do count, and it is precisely because you want those scores to be as high as possible that you purchased this book. If you use it wisely, you will not be disappointed.
The following is the test format for SAT exams :
- Writing & Language (44 questions, 35 Minutes). 3 types of questions: Grammar, Data Interpretation, and Rhetorical Questions. Grammar questions include subject-verb agreement, syntax, tense, & parallel structure. Rhetorical questions evaluate students’ ability to use language effectively, such as improving passages. Data interpretation questions require students to interpret graphs and tables associated with text.
- Reading (52 questions, 65 minutes). 5 main types of comprehension questions after passages: Main Idea Questions, Inference Questions, Evidence-Based Questions, Vocabulary in Context Questions, and Data Interpretation Questions.
- Math (57 questions, 80 minutes). 3 types of problems: Quantitative Literacy, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. Within these categories are problem solving & data analysis problems, intermediate algebra, geometry, advanced algebra, and trigonometry. 35% of math questions will be answered without the use of a calculator. ü “Optional” Essay. Students will not be asked to agree or disagree with the author’s argument but rather to explain how the author constructs his or her stance to persuade readers.
Total: 154 questions in 3 hours and 50 minutes
The following are general SAT test taking strategies that should be applied through the SAT test. Apply these techniques and strategies on each section of the SAT test and you should see your score improve.
- Read section directions before the test.
Study and review the directions for each SAT section before the test. Use your test time for the test not for reading directions.
- Answer the questions you know first.
As you go through each section, answer all of the questions you know the answers to first. Mark all the questions you don’t immediately know the answer to and return and answer them later.
- Eliminate incorrect answers.
If you’re able to eliminate even on choice for the selection of possible answers then guess. Sometimes it’s easier to eliminate answers you know to be incorrect than to identify the correct answer. Eliminate all the incorrect answer often leads to the correct answer.
- Be neat.
Don’t be sloppy when filling in the answer grid for student-produced response questions.
- Use your test booklet.
Since you’re allowed to write in the test book, cross out answers you know are wrong and do scratch work.
- Avoid stray marks.
Since a machine scores your test, make sure not to put any stray marks on your answer sheet. SAT scoring machines frequently can’t differentiate between a correct answer and an accidental stray mark.
- Your first response is usually correct.
Your first response to a question is usually correct. Don’t change an answer unless you’re certain you’ve made an error.
- There is only one correct answer.
Only select one answer for each question — as there is only one correct answer. Sometimes it may seem there is more than one answer. Select the best answer for each question.
- Don’t skip answers–guess.
On older versions of the SAT, you were penalized for guessing. But not anymore. If you don’t have any idea what the answer then guess. You’re aren’t penalized for guessing. However, before guessing, always try and eliminate at least one incorrect answer choice.
- Pay attention.
Make sure you’re placing your answers in the correct number space and section on your answer sheet. It’s easy to place your answer in the wrong place if you’re not paying close attention.
- Budget your time.
Pace yourself! This test is timed. Only spend a few moments on the easy questions and no more than a minute or two on the harder questions. Don’t forget that the SAT consists of several small, timed, tests. Its easy to loose track of time so make sure to pay attention to how much time is allotted for each test and how much time is remaining as you proceed through each section. Pacing yourself requires practice so practice, practice, practice.
- Easy questions first.
A rule of thumb is that easy questions on the SAT typically precede harder questions.
- Make sure you understand the question.
Make sure that you fully understand each question before you answer it. If you’ve taken a lot of practice tests you’ll be tempted to answer questions you recall from practice tests. Make sure to answer the questions being asked and not those from practice tests.
- Bring a watch or timer.
Don’t forget to bring your own stopwatch to the testing center. There isn’t always an accurate clock at the testing center.
- Know what to expect on the test.
You need to know the types of questions to expect on the SAT. There 52 Reading questions (65 minutes), 44 Writing & Language questions (35 minutes), 58 Math questions (80 minutes) and one Essay (50 minutes).
