SAT Breakdown

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This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Jake Davidson at Veritas Prep.

The SAT is always formatted the same way. It doesn’t matter if you take it in October or March, the overall order and length of section is going to be very similar. This is an often overlooked fact. However, by analyzing the format of the test and planning accordingly, students can set themselves up for success.

Every test is 10 sections. The first seven sections will always be 25 minutes. Section one will always be the essay. Sections two through seven will be two math sections, two critical reading sections, one writing section, and one experimental section. Sections eight and nine will both be twenty minutes, with one math section and one critical reading section. Finally, section ten is always ten minutes and it is always the last writing section. Every SAT test is formatted like this, with the only variables being the order of sections from two and seven and the topic of the experimental section. We know even more than this, however. We know how each of the individual math, reading, and writing sections are structured.

MATH: You will have 54 total math problems. The first two twenty five minutes sections are divided into one twenty question multiple choice section and one eight multiple choice question, ten grid in question combination section. Finally, the twenty minute section is comprised of sixteen multiple choice questions.

Additionally, the order of difficulty rule is applicable to all math problems. This means that in both multiple choice sections, each problem is more difficult than the previous one. The one exception to this, is with two part questions surrounding graphs and charts. In this case, the second question is much more difficult than the first one. On the grid in section, the order of difficulty increases from questions one to eight in multiple choice and then resets and starts again from nine to eighteen in the grid in responses.

READING: In reading you have 67 total questions with nineteen sentence completion problems and forty eight passage based reading questions. The sentence completion questions will be split up among the three sections with five questions in one, six questions in another, and eight questions in the third. They will be complimented by passages that are either short, medium, or long. Additionally, you could have short or long comparison passages as well.

Order of difficulty is applicable on the sentence completion problems, but does not exist when responding to passage based reading questions. This means that from one to five or one to eight, the vocabulary gets progressively harder, where the last vocab question will be significantly more difficult than the first one.

WRITING: Writing is the most standardized. The first section will always be the essay. The last section will always be a ten minute writing section asking you to solve fourteen improving sentences question. In sections two to seven your writing section will be for twenty five minutes and ask you to solve thirty five questions. This is broken down into eleven improving sentences questions, eighteen error identification questions, and six paragraph improvement questions.

Order of difficulty exists on almost all writing questions. On section ten, it goes straight from one to fourteen where one is the easiest and fourteen is the hardest. On the longer section, the eleven improving sentences question go from easiest to hardest. Then it restarts and repeats the process with the eighteen error identification questions. The six improving paragraph questions are randomly assorted.

What does all this information do for us? Well it gives us a few extra strategies and tips for test day.

Start and end well. The essay is always first. The ten minute writing section is always last. These comprise almost two thirds of your overall writing score. A lot of students are nervous going in, and then so relieved to end that they don’t give it their all on the last section. This is to the detriment of their writing score. Go in feeling confident, knowing that the essay is first. Regroup at your last break, refocus and treat the last section with the importance it deserves. Your writing breakdown will thank you.

Pay attention to order of difficulty. You want to answer every question you have a reasonable chance of getting right. Don’t spend five minutes on a very tough vocabulary question and sacrifice the chance to answer three or four very easy passage based reading questions. Pay attention to the context of each question, and whether or not it is one of the easier or hard ones.

The experimental is there. The experimental section can be math, reading, or writing. It will be very similar to the other sections. You won’t be able to tell which one is experimental and which ones are not. Don’t worry about it, just approach it like another section that you are trying to ace.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free SAT resources, including free SAT video lessons.