An overview of the new SAT.
The SAT tests skills that you are learning in high school—skills you're likely to need in college and beyond. Here are some of the content areas and format changes you can expect to see on the SAT:

Words in context

You will be tested on words that appear frequently in high-school-level and college-level texts.

Command of evidence

The evidence-based reading and writing section of the SAT will ask you to analyze, synthesize, and interpret data from a wide range of sources. These sources include informational graphics—such as tables, charts, and graphs—as well as multi-paragraph passages in the areas of literature and literary nonfiction; the humanities; science; history and social studies; and work and career.
For every passage or pair of passages you’ll see during the Reading Test, at least one question will ask you to identify which part of the text best supports the answer to the previous question. In other instances, you’ll be asked to find the best answer to a question by pulling together information conveyed in words and graphics.
The Writing and Language Test also focuses on command of evidence. It will ask you to analyze a series of sentences or paragraphs and decide if they make sense. Other questions will ask you to interpret graphics and to edit a part of the accompanying passage so that it clearly and accurately communicates the information in the graphics.
The SAT essay also tests your command of evidence. After reading a passage, you’ll be asked to determine how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience through the use of evidence, reasoning, or stylistic and persuasive devices.

Essay analyzing a source

The SAT essay is optional—it asks you to analyze how an author uses evidence, reasoning, and other stylistic evidence to craft a persuasive argument.

The Math that matters most

The Math Test focuses in depth on three essential areas of math: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math.
  • Questions from the Problem Solving and Data Analysis area will require you to use ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to solve problems in science, social science, and career contexts.
  • Questions from the Heart of Algebra area focus on the mastery of linear equations and systems, which help students develop key powers of abstraction.
  • The Passport to Advanced Math questions focus on more complex equations and the manipulation they require.

Problems grounded in real-world contexts

Throughout the SAT—in the Math Test, the Reading Test, and the Writing and Language Test—you will be asked questions grounded in the real world, directly related to work performed in college and career.

Analysis in science and analysis in history/social studies

You will be asked to apply your knowledge in reading, writing, language, and math to answer questions in science and history/social studies contexts. Questions will require you to read and understand texts and to synthesize information presented through texts and graphics.

Founding documents and great global conversations.

These reading passages focus on major founding political documents and the great global conversations they inspire.

Length of the SAT

The SAT is three hours long. The optional Essay is an additional 50 minutes.

Section Breakdown

Here are the main components of the SAT:
Reading Test – 65 minutes, 52 questions
Writing and Language Test – 35 minutes, 44 questions
Math Test – two sections:
1) No calculator – 25 minutes, 20 questions
2) Calculator permitted – 55 minutes, 38 questions
Optional essay section (50 minutes)


The SAT is scored on a 400 to 1600 scale. You will also receive subscore reporting for every test—math, reading, and writing and language—plus additional subscores to provide added insight into your test performance.

No penalty for guessing

No points are deducted for wrong answers, so don't leave anything blank!
For details about what each section of the SAT contains, check out more articles and videos in Tips and Strategies


This article was adapted from “Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT” from The College Board.