- One of the best strategies for the sentence completion section is to complete each sentence in your mind using your own words BEFORE looking at the answers. Once you’ve completed the sentence in your own words identify the selection choice is closest to your answer.
- Don’t rush through each selection. Don’t waste time but make sure to review all the answers before selecting the best choice.
- If you come across words you’re unfamiliar with use the context of the sentence to figure out what they mean.
- One common mistake that students make is that they tend to overlook the reversing effect of negative words (such as not) or prefixes (such as un-).
- Allow transition words, such as likewise and although, to suggest the better answer.
- If you just can’t figure out what a word means, think about other words you know that have similar prefixes, roots, or suffixes.
- Eliminate choices in double-blank questions if the first word doesn’t make sense in the sentence.
- Identify the main idea of each passage.
- Always make sure to read the italicized introductory text.
- Always answer the easy questions first. Come back and answer the more difficult questions once you’ve answered all the questions you know the answer to.
- Use the line referenced numbers that appear in the questions to find the correct spot in each passage.
- You should limit your answer for reading comprehension questions to what is stated or implied in the passages.
- Read each passage through at least once before reading the associated questions.
- The most important sentences of each paragraph are the first and the last. Pay particular attention to these sentences.
- Don’t waste time memorizing the details of each passage.
- First, answer all the questions for the topics that you are familiar with. Afterwards, go back and answer the questions for the topics you are unfamiliar with.
- Some reading comprehension passages are presented in pairs. In order to see how these passages relate read the brief introduction first.
- Focus the majority of your time answering the questions — not reading and re-reading the text.
- All reading comprehension content comes from the Social Science, Science, Humanities, and Literary Fiction.
- There is no shortcut to improving your critical reading skills other than practice.
- Think hard about each question before attempting to answer it.
- Each usage and sentence correction questions is based on an individual’s sentence. Each question is designed to test your knowledge of basic sentence structure, grammar, and word choice. Make sure to read each question carefully so that you understand what is required before you answer it.
- Paragraph correction questions are based on two passages. There are typically several questions presented for each passage.
- Make sure you understand the rules for using commas (,), semicolons (;), colons (:), dashes (–), and apostrophes (‘)
The math sections on the ACT are designed to test students’ ability to solve mathematical problems, reason quantitatively, and interpret data that is presented in graphs and tables. Areas of math covered on the SAT include Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Functions, and Data Analysis. The math section offers two types of questions: Student Produced Response (grid-in questions) and Standard Multiple Choice questions. For the first section of the Math ACT no calculator is allowed. This section includes 15 multiple choice and 5 grid-ins. In the second section of the MAT ACT students are allowed to use a calculator. This section includes 30 multiple choice and 8 grid-ins (including on Extended Thinking question). In all 80 minutes are alloted for the completion of the Math ACT section (25 minutes for the “no calculator” section and 55 minutes for the “calculator” section.)
The following are tips and techniques for improving your performance on the student produced response questions.
- Since there is no penalty for guessing make sure to answer all the questions even if you don’t know the answer.
- There are no negative answers in the student produced response math section. So if you come up with a negative answer, you’ll need to try again.
- You’re able to enter a short answer in any column provided. For example, .8 can be entered in columns 1-2, or 2-3, or 3-4.
- If you’re answer ends up being a repeating decimal, such as .4444444, just enter as many decimal points as you can in the grid provided.
- Even though you can enter an equivalent decimal for your answer instead of a fraction, there is not reason to as it just wastes time.
- Do not provide mixed numbers as answers. For example, if your answer is 2 3/4, you need to change it to 11/4 or 2.75.
- Read the question thoroughly and make sure you understand what the question is looking for. Select the best answer provided for the variable, value, or expression that is requested.
- Make sure that you prepare before hand for this section of the test. Know all of the important math definitions, formulas, and concepts that might appear.
