Prepping for the SAT

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Taking the SAT is not the hardest part about the SAT.  Deciding how many times to take the SAT, well that is a challenge.  Deciding when to take the SAT also requires strategy, and thoughtful consideration.  Figuring out when to send scores to colleges and which colleges to send to, well it’s not obvious.  Here are a few pieces of information that might help you along the way.

The SAT is a standardized test designed to “assess your academic readiness for college.”  There are three main test areas:  Critical Reading, Math, and Writing, each with a possible 800 points.  Most of the test is presented with multiple choice answers, bubbles you fill in with a No. 2 pencil.  An example question:

“Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole. 

Those scholars who believe that the true author of the poem died in 1812 consider the authenticity of this particular manuscript ——- because it includes references to events that occurred in 1818.

  1. ageless
  2. tenable
  3. suspect
  4. unique
  5. legitimate”

The test is made up of ten sections:  a 25 minute essay, six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing), two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing), and a 10-minute multiple-choice writing section, for a total test time of 3 hours and 45 minutes.

For the price of registration ($47), you will have the ability to send your scores to 4 colleges.  For each additional “score send”, you pay $10.  However, many people decide to take the SAT more than once, in the hopes of improving performance.  According to Patti Whalen, Director of College Counseling at Bryn Mawr, “The general rule of thumb, well supported by anecdotal and statistical data, is that students should plan to take the SAT I Reasoning test at least twice and not more than three times.”

For those students who take the test multiple times, there is “Score Choice™”, the program through which one can choose which scores to send to colleges, and when.  This option can allow a student to send only his or her best scores — not section by section, but by test date.  So, if your total score from May testing is better than your total score from January testing, you may choose to send only your May score.  However, Ms. Whalen cautions that “Some colleges will allow students to use [the Score Choice] option; many others, including some of the more competitive schools, will still require that a student’s complete testing record be submitted and they will then use the highest scores from each area (Verbal Reasoning, Math, & Writing) in their deliberations.”

Ms. Whalen reminds students that they should also consider the ACT, which is becoming increasingly popular as an addition or alternative to the SAT. “The ACT is a more content/curricular oriented test and includes sections in English (usage and rhetorical skills), Mathematics, Reading Comprehension, and Scientific Reasoning — many students say it feels like a cross between the SAT I Reasoning &  SAT II Subject tests and prefer the more straightforward, concrete testing style.” All colleges will accept ACT in lieu of SAT, although most colleges tend not to “mix-and-match” ACT scores, and only the test scores you request are sent.

Want more information? Go to:, or

(correct answer:  c)

The first SAT testing of the fall is scheduled next Saturday, October 1.  Registration is closed but stand-by testing is still available.  See the College Board for more information.



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