Sylvan Learning’s Ultimate SAT Practice & Test Prep Guide

How to Study and Practice for the SAT Test


To help you better prepare for the SAT, it’s important to understand the basics. There are 3 overarching areas that span the different test sections:

  1. There is an emphasis on evaluation and analysis of text, mostly non-fiction text. You will see more items related to science and social studies on all sections of the test. You need to be able to evaluate and analyze each passage.
  2. There is no penalty for wrong answers on any section of the test. This means no penalty for guessing! You should leave no item blank.
  3. And, on all of the sections of the SAT, you’re required to problem solve and analyze data in various contexts. That means you may see graphs, charts and data on all sections of the test.

You will be tested on:

  • Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence
  • Focus on Math that Matters Most
  • Real-World Contexts
  • Analysis in Science & History/Social Studies
  • Great Global Conversation/Founding Documents

How is the SAT Structured?


The SAT is a 3-hour test made up of three components: Evidence-Based Reading, Evidence-Based Writing and Math.

Practice Tips for the SAT Reading Section

There are 52 multiple-choice questions on the Reading Test and you’ll have 65 minutes to answer them.

This section is evaluating how you take in information, think about it and then use it. So, you won’t need to memorize facts or definitions to score well. Instead, you’ll be required to read the passage (or paired passage, or informational graphics) and answer questions about what is stated or implied. The content is based on passages which are selected from previously published works in the areas of classic and contemporary U.S. and world literature, history/social studies and science.

Learn more about the SAT Reading Test, how to practice for it and get tips for how to answer problems!

Practice Tips for the SAT Writing and Language Section

The Writing and Language Test is 35 minutes long and contains 44 passage-based, multiple-choice questions. This section of the test evaluates you on three practical writing and editing skills that you’ve been doing in school (and will continue to do):

  1. Read.
  2. Find mistakes and weaknesses.
  3. Fix them.

Some questions will ask you to look closely at a single sentence, while others require you to read an entire piece and interpret a graphic. The passages you’ll be asked to improve range from arguments to nonfiction narratives. The content varies and is about careers, history, social studies, the humanities and science.

Learn more about the SAT Writing and Language Test, how to practice for it and get sample problems!

Practice Tips for the SAT Math Section

Most questions on the SAT Math Test are multiple-choice, with some grid-in responses (student produced response questions). In all, there are 58 questions, 45 multiple-choice and 13 grid-in, and you will have 80 minutes total.

The first section is 25 minutes long with 20 questions, 15 multiple-choice and 5 grid-in. You will NOT be allowed to use a calculator for this section. The second section is 55 minutes long with 38 questions, 30 multiple-choice and 8 grid-in. You WILL be allowed to use a calculator for this section.

The Math Test focuses primarily on three areas of math. These math topics are a part of a wide range of college/university majors and careers:

  1. Heart of Algebra, which focuses on the mastery of linear equations and systems.
  2. Problem Solving and Data Analysis, which is about being quantitatively literate.
  3. Passport to Advanced Math, which features questions that require the manipulation of complex equations.

A smaller percentage of questions focus on other topics such as the geometry and trigonometry relevant to college and career readiness.

Learn more about the SAT Math Test, how to practice for it and get sample problems!

How Is the SAT Scored?


When the College Board scores your SAT, they will provide the following information to you and the colleges/universities you apply to:

- Total Scale, ranging from 400 to 1600

- 2 Section Scores, ranging from 200 to 800

  1. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test (combined)
  2. Math Test

- 3 Test Scores, ranging from 10 to 40

  1. Reading
  2. Writing and Language
  3. Math

- 2 Cross-Test Scores, ranging from 10 to 40

  1. Analysis in Science
  2. Analysis in History/Social Studies

- 7 Sub-Scores, ranging from 1-15

What is the Best Way to Prepare for the SAT?


Before the test ...

1. Start studying early: Set up a study schedule months in advance to allow leisurely preparation and eliminate the need for cramming.

2. Effort counts: College/university entrance exams can have a big influence on your admissions. This is an important test and should be taken seriously. Remember to try your best, relax and remain calm.

3. Take practice tests: Taking multiple practice tests will make you feel more comfortable with the testing experience and remove much of the mystery involved with college/university entrance exams.

4. Sleep and eat: Studies have found that stress is elevated by fatigue. Be sure that you have plenty of uninterrupted sleep a few days prior to the test day. And, since the SAT is generally offered in the morning, remember to eat a good, healthy breakfast before the test. This will keep you energized for a long day, and allow you to stay focused and alert.

5. Come early and prepared: Make sure you are at the test site early, and have all of your testing supplies. Go to the bathroom before the test starts, but also plan a bathroom in the middle. Being late or missing materials will cause stress you do NOT need.

During the test ...

6. Use Process of Elimination. If you are having some difficulty with a question, get rid of any answer choices that you feel cannot possibly be correct and make a guess from the remaining answers.

7. Never leave an answer blank. If you cannot eliminate any of the answer choices, or if you feel it would take too long to answer the question, make a random guess—it cannot hurt!

8. Keep going. The items on the test include a range of difficulty and they appear in a mixed order. If you find one type of question challenging, mark it and come back.

9. Watch out for the dreaded "I’m one off" syndrome. Periodically check your answer sheet to make sure you have not misplaced an answer.

10. Mark it up. Mark up questions to help you focus on key parts of the questions or eliminate answer choices as you work. Marking up the booklet will not only improve your understanding of an item and your concentration on the day of your test, it will also help you manage your time efficiently.

Does Sylvan Offer SAT Prep Classes?

Yes! Sylvan’s SAT Prep courses are a great place to start if you’re planning to take the SAT.

Students start with a Sylvan Prep practice test, which generates a score report that will help us identify areas for improvement. Sylvan Prep’s Score reports will provide the following information, which help us personalize your prep experience to hone in your focus!

Example of SAT Report from Sylvan Learning
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