- Use only the test booklet provided to show your work and for marking up diagrams or graphs presented.
- The first sets of questions in this section of the test are usually the easier questions, so don’t spend too much time answering them.
- If a question seems complicated and time consuming look for a shortcut to the answer. Don’t get involved in detailed calculations that are going to require a lot of time. Look at the answers provided and see if you can rule out any as incorrect answers. This will help narrow down your selection of possible correct choices.
- If you come across a question with a strange symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when attempting to figure out the correct answer.
What to bring for an SAT test and what not to bring
#1: Admission Ticket
You must print out your admission ticket and bring it to the testing centre. A paper copy of your ticket is 100% necessary for admission—you can’t show it on your cell phone, tablet, etc.
#2: Photo ID
Your photo ID should resemble the picture you uploaded to the College Board website when you registered for the SAT. Below is a list of acceptable and unacceptable forms of ID:
- Unexpired government-issued IDs (e.g., driver’s license, passport, military ID, national ID, etc.)
- Current school ID card
- Student ID Form, if you don’t have any of the other forms; this form must be prepared by the school you currently attend or by a notary if you are home-schooled
- Unacceptable IDs include IDs that are expired or damaged or do not match your College Board photo.
Some unacceptable forms of ID include the following:
- Credit or debit cards (even ones with photographs)
- Birth certificates
- Social Security cards
- Employee ID cards
- ChildFind ID cards
- Other temporary ID cards
#3: At Least Two #2 Pencils and an Eraser
Pens, highlighters, liquid paper, or any other writing utensils are not allowed, not even for the essay (if you’re taking the SAT with Essay). Check your erasers to make sure they work well.
#4: An Acceptable Calculator
You’ll need to bring your own calculator for the Math Calculator section. Acceptable calculators include graphing and scientific calculators. A basic four-function calculator is also allowed but not recommended.
Unacceptable calculators and devices include the following:
Calculators that make noise or use a keyboard-like (QWERTY) keypad, an electrical outlet, or a paper tape
Basically, don’t bring anything that could be disruptive or has communication capabilities.
Other Items You Might Want to Bring to the SAT
In addition to the four essentials, what other items can you bring to the SAT? Here are some of our recommendations for things that might come in handy on SAT test day:
Extra #2 pencils and a small handheld pencil sharpener. Since time is tight and talking is prohibited, you definitely don’t want to find yourself in the middle of the SAT with nothing to write with! So bring some backup writing utensils and a sharpener.
Extra batteries for your calculator, just in case. It’s also a good idea to put in new batteries the day or two before the SAT—and definitely make sure that your calculator works!
A drink and snacks for your breaks. These will likely have to stay in your bag, in a locker, or up at the test administrator’s desk and will have to be consumed outside of the testing room. The SAT is a long test; drinks and snacks will help you stay hydrated, energized, and focused.
A watch, as long as it doesn’t have any audible alarms or noises. If it’ll help you keep track of time, bring one along. If you just find it distracting, though, leave it at home!
There are lots of prohibited items when it comes to the SAT test day. We’ll list a few below, but your best bet is to avoid bringing anything that’s not recommended on the above lists:
- Any other technology besides your calculator, especially anything with communication or recording capabilities. This means no cell phones, laptops, tablets, timers, cameras, or audio recorders. The College Board takes security very seriously, as you can tell from these high-profile cheating scandals.
- Any other notes, cheat sheets, dictionaries, translators, books, or papers.
- To reiterate, if you must bring your cell phone, turn it off well before the test. If it beeps even just once, your proctor will confiscate it and cancel your test immediately.
