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Format of the SAT

The SAT is a three-hour and 45-minute test. Only three hours and twenty minutes of the test count toward your score—the experimental section is not scored. There are ten sections in the test.





19 Sentence Completions

48 Reading Comprehension

67 Total Questions

70 minutes

(two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section)


49 Grammar

1 Essay

49 Total Questions + Essay

60 minutes

(two 25-minute sections and one 10-minute section)


44 Multiple-choice

10 Grid-ins

54 Total Questions

70 minutes

(two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section)


Reading, Writing, or Math

25 minutes

The order of the format is not fixed: the sections can occur in any order.
The SAT is a standardized test. Each time it is offered, the test has, as close as possible, the same level of difficulty as every previous test. Maintaining this consistency is very difficult—hence the experi­mental section. The effectiveness of each question must be assessed before it can be used on the SAT. A problem that one person finds easy another person may find hard, and vice versa. The experimental section measures the relative difficulty of potential questions; if responses to a question do not perform to strict specifications, the question is rejected.
The experimental section, which is not scored, can be a reading section, a writing section, or a math section. You won’t know which section is experimental. You will know which type of section it is, though, since there will be an extra one of that type.
Because the “bugs” have not been worked out of the experimental section, this portion of the test is often more difficult and confusing than the other parts.
This brings up an ethical issue: How many students have run into the experimental section early in the test and have been confused and discouraged by it? Crestfallen by having done poorly on, say, the first—though experimental—section, they lose confidence and perform below their ability on the rest of the test. Some testing companies are becoming more enlightened in this regard and are administering experi­mental sections as separate practice tests.
Knowing that the experimental section can be disproportionately difficult, if you do poorly on a particular section you can take some solace in the hope that it may have been the experimental section. In other words, do not allow one difficult section to discourage your performance on the rest of the test.

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