All About the SAT!

Fast facts to help you cover everything you need to know about registering, prepping for, and taking the SAT exam!

  • The SAT is a 10-section test, testing three areas: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math.
  • The SAT is offered seven times each year in the U.S. and six times internationally. It is offered in October, November, December, January, March (U.S. only; SAT only), May and June.
  • High school students in the U.S. or U.S. territories who can’t afford to pay test fees may be eligible for SAT fee waivers! Find out if you qualify here!
  • If you have a documented disability, you may be eligible for accommodations on SAT Program tests. Arrangements can be made if you need accommodations such as: wheelchair accessibility; preferential seating; special test formats such as Braille or large print; written copy of spoken directions; or other accommodations.
  • Your raw scores are calculated for each section based on the number of questions you got correct or incorrect, or that you omitted. From this raw score, a scaled score is derived. Finally, you’ll receive a percentile score.

Looking for a diagnostic to see where you’re at? Take a free Princeton Review practice test here!

Learnist: Basic Algebra on the ACT and SAT

Expert Katie Cantrell over at Learnist offers a great look at the fundamental algebra concepts on the ACT and SAT exams. Refresh how to isolate variables, solve basic equations, and apply the order of operations on Test Day!

This video in particular covers several ways to conceive of variables, how to solve linear equations with fractions, and how to check your work to ensure that you have found the correct answer.

Learnist: Best Reading Strategies for the SAT

The Critical Reading section of the SAT consists of approx 70% passage-based questions. Remember the SAT test booklet is your scratch paper – don’t be afraid to use it to take notes on the passages as you read!

To focus your brain, it is especially important to take notes as you read and practice what is known as “active reading.” This video from Kaplan describes a system of notes you might find helpful called a “Passage Map.” A Passage Map helps you track:

  • Main Ideas
  • Beliefs and Opinions
  • Details

Even if you don’t want to write a full Passage Map, make sure you at least underline the main idea of the paragraph and circle any relevant details. It will be much easier to get the questions correct later on if you thoroughly understood the passage the 1st time through. Never skim!

SAT Math: Question of the Day!

It’s been awhile since we took a look at an SAT word problem! Let’s try one out today!

Three types of pencils J, K, and L cost $0.05, $0.10, and $0.25. If a box of 32 of these pencils costs a total of $3.40 and if there are twice as many K pencils as L pencils in the box, how many J pencils are there?

A) 6
B) 12
C) 14
D) 18
E) 20

.05j + .10k + .25l = $3.40

j + k + l = 32

2l = k

Plug the third equation into the 1st and 2nd equations and simplify:

.05j + .2l + .25l = 3.40
.05j + .45l = 3.40
5j + 45l = 340
j + 9l = 68

j + 2l + l = 32
j + 3l = 32

Now we have two equations with two variables. We can solve for j.

j + 9l = 68
– (j + 3l = 32)

6l = 36
l = 6

Plug l back in to solve for j.

j + 9(6) = 68
j + 54 = 68
j = 14

The answer is (C).

Run-Up to the November/December ACT and SAT!

The remaining 2013 dates for the ACT and SAT are:

  • October 26th – ACT
  • November 2nd – SAT
  • December 7th – SAT
  • December 14th – ACT

Check out this Learnboard for exam basics, format, how to register, and kick-off your Test Prep!

Fragments and Run-ons on the SAT: How to Spot ‘Em and Fix ‘Em!

Before we can spot Fragments and Run-Ons it’s important to understand a few key definitions when it comes to sentence construction. A clause is a group of words with a verb and a subject. An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence. A dependent or subordinate clause cannot. Let’s look at a couple of quick examples:

Independent clause: I love studying for the SAT.

Dependent clause: Because I use

The first sentence is a complete thought and can stand on its own while the second can not. The dependent clause is what we would call a fragment. A fragment is missing one of three things: a subject, a predicate verb, or the information needed to logically complete the sentence (like the dependent clause above). A subject is the main noun of the sentence. It is the person or thing doing the action. A predicate verb is the verb that says what the subject is doing. It must be in a tense that matches the subject.

Here are some examples of fragments:

Missing a Subject
WRONG: Climbed to the top of the mountain.
RIGHT: He climbed to the top of the mountain.

Missing a Predicate Verb
WRONG: She sleeping like a baby.
RIGHT: She sleeps like a baby.

In both of these examples we fixed the Fragment by adding the missing subject or the missing predicate verb. You can also fix a fragment by keeping it as it is and joining it to an independent clause:

Because I use, I love studying for the SAT.

A run-on is a sentence that contains more than one independent clauses which are not properly combined. The most common run-on you will see on the SAT is two complete sentences separated by a comma.