SAT word list
1. One who is out to subvert a government Anarchist
2. One who is recovering from illness Convalescent
3. One who is all powerful Omnipotent
4. One who is present everywhere Omnipresent
5. One who knows everything Omniscient
6. One who is easily deceived Gullible
7. One who does not make mistakes Infallible
8. One who can do anything for money Mercenary
9. One who has no money Pauper
10. One who changes sides Turncoat
11. One who works for free Volunteer
12. One who loves books Bibliophile
13. One who can speak two languages Bilingual
14. One who loves mankind Philanthropist
15. One who hates mankind Misanthrope
16. One who looks on the bright side of things Optimist
17. One who looks on the dark side of things Pessimist
18. One who doubts the existence of god Agnostic
19. One who pretends to be what he is not Hypocrite
20. One incapable of being tired Indefatigable
21. One who helps others Good Samaritan
22. One who copies from other writers Plagiarist
23. One who hates women Misogynist
24. One who knows many languages Polyglot
25. One who is fond of sensuous pleasures Epicure
26. One who thinks only of himself Egoist
27. One who thinks only of welfare of women Feminist.
28. One who is indifferent to pleasure or pain Stoic
29. One who is quite like a woman Effeminate
30. One who has strange habits Eccentric
31. One who speaks less Reticent
32. One who goes on foot Pedestrian
33. One who believes in fate Fatalist
34. One who dies without a Will Intestate
35. One who always thinks himself to be ill Valetudinarian
36. A Government by the people Democracy
37. A Government by a king or queen Monarchy
38. A Government by the officials Bureaucracy
39. A Government by the rich Plutocracy
40. A Government by the few Oligarchy
41. A Government by the Nobles Aristocracy
42. A Government by one Autocracy
43. Rule by the mob Mobocracy
44. That through which light can pass Transparent
45. That through which light cannot pass Opaque
46. That through which light can partly pass Translucent
47. A sentence whose meaning is unclear Ambiguous
48. A place where orphans live Orphanage
49. That which cannot be described Indescribable
50. That which cannot be imitated Inimitable
51. That which cannot be avoided Inevitable
52. A position for which no salary is paid Honorary
53. That which cannot be defended Indefensible
54. Practice of having several wives Polygamy
55. Practice of having several husbands Polyandry
56. Practice of having one wife or husband Monogamy
57. Practice of having two wives or husbands Bigamy
58. That which is not likely to happen Improbable
59. People living at the same time Contemporaries
60. A book published after the death of its author Posthumas
61. A book written by an unknown author Anonymous
62. A life history written by oneself Autobiography
63. A life history written by somebody else Biography
64. People who work together Colleagues
65. One who eats too much Glutton
66. That which cannot be satisfied Insatiable
67. One who questions everything Cynic
68. A flesh eating animal Carnivorous
69. A grass eating animal Herbivorous
70. One who lives in a foreign country Immigrant
71. To transfer one’s authority to another Delegate
72. One who is a newcomer Neophyte
73. That which is lawful Legal
74. That which is against law Illegal
75. One who is unmarried Celibate
76. A game in which no one wins Draw
77. A study of man Anthropology
78. A study of races Ethnology
79. A study of the body Physiology
80. A study of animals Zoology
81. A study of birds Ornithology
82. A study of ancient things Archaeology
83. A study of derivation of words Etymology
84. Murder of a human being Homicide
85. Murder of a father Patricide
86. Murder of a mother Matricide
87. Murder of an brother Fratricide
88. Murder of an infant Infanticide
89. Murder of self Suicide
90. Murder of the king Regicide
91. To free somebody from all blame Exonerate
92. To write under a different name Pseudonym
93. A thing no longer in use Obsolete
94. A handwriting that cannot be read Illegible
95. Words written on the tomb of a person Epitaph
96. One who is greedy for money Avaricious
97. Something that cannot be imitated Inimitable
98. One who doesn’t know how to read and write Illiterate
99. A person’s peculiar habit Idiosyncrasy
100. An animal who preys on other animals Predator
101. Violating the sanctity of a church Sacrilege
102. One who can throw his voice Ventriloquist
SAT Essay Cheat Sheet
Being able to write well is a skill critical to success in both college and the workplace. The Writing and Language section of the SAT is designed to test (1) rhetorical skills and (2) usage and mechanics. Rhetorical skills questions test your ability to revise and edit text, specifically your ability to organize sentences, passages, and paragraphs. The following tips and strategies will help you improve your performance on the Written Essay portion of the Writing and Language section.
