SAT score plays a significant role in U.S. College Admission process, especially with those aiming for Ivy League.  But have you really understood all the basics about the SAT test? Do you know how the new SAT’s organized and measured?  This article will walk you through all the basic you need to know before taking the exam.

What is the SAT?

The SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions.  It is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test administered by the College Board.

The purpose of the SAT is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants.  College admissions officers will review standardized test scores alongside your high school GPA, the classes you took in high school, letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors, extracurricular activities, admissions interviews, and personal essays. How important SAT scores are in the college application process varies from school to school.  

For international students, like those from Vietnam, the SAT score is extremely important.  It is often difficult for admissions committee members to understand what grades from a Vietnamese school mean, so they put more emphasis on standardized tests like the SAT.

Overall, the higher you score on the SAT and/or ACT, the more options for attending and paying for college will be available to you. The ACT is an alternative to the SAT exam, but the SAT is far more popular internationally and specifically in Vietnam. 

What does the SAT measure?

The SAT is focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of an international college prep education. It measures:
– What you learn in high school
– What you need to succeed in college and career training

Remember: The SAT isn’t designed to assess how well you’ve memorized a large set of facts; rather, the SAT assesses your ability to apply the knowledge and skills you’ll need in college and career.

The world needs more people who can use their thinking skills to solve problems, communicate clearly, and understand complex relationships. The best high school courses promote thinking skills, and colleges are looking for students who are skilled thinkers.  The SAT is designed to measure the thinking skills you’ll need to succeed in college and career.  Unlike other tests, you cannot prepare for the SAT just by cramming knowledge.  The students who score the highest points on the SAT prepare with a real understanding of critical reading, analytical writing, and applied mathematics fundamentals. 

How is the SAT Organized?

The SAT has  four components, three of which are mandatory and one of which (the Essay) is optional.  However, for any student aspiring to apply to any competitive university, the Essay section is not truly optional, and admissions officers are likely to look down upon students lacking an Essay score.  The three mandatory sections are (1) the Reading Test, (2) the Writing and Language Test, and (3) the Math Test. The timing and number of questions are as follows:

The Essay is optional, but some high schools and colleges require it.  Depending on your high school and your college choices, you may already know whether or not you’ll take the Essay.  If you have any uncertainty — for instance, if you can imagine that you might transfer from a school that doesn’t require it to one that does — consider taking the SAT with Essay.

How is the SAT scored?

All multiple-choice questions are scored the same way: one point for each correct answer and zero points for incorrect answers. No points are subtracted for incorrect answers or answers left blank. The table below shows all the scores you’ll receive on the SAT.

Total Score and Section Scores
The total score is the number most commonly associated with the SAT.  The total score ranges from 400 to 1600.  This score is the sum of the scores on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (which includes the Reading, Writing and Language Tests) and the Math section.

Test Scores
Test scores are reported on a scale of 10 to 40 for each of the three required tests: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.

Cross-Test Scores
Cross-test scores — one for Analysis in History/Social Studies and one for Analysis in Science — are reported on a scale of 10 to 40 and are based on selected questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests that reflect the application of reading, writing, language, and math skills in history/social studies and science contexts.

Subscores
Subscores are reported on a scale of 1 to 15. They provide more detailed information about how you’re doing in specific areas of literacy and math.

Essay Scores

The scores for the optional SAT Essay are reported separately and aren’t factored into any other scores. The Essay yields three scores, one each on three dimensions:

Typically international students understand that they need to be able to summarize a reading passage for the essay.  However, they normally do poorly to analyze the author’s writing techniques and arguments.  This is an example of one of the critical skills that need to be developed in college prep English Language Arts classes, as this is an advanced skill.

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