Example: They went to the store, she bought a candy bar.

You CANNOT combine two independent clauses with a comma. That is a big SAT no-no! So let’s look at the ways we can fix this Run-on:

#1. Make it Two Sentences
They went to the store. She bought a candy bar.

#2 Add a FANBOYS (leave the comma)
They went to the store, so she bought a candy bar.

FANBOYS is an acronym for all of the coordinating conjunctions. These are special words that can link independent clauses. FANBOYS stands for:


#3 Add a Semi-colon
They went to the store; she bought a candy bar.

#4 Making One Clause Dependent
Because they went to the store, she bought a candy bar.

Those are the most common ways to fix a run-on! Occasionally, you can also fix one with a Colon or a Dash.

A colon (:) is used to introduce a list, an explanation or a quote. If the first independent clause is doing one of those things, then adding the Colon is acceptable.

INCORRECT: She packed her lunch an apple, a sandwich and a soft drink went into the bag.
CORRECT: She packed her lunch: an apple, a sandwich and a soft drink went into the bag.

A dash (-) indicates a sudden change in thought:

Our teacher wanted all of us to fail the test – or so we thought.

For SAT purposes, the most common ways to fix the run-on will be to add a FANBOYS or a Semi-Colon. Run-ons can also contain no commas or more than two independent clauses, so let’s make sure we can identify those as well:

INCORRECT: She went surfing the wave she caught was huge. (No comma)
CORRECT: She went surfing; the wave she caught was huge.

INCORRECT: She went surfing the wave she caught was huge she fell off her board.
CORRECT: She went surfing; the wave she caught was huge and she fell off her board.

One important thing to remember is that the correct answer will always be the one that fixes the error, without introducing a new one. If there is more than one answer choice that fixes the error, compare them. Does one introduce a new grammatical error? Is one wordier or slightly awkward? Look for the subtle differences in style between the two.

The best answer choice on the SAT will fix the error and will be the most concise choice that does not change the sentence’s meaning.

10 Important Differences Between the ACT and SAT

Students preparing for college admissions are often confused about which test to take to make their college applications stronger, the ACT, or the SAT? While neither test is “better” and make great schools accept either, it’s important to consider both the similarities and differences before you register. Whether you take one, or both, you’ll need to know how they are similar and divergent in terms of format, content, and pacing requirements so you can ensure your Test Day success!

1. The SAT has more sections. The SAT consists of 10 sections testing three different categories: Writing, Reading, and Math. The ACT consists of 5 separate tests of varying lengths testing five different categories: English, Math, Science, Reading and Writing.

2. Both tests contain an essay. The SAT essay is always Section 1. The Writing section of the ACT will always be last and is optional (though highly recommended).

3. Each question correctly answered is worth one “raw” point. Unlike the SAT, there is no penalty on the ACT for marking incorrect answers on multiple-choice questions.

4. The SAT is more vocabulary-heavy. There are no Sentence Completions on the ACT, although a strong vocabulary makes the ACT English and Reading Tests easier.

5. The tests have different scaled scores. On the SAT, each of the three sections has a maximum scaled score of 800. The highest possible SAT score is a 2400.
On the ACT, you will receive a separate ACT score (from 1 to 36) for each of the five tests and a Composite ACT score, which is an average of the first four 4 tests.

6. The essay is 25% of the SAT Writing score, but is counted separately on the ACT. The Writing Test on the ACT is scored separately from the ACT English Test, although you will receive a combined English/Writing score on your report.

7. There are no subscores on the SAT. In addition to the English/Writing subscore, you will receive subscores in English, Math, and Reading on the ACT that range between 1 and 18. These scores provide you with more detail about your performance, but they are not actually used by schools.

8. Schools typically prefer one test over the other. Although more and more schools accept both tests, the SAT is generally the preferred test for schools on the East and West coasts, while the ACT remains popular with schools in the Midwest and in the South. To determine whether you should take the SAT, the ACT, or both, you should see what the schools to which you are applying prefer.

9. There is a lot of overlap in the tested content. Most of the concepts in the SAT Math are tested on the ACT Math as well, although generally the ACT Math is considered slightly more challenging as it includes Trigonometry. The grammar rules underlying the SAT Writing sections are also tested on the ACT English Test.

10. The ACT has no wrong answer penalty! Even if Math and Science aren’t your strengths, you may want to try taking the ACT to see how you do! Unlike the SAT, there is no wrong answer penalty. You should be able to get points simply by using elimination strategies and intelligent guesswork!

Any questions about the differences between the tests? You can always find out more here!