- Answer questions as you read. You don’t have time to read entire passages, then read the questions, and then come back to the passage to re-find the answer. Start by reading the first question and then read what you need to in order to answer it.
- You’ll be asked to write a relatively short (250-300 words), persuasive essay on a specific topic that will be provided to you.
- Make sure to structure your essay based on the 5 paragraph essay format which includes an Introduction, Body (about 3 paragraphs), and Conclusion.
- You’re provided 25 minutes to complete the written essay portion of the test. Read the essay question as quickly as possible and spend about 5 minutes thinking about the topic you’ve been asked to address. Spend about 15 minutes writing your essay. Spend the remaining 5 minutes reviewing your essay and editing your grammar.
- The introduction paragraph of your persuasive essay should clearing state your position on the topic you’re writing about and introduce your thesis statement. The introduction should also include 3 points that support your position.
- The body paragraphs should provide specific details and examples to support each of your points.
- Your essay’s conclusion should summarize your position by restating your thesis statement in a shortened form.
- Keep your writing clear, concise and simple. Don’t use words and “filler” text that is not needed to support your position.
- Read only what is needed to answer a given question. Most questions can be answered with only a few sentences from a passage.
- Make sure you understand the relationship between ideas, including Reinforcement, Contract, Cause-and-effect, and Sequence.
At my family’s cabin on a Minnesota lake, I knew woods so dark that my hands disappeared before my eyes. I knew night skies in which meteors left smoky trails across sugary spreads of stars. But now, when 8 of 10 children born in the United States will never know a sky dark enough for the Milky Way, I worry we are rapidly losing night’s natural darkness before realizing its worth. This winter solstice, as we cheer the days’ gradual movement back toward light, let us also remember the irreplaceable value of darkness.
All life evolved to the steady rhythm of bright days and dark nights. Today, though, when we feel the closeness of nightfall, we reach quickly for a light switch. And too little darkness, meaning too much artificial light at night, spells trouble for all.
Already the World Health Organization classifies working the night shift as a probable human carcinogen, and the American Medical Association has voiced its unanimous support for “light pollution reduction efforts and glare reduction efforts at both the national and state levels.” Our bodies need darkness to produce the hormone melatonin, which keeps certain cancers from developing, and our bodies need darkness for sleep. Sleep disorders have been linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression, and recent research suggests one main cause of “short sleep” is “long light.” Whether we work at night or simply take our tablets, notebooks and smartphones to bed, there isn’t a place for this much artificial light in our lives.
The rest of the world depends on darkness as well, including nocturnal and crepuscular species of birds, insects, mammals, fish and reptiles. Some examples are well known—the 400 species of birds that migrate at night in North America, the sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs—and some are not, such as the bats that save American farmers billions in pest control and the moths that pollinate 80% of the world’s flora. Ecological light pollution is like the bulldozer of the night, wrecking habitat and disrupting ecosystems several billion years in the making. Simply put, without darkness, Earth’s ecology would collapse….
In today’s crowded, louder, more fast-paced world, night’s darkness can provide solitude, quiet and stillness, qualities increasingly in short supply. Every religious tradition has considered darkness invaluable for a soulful life, and the chance to witness the universe has inspired artists, philosophers and everyday stargazers since time began. In a world awash with electric light…how would Van Gogh have given the world his “Starry Night”? Who knows what this vision of the night sky might inspire in each of us, in our children or grandchildren?
Yet all over the world, our nights are growing brighter. In the United States and Western Europe, the amount of light in the sky increases an average of about 6% every year. Computer images of the United States at night, based on NASA photographs, show that what was a very dark country as recently as the 1950s is now nearly covered with a blanket of light. Much of this light is wasted energy, which means wasted dollars. Those of us over 35 are perhaps among the last generation to have known truly dark nights. Even the northern lake where I was lucky to spend my summers has seen its darkness diminish.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Light pollution is readily within our ability to solve, using new lighting technologies and shielding existing lights. Already, many cities and towns across North America and Europe are changing to LED streetlights, which offer dramatic possibilities for controlling wasted light. Other communities are finding success with simply turning off portions of their public lighting after midnight. Even Paris, the famed “city of light,” which already turns off its monument lighting after 1 a.m., will this summer start to require its shops, offices and public buildings to turn off lights after 2 a.m. Though primarily designed to save energy, such reductions in light will also go far in addressing light pollution. But we will never truly address the problem of light pollution until we become aware of the irreplaceable value and beauty of the darkness we are losing.
Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved. In your essay, analyze how Bogard uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Bogard’s claims, but rather explain how Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience.
A] strange thing has happened in the American arts during the past quarter century. While income rose to unforeseen levels, college attendance ballooned, and access to information increased enormously, the interest young Americans showed in the arts—and especially literature—actually diminished.
According to the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, a population study designed and commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts (and executed by the US Bureau of the Census), arts participation by Americans has declined for eight of the nine major forms that are measured….The declines have been most severe among younger adults (ages 18–24). The most worrisome finding in the 2002 study, however, is the declining percentage of Americans, especially young adults, reading literature.
That individuals at a time of crucial intellectual and emotional development bypass the joys and challenges of literature is a troubling trend. If it were true that they substituted histories, biographies, or political works for literature, one might not worry. But book reading of any kind is falling as well.
That such a longstanding and fundamental cultural activity should slip so swiftly, especially among young adults, signifies deep transformations in contemporary life. To call attention to the trend, the Arts Endowment issued the reading portion of the Survey as a separate report, “Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.”
The decline in reading has consequences that go beyond literature. The significance of reading has become a persistent theme in the business world. The February issue of Wired magazine, for example, sketches a new set of mental skills and habits proper to the 21st century, aptitudes decidedly literary in character: not “linear, logical, analytical talents,” author Daniel Pink states, but “the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative.” When asked what kind of talents they like to see in management positions, business leaders consistently set imagination, creativity, and higher-order thinking at the top.
Ironically, the value of reading and the intellectual faculties that it inculcates appear most clearly as active and engaged literacy declines. There is now a growing awareness of the consequences of nonreading to the workplace. In 2001 the National Association of Manufacturers polled its members on skill deficiencies among employees. Among hourly workers, poor reading skills ranked second, and 38 percent of employers complained that local schools inadequately taught reading comprehension.
The decline of reading is also taking its toll in the civic sphere….A 2003 study of 15- to 26-year-olds’ civic knowledge by the National Conference of State Legislatures concluded, “Young people do not understand the ideals of citizenship… and their appreciation and support of American democracy is limited.”
It is probably no surprise that declining rates of literary reading coincide with declining levels of historical and political awareness among young people. One of the surprising findings of “Reading at Risk” was that literary readers are markedly more civically engaged than nonreaders, scoring two to four times more likely to perform charity work, visit a museum, or attend a sporting event. One reason for their higher social and cultural interactions may lie in the kind of civic and historical knowledge that comes with literary reading….
The evidence of literature’s importance to civic, personal, and economic health is too strong to ignore. The decline of literary reading foreshadows serious long-term social and economic problems, and it is time to bring literature and the other arts into discussions of public policy. Libraries, schools, and public agencies do noble work, but addressing the reading issue will require the leadership of politicians and the business community as well….
Reading is not a timeless, universal capability. Advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent-minded. These are not the qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose.
Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society. In your essay, analyze how Gioia uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Gioia’s claims, but rather explain how Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience.