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sat english essay

The SAT Writing Section (Essay): Here’s What You Need to Know

sat english essay

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The SAT recently revamped itself to more accurately test what students learn in school. The new version is less deliberately tricky and confusing, but it’s still a challenging, exhausting test. Let’s say you’ve taken both the ACT and the SAT and you perform better on the SAT. Now that you’ve chosen it as your go-to test, how do you get through the essay portion, especially if you hate writing?

Fun fact: the SAT has plenty of new practice tests , which include essays. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be working from this practice essay , so it might be useful to have it open as you read. We’ll go through what’s expected, what scoring looks like, and how to go about writing the best essay you can.

Understand What You’re Being Asked to Do

The new SAT no longer asks you to make up ideas and references from scratch (which, honestly, is probably for the best). Instead, it provides you with an essay and asks you to analyze it, much in the same vein as an in-class analytical or an AP English Language essay.

The Assignment

The assignment reads as follows. At the top you’ll see a generic introduction for what to look for as you read:

As you read the passage below, consider how (the author of the passage) uses:

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

Then, at the bottom, the instructions get specific. For this essay, they read like this:

Write an essay in which you explain how Bobby Braun builds an argument to persuade his audience that the US government must continue to invest in NASA. In your essay, analyze how Braun uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Braun’s claims, but rather explain how Braun builds an argument to persuade his audience.

What does this mean? Essentially, as you read, pick out the techniques the author uses to make his or her point, then write a detailed essay that covers a couple of the main ones. Brush up on your knowledge of literary terms and devices well in advance of writing the SAT essay. You don’t have to know them all, but know the most commonly used ones really well (tone, diction, imagery, simile/metaphor, allusion, rhetorical question, anecdote, and symbolism, to name a few) so you can rely on those. In an argumentative essay, like this one, an author will always use tone, diction (choice of words), and some kind of persuasion technique (Logos? Pathos? Ethos? Anecdote? etc.).

How is the essay scored? Two testers will read your essay and will provide a score of 1-4 on three different benchmarks: reading, analysis, and writing.

Did the writer understand the content? Did they quickly summarize the argument/point and then move quickly into their interpretation of it? Did they paraphrase and directly quote?

Did the writer not only identify the right literary terms/devices but assess their uses effectively? In other words, did the writer understand why the author used those devices and say so? Did the analysis integrate into the rest of the essay?

Is there a strong thesis, body paragraphs for each device, and a quick conclusion? (More on organization below.) Is the writing “strong,” i.e., sentence variety, no unnecessary words or repetition, strong words, and sophisticated reasoning?

The testers’ scores are then added together for an aggregate final score. So, a top score would be 8/8/8.

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Final Thoughts

Unless you’re being given extra time, you have exactly 50 minutes to complete the essay. This sounds like a lot (and it’s more than it used to be), but don’t be fooled. You’ll use the time.

Students with special accommodations might be able to take the test on a computer, but otherwise it’s a written test. Your test booklet will be scanned into a computer. If you make a mistake, don’t erase your work, because it causes smudges and can make it hard for the tester to read. Simply cross out and rewrite. The testers are trained not to read crossed-out material. If you’ve been told your handwriting is impossible to read, write a little more slowly than you might otherwise. Choose the style that’s more legible for you: print or cursive. When you write practice tests, give it to someone and ask if they can read it.

You’ll take the SAT essay last, after every other section has been completed. So you’ll be exhausted. There’s no way around that, unfortunately, beyond bringing snacks and water on test day and walking around during breaks to take the focus off your brain for a couple minutes. Practice is key; you’ll want to be able to read an essay quickly, pull out devices, and write a straightforward essay with a minimum of confusion and anxiety. Only practice and memorization of the right information will get you there.

As you prepare to take the SAT, take a look at some example essays that scored highly. It won’t be the same subject matter, but the structure and language will be aspects you can emulate.

Read with the Assignment in Mind

Imagine that your proctor has told you to turn to the essay section. You already know the basic assignment, so you can actually skip the top introduction and dive right in to the essay. Don’t get bogged down with unfamiliar words or the most complex sentences. You don’t need to absorb every single word of the essay. Read to find devices you can use. Circle them and ID them as you go. Don’t be picky right away—just observe and note what you see.

Go ahead and skim the bottom instructions, but even then the first sentence is the only really important one. In this case, the gist is: how does Braun persuade his audience to invest in NASA? Then, go back to the devices you found, and pick out the three strongest and/or most used devices to structure your essay. Can’t find three? Remember, an author always uses tone (point of view) and diction (word choice) so those are two easy ones if you’re stuck.

The process of reading and pulling out devices should take no more than eight minutes.

Make a Quick Outline

I know this one sound counterintuitive, given what I said about time limits, but bear with me. Just starting to write without a clear path is hugely problematic for timed essays. Even the best writers make a mental note of their general direction. Without planning, you might change directions mid-essay, forget your thesis and end up arguing something else, or wander off completely without realizing it.

The outline can be short and sweet. For example, with this practice essay, it could look like this:

Intro: Braun argues that continuing to invest in space tech and research keeps us competitive in the world economy. Devices: logos, imagery, allusion

Body 1: Logos (logic): paragraph 3, 5, 7

Body 2: Imagery: paragraph 4, 6

Body 3: Allusion: paragraph 8

Don’t even bother to include your conclusion in your outline. It’s pretty much the same content as your intro. Also, remember that you don’t need to tackle every aspect or device in the essay. Highlight where your devices are, then focus your analysis to those sections. In the outline above, I’ve structured the devices so that you’re going through the essay in almost chronological fashion. You don’t have to do this, but it makes the essay-writing a bit easier.

The process of outlining should take no more than two minutes.

Write Quickly but Methodically

Don’t waste a lot of breath with a big, drawn out introduction. State the argument of the author in one sentence, then your thesis, which should be a list of the three devices you plan to use. Keep it simple and easy, then move on.

For each body paragraph, make a quick topic sentence explaining which device you’re analyzing. Spend one sentence (ONLY one) summarizing how the author is using the device. Begin to use quotes or paraphrase; after each example, analyze why the author uses the device and the effect it has. About three quotes or examples are usually standard. Then, at the end of the paragraph, use one sentence to sum up the effect the device has on the whole essay. Use sample essays for examples of this structure.

See the numbers at the side of each paragraph? When you quote directly or summarize directly, put the number of the paragraph in parenthesis afterwards to cite where you’re getting the information from.

For your conclusion, simply restate what you’ve said before. If you’re feeling extra-confident, feel free to add a key takeaway from the analysis, but it’s not necessary. So, your conclusion can be two sentences just like your intro.

What if your writing style isn’t advanced or similar to the example essays? Work with a teacher or tutor who can help you develop your skills if you have the time. If not, just write simply and clearly. Don’t use overly technical words. Don’t make really long sentences just for the sake of doing so. Even simple, forceful language can be effective so long as your argument is good. So focus your attention on ensuring that you know what good analysis is and how to replicate it.

You’ll have 35 minutes to write. Keep an eye on the clock, but mostly just focus on writing quickly and clearly.

Leave a Few Minutes for Proofreading

Again, I know you’ll be flying through this essay at lightning speed to get everything done effectively. But this one’s important too. When you write quickly, grammar and spelling can fall by the wayside. That’s totally normal, so don’t freak out. But you will be graded on such aspects in your final score, so leave 5 minutes max at the end to skim through your essay, pinpoint where you made mistakes, cross out the word or phrase, and write the correct word or phrase above it. Try to make corrections clearly so that the tester knows which version to read.

And that’s it! Easy, right? (Totally kidding.) As with everything else, practice will help. If you’re not already doing this kind of essay in class, do a few practice essays at home. Make sure you do the EXACT process start to finish: time yourself, write an outline, and so on. Part of success is building the muscle memory to go into the essay with a solid base of experience and confidence that you’ll succeed.

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sat english essay

SAT Essay Samples | Low vs High-Scoring Examples

The SAT Essay is often used as an extra way to impress admissions officers with your overall academic preparedness. But what does a good essay look like vs a bad one? To make life easier, the College Board has provided some helpful SAT essay samples that you can study over.

Besides helping you get into college, here are a number of other SAT Essay benefits to consider .

SAT Essay Samples Prompt

Expect to see prompt directions like the ones below:

“As you read the passage below, consider how Paul Bogard uses:

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.”

SAT Essay Samples Passage

“ Adapted from Paul Bogard, “Let There Be Dark.” ©2012 by Los Angeles Times. Originally published December 21, 2012.

At my family’s cabin on a Minnesota lake, I knew woods so dark that my hands disappeared before my eyes. I knew night skies in which meteors left smoky trails across sugary spreads of stars. But now, when 8 of 10 children born in the United States will never know a sky dark enough for the Milky Way, I worry we are rapidly losing night’s natural darkness before realizing its worth. This winter solstice, as we cheer the days’ gradual movement back toward light, let us also remember the irreplaceable value of darkness.

All life evolved to the steady rhythm of bright days and dark nights. Today, though, when we feel the closeness of nightfall, we reach quickly for a light switch. And too little darkness, meaning too much artificial light at night, spells trouble for all.

Already the World Health Organization classifies working the night shift as a probable human carcinogen, and the American Medical Association has voiced its unanimous support for “light pollution reduction efforts and glare reduction efforts at both the national and state levels.” Our bodies need darkness to produce the hormone melatonin, which keeps certain cancers from developing, and our bodies need darkness for sleep. Sleep disorders have been linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression, and recent research suggests one main cause of “short sleep” is “long light.” Whether we work at night or simply take our tablets, notebooks and smartphones to bed, there isn’t a place for this much artificial light in our lives.

The rest of the world depends on darkness as well, including nocturnal and crepuscular species of birds, insects, mammals, fish and reptiles. Some examples are well known—the 400 species of birds that migrate at night in North America, the sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs—and some are not, such as the bats that save American farmers billions in pest control and the moths that pollinate 80% of the world’s flora. Ecological light pollution is like the bulldozer of the night, wrecking habitat and disrupting ecosystems several billion years in the making. Simply put, without darkness, Earth’s ecology would collapse…

In today’s crowded, louder, more fast-paced world, night’s darkness can provide solitude, quiet and stillness, qualities increasingly in short supply. Every religious tradition has considered darkness invaluable for a soulful life, and the chance to witness the universe has inspired artists, philosophers and everyday stargazers since time began. In a world awash with electric light…how would Van Gogh have given the world his “Starry Night”? Who knows what this vision of the night sky might inspire in each of us, in our children or grandchildren?

Yet all over the world, our nights are growing brighter. In the United States and Western Europe, the amount of light in the sky increases an average of about 6% every year. Computer images of the United States at night, based on NASA photographs, show that what was a very dark country as recently as the 1950s is now nearly covered with a blanket of light. Much of this light is wasted energy, which means wasted dollars. Those of us over 35 are perhaps among the last generation to have known truly dark nights. Even the northern lake where I was lucky to spend my summers has seen its darkness diminish.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Light pollution is readily within our ability to solve, using new lighting technologies and shielding existing lights. Already, many cities and towns across North America and Europe are changing to LED streetlights, which offer dramatic possibilities for controlling wasted light. Other communities are finding success with simply turning off portions of their public lighting after midnight. Even Paris, the famed “city of light,” which already turns off its monument lighting after 1 a.m., will this summer start to require its shops, offices and public buildings to turn off lights after 2 a.m. Though primarily designed to save energy, such reductions in light will also go far in addressing light pollution. But we will never truly address the problem of light pollution until we become aware of the irreplaceable value and beauty of the darkness we are losing.”

SAT Essay Samples Directions

Here is how the essay directions will be worded format-wise on test day.

“Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved. In your essay, analyze how Bogard uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Bogard’s claims, but rather explain how Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience.”

Essay Sample Response (Low Scoring)

“In “Let there be dark,” Paul Bogard talks about the importance of darkness.

Darkness is essential to humans. Bogard states, “Our bodies need darkness to produce the hormone melatonin, which keeps certain cancers from developing, and our bodies need darkness for sleep, sleep. Sleep disorders have been linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression and recent research suggests are main cause of “short sleep” is “long light.” Whether we work at night or simply take our tablets, notebooks and smartphones to bed, there isn’t a place for this much artificial light in our lives.” (Bogard 2). Here, Bogard talks about the importance of darkness to humans. Humans need darkness to sleep in order to be healthy.

Animals also need darkness. Bogard states, “The rest of the world depends on darkness as well, including nocturnal and crepuscular species of birds, insects, mammals, fish and reptiles. Some examples are well known—the 400 species of birds that migrate at night in North America, the sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs—and some are not, such as the bats that save American farmers billions in pest control and the moths that pollinate 80% of the world’s flora. Ecological light pollution is like the bulldozer of the night, wrecking habitat and disrupting ecosystems several billion years in the making. Simply put, without darkness, Earth’s ecology would collapse…” (Bogard 2). Here Bogard explains that animals, too, need darkness to survive.”

Essay Sample Response (High Scoring)

“In response to our world’s growing reliance on artificial light, writer Paul Bogard argues that natural darkness should be preserved in his article “Let There be dark”. He effectively builds his argument by using a personal anecdote, allusions to art and history, and rhetorical questions.

Bogard starts his article off by recounting a personal story – a summer spent on a Minnesota lake where there was “woods so dark that [his] hands disappeared before [his] eyes.” In telling this brief anecdote, Bogard challenges the audience to remember a time where they could fully amass themselves in natural darkness void of artificial light. By drawing in his readers with a personal encounter about night darkness, the author means to establish the potential for beauty, glamour, and awe-inspiring mystery that genuine darkness can possess. He builds his argument for the preservation of natural darkness by reminiscing for his readers a first-hand encounter that proves the “irreplaceable value of darkness.” This anecdote provides a baseline of sorts for readers to find credence with the author’s claims.

Bogard’s argument is also furthered by his use of allusion to art – Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” – and modern history – Paris’ reputation as “The City of Light”. By first referencing “Starry Night”, a painting generally considered to be undoubtedly beautiful, Bogard establishes that the natural magnificence of stars in a dark sky is definite. A world absent of excess artificial light could potentially hold the key to a grand, glorious night sky like Van Gogh’s according to the writer. This urges the readers to weigh the disadvantages of our world consumed by unnatural, vapid lighting. Furthermore, Bogard’s alludes to Paris as “the famed ‘city of light’”. He then goes on to state how Paris has taken steps to exercise more sustainable lighting practices. By doing this, Bogard creates a dichotomy between Paris’ traditionally alluded-to name and the reality of what Paris is becoming – no longer “the city of light”, but more so “the city of light…before 2 AM”. This furthers his line of argumentation because it shows how steps can be and are being taken to preserve natural darkness. It shows that even a city that is literally famous for being constantly lit can practically address light pollution in a manner that preserves the beauty of both the city itself and the universe as a whole.

Finally, Bogard makes subtle yet efficient use of rhetorical questioning to persuade his audience that natural darkness preservation is essential. He asks the readers to consider “what the vision of the night sky might inspire in each of us, in our children or grandchildren?” in a way that brutally plays to each of our emotions. By asking this question, Bogard draws out heartfelt ponderance from his readers about the affecting power of an untainted night sky. This rhetorical question tugs at the readers’ heartstrings; while the reader may have seen an unobscured night skyline before, the possibility that their child or grandchild will never get the chance sways them to see as Bogard sees. This strategy is definitively an appeal to pathos, forcing the audience to directly face an emotionally-charged inquiry that will surely spur some kind of response. By doing this, Bogard develops his argument, adding guttural power to the idea that the issue of maintaining natural darkness is relevant and multifaceted.

Writing as a reaction to his disappointment that artificial light has largely permeated the presence of natural darkness, Paul Bogard argues that we must preserve true, unaffected darkness. He builds this claim by making use of a personal anecdote, allusions, and rhetorical questioning.”

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Digital SAT Reading and Writing

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The Optional SAT Essay: What to Know

Tackling this section of the SAT requires preparation and can boost some students' college applications.

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Even though an increasing number of colleges are dropping standardized test requirements, students who must write the SAT essay can still stand to gain from doing so.

Although the essay portion of the SAT became optional in 2016, many students still chose to write it to demonstrate strong or improved writing skills to prospective colleges.

In June 2021, the College Board opted to discontinue the SAT essay. Now, only students in a few states and school districts still have access to — and must complete — the SAT essay. This requirement applies to some students in the SAT School Day program, for instance, among other groups.

How Colleges Use SAT, ACT Results

Tiffany Sorensen Sept. 14, 2020

High school students having their exam inside a classroom.

Whether or not to write the SAT essay is not the biggest decision you will have to make in high school, but it is certainly one that requires thought on your part. Here are three things you should know about the 50-minute SAT essay as you decide whether to complete it:

  • To excel on the SAT essay, you must be a trained reader.
  • The SAT essay begs background knowledge of rhetoric and persuasive writing.
  • A growing number of colleges are dropping standardized test requirements.

To Excel on the SAT Essay, You Must Be a Trained Reader

The SAT essay prompt never comes unaccompanied. On the contrary, it follows a text that is about 700 words long or approximately one page. Before test-takers can even plan their response, they must carefully read and – ideally – annotate the passage.

The multifaceted nature of the SAT essay prompt can be distressing to students who struggle with reading comprehension. But the good news is that this prompt is highly predictable: It always asks students to explain how the author builds his or her argument. In this case, "how” means which rhetorical devices are used, such as deductive reasoning, metaphors, etc.

Luckily, the author’s argument is usually spelled out in the prompt itself. For instance, consider this past SAT prompt : “Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved.”

Due to the essay prompt’s straightforward nature, students should read the passage with an eye toward specific devices used by the author rather than poring over “big ideas.” In tour SAT essay, aim to analyze at least two devices, with three being even better.

The SAT Essay Begs Background Knowledge of Rhetoric and Persuasive Writing

Since your SAT essay response must point to specific rhetorical devices that the author employs to convince the reader, you should make it a point to intimately know 10-15 common ones. The more familiar you are with rhetorical devices, the faster you will become at picking them out as you read texts.

Once you have read the passage and identified a handful of noteworthy rhetorical devices, you should apply many of the same essay-writing techniques you already use in your high school English classes.

For instance, you should start by brainstorming to see which devices you have the most to say about. After that, develop a concise thesis statement, incorporate quotes from the text, avoid wordiness and other infelicities of writing, close with an intriguing conclusion, and do everything else you could imagine your English teacher advising you to do.

Remember to always provide evidence from the text to support your claims. Finally, leave a few minutes at the end to review your essay for mistakes.

A Growing Number of Colleges Are Dropping Standardized Test Requirements

In recent years, some of America’s most prominent colleges and universities – including Ivy League institutions like Harvard University in Massachusetts, Princeton University in New Jersey and Yale University in Connecticut – have made submission of ACT and SAT scores optional.

While this trend began as early as 2018, the upheaval caused by COVID-19 has prompted many other schools to adopt a more lenient testing policy, as well.

Advocates for educational fairness have long expressed concerns that standardized admissions tests put underprivileged students at a disadvantage. In light of the coronavirus pandemic , which restricted exam access for almost all high school students, colleges have gotten on board with this idea by placing more emphasis on other factors in a student’s application.

To assess writing ability in alternative ways, colleges now place more emphasis on students’ grades in language-oriented subjects, as well as college application documents like the personal statement .

The fact that more colleges are lifting their ACT/SAT requirement does not imply that either test or any component of it is now obsolete. Students who must write the SAT essay can still stand to gain from doing so, especially those who wish to major in a writing-intensive field. The essay can also demonstrate a progression or upward trajectory in writing skills.

The SAT essay can give a boost to the college applications of the few students to whom it is still available. If the requirement applies to you, be sure to learn more about the SAT essay and practice it often as you prepare for your upcoming SAT.

13 Test Prep Tips for SAT and ACT Takers

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About College Admissions Playbook

Stressed about getting into college? College Admissions Playbook, authored by Varsity Tutors , offers prospective college students advice on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, SAT and ACT exams and the college application process. Varsity Tutors, an advertiser with U.S. News & World Report, is a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. The company's end-to-end offerings also include mobile learning apps, online learning environments and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies. Got a question? Email [email protected] .

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SAT Practice Test

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Congrats on taking our SAT Sample Quiz. Take one of our full-length SAT practice tests or one of our study sets. Everything is 100% free!

1 . Question

What percentage does 90 represent in relation to 360?

2 . Question

7 added to 4 times a quantity y is equal to 62. Which equation represents this condition?

  • a. 7(4y) = 62
  • b. 7 – 4y = 62
  • c. 7 + 4y = 62
  • d. 4y – 7 = 62

3 . Question

For a cost of $57, how many pounds of avocados were bought at a rate of $19 per pound?

4 . Question

The table displays three sets of values for x and their corresponding f(x) values for a linear function f. What equation accurately represents the definition of f(x)?

  • a. f(x) = 6x + 65
  • b. f(x) = 8x + 65
  • c. f(x) = 65x + 73
  • d. f(x) = 73x + 81

5 . Question

If \frac{x}{15}=20 , what is the value of \frac{15}{x} ?

6 . Question

What is the equation that defines line p in the xy-plane, given that it passes through the point (-4, 6) and has a slope of 6?

  • a. y = 6x + 30
  • b. y = 6x – 30
  • c. y = 6 + 30x
  • d. y = 6x – 30x

7 . Question

2.5b + 5r = 80

The provided equation expresses the connection between the quantity of biscuits (b) and raisins (r) that a reviewer business can handle in a single day. If the business is tending to 16 raisins on a specific day, what is the capacity for biscuits that it can manage on the same day?

8 . Question

In a specific rectangular area, the length-to-width ratio is 45 : 15. If the width of the region grows by 8 units, how should the length be adjusted to uphold this ratio?

  • a. It must decrease by 24.5 units.
  • b. It must increase by 24.5 units.
  • c. It must decrease by 24 units.
  • d. It must increase by 24 units.

9 . Question

In a circle with center O, the arc XY measures 105°. What is the degree measure of the angle XOY that corresponds to this arc?

10 . Question

In a right triangle, the side lengths are 3\sqrt3 , 2\sqrt3 ,and \sqrt{70} units. What is the area of the triangle in square units?

*Enter in just the number for your answer.

All SAT Practice Tests

If you want some more in-depth prep, use a free SAT practice test listed below.

  • Practice Exams = Timed and Full-Length
  • Practice Sets = Not Timed and Smaller Sets of Questions

SAT Practice Exam #1

SAT Practice Exam #2

SAT Practice Exam #3

SAT Practice Exam #4

SAT Math Practice Sets

SAT Reading & Writing Practice Sets

If you want some additional help with prepping for the SAT, consider using  SAT prep courses .

Official SAT PDF Practice Exams

If you want to study using PDFs, use the links below. These are full-length practice exams provided by the CollegeBoard.

Overview of the SAT

The SAT is an entrance exam used by colleges and universities to help make decisions about admissions.

The SAT is administered by the CollegeBoard and is given 7 times per year. The exam is a timed, mainly multiple-choice exam, taken by students in high school.

Beginning in the spring of 2024, the SAT will be going fully digital. The digital SAT (DSAT) will have some formatting and content changes to it, along with some other changes. You can review those changes below.

New SAT (Digital SAT)

This exam will be given to students starting in spring of 2024.

Old SAT (Written Exam)

This exam will be given to students up until spring of 2024.

The biggest difference between the old SAT and the digital SAT is that the digital SAT is taken completely online and has combined some sections to streamline the exam.

An overview of the digital SAT exam and what is included on the exam.

Scoring of the SAT

You will receive a score for math and a score for reading/writing. Each of those scores will be between 200 and 800 .

Your total score will be the sum of those two scores. You can receive a total score between 400 and 1600 on the SAT.

The average SAT score is 1060. Learn more about good SAT scores .

Registering for the SAT and Test Dates

You can register for the SAT online via the CollegeBoard site .

You will need to do the following when registering for the SAT:

  • Have a Valid Photo ID
  • Upload a Photo of Yourself When Registering Online
  • Pay Registration Fees
  • Print Your Admission Ticket

It will cost your $60 to take the SAT. There may be some additional fees like canceling, changing test center, etc..

The SAT is typically given 7 times per year. The exam is given on Saturdays. You can expect the exam to be given in these months:

  • Early March
  • Late August
  • Early October
  • Early November
  • Early December

You can find exact dates on the official website .

Steps for Using SAT Practice

When using our free SAT practice tests, we recommend the following steps to get the most out of your time:

  • Take 1 practice exam from each subject.
  • Determine which subject you struggled the most with.
  • Focus on that 1 subject moving forward. Take additional practice exams in that subject, study important concepts, and invest in a SAT prep course if need be.
  • Take a practice exam on that subject again and see where you stand. Continue to focus on that subject if you need more help or move on to another subject if you did well on this practice exam.
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4 for other subjects.

Benefits of Using SAT Practice Questions

There are many benefits to using SAT questions during your prep process. Some of those benefits include:

Help With Timing

The SAT exam is a timed test. Keeping a steady pace is critical to achieving a high score.

You can improve your decision making and your time by taking practice exams.

Test Familiarity

All standardized tests, including the SAT, have their own unique way of presenting questions and answer choices.

You will gain more familiarity and comfort with the SAT question style as you take more practice quizzes. On the real exam day, there will be no surprises.

Efficient Studying

When you take many practice exams, you will get a sense of your test strengths and weaknesses.

Many students mistakenly spend time working on their strengths while ignoring their weaknesses.

Knowing which subjects you struggle with will help you focus your study time.

Work On Problem Solving

Tests like the SAT measure your ability to solve problems, not just memorize information. It is critical to have strong problem-solving abilities.

The answer explanations provided in our score reports can help you understand how to solve problems that you may be struggling with.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the sat going to the digital format.

The SAT will be switching to the digital format in the spring of 2024.

How many questions are on the SAT?

There are 154 questions on the old SAT (written version).

There are 98 questions on the new SAT (digital version).

How much time do you have to take the SAT?

You will have 3 hours and 15 minutes to take the old SAT (written version).

You will have 2 hours and 14 minutes to take the new SAT (digital version).

Can I use a calculator on the math section of the SAT?

There will be 1 math section in which you can use a calculator and 1 math section in which you cannot use a calculator on the old SAT (written version).

You will be permitted to use a calculator on all math modules on the new SAT (digital version).

What is a good way to practice for the SAT?

We recommend taking 1 practice exam for each subject. You can then determine which subject gave you the most trouble and focus your studies on that subject.

sat english essay

  • Authored By: Adam Groden
  • Last Updated: January 19, 2024

The SAT is going all digital in March. Here's what you need to know

5-minute read.

sat english essay

If you're one of those many high school students — or parents — wondering what to expect of the new all-digital SAT, we have you covered.

The last-ever paper SAT was administered in December.

Whether you’re planning to take the SAT in a test center on a weekend or in school on a school day, a new, completely digital version of the exam will be administered across the U.S. beginning on March 9 after the College Board, the company that develops and administers the SAT, piloted the digital test in 2021.

NorthJersey.com talked to two tutoring companies, Ridgewood-based Aspen Tutoring and Manhattan-based Bespoke Education, to learn what’s new and answer key questions.

Is the new digital SAT test still three hours?

No — the more streamlined test is about two hours long now. And there will be shorter reading passages rather than a few long texts, the College Board said.

Are the questions the same as on the paper SAT?

The digital test questions cover the same concepts as the paper version, but there are formatting differences on the digital test and two substantive changes in the English section, said Sarah Burton of Aspen Tutoring.

The first is that vocabulary features more prominently on the digital test than on the paper version.

“On the SAT test that we have been tutoring since it was last revamped in 2016, vocabulary was almost absent,” Burton said. “There was so little of it, but now they are bringing it back, not in a major way, but it is more prominent.”

The other substantive difference is what Burton calls “synthesis questions.” These read like bullet points or notes on a topic. The test taker is asked to synthesize the information contained in those bullet points in response to a question.

There are two modules now. How does that work?

The test is now adaptive, meaning it occurs in two stages, or modules. The second stage changes depending on your performance in the first stage.

For both the English and math sections, the difficulty of Module 2 changes based on student performance in Module 1, with targeted questions that are harder if you meet certain benchmarks in Module 1 and easier questions if you don’t.

“Everyone has the same first section, and then that will feed you into either an easier or harder second module,” said Tim Levin, CEO of Bespoke Education.

Unlike on the paper test, the digital test questions are worth more in the second module. To get those top scores in the 750 to 800 range, you really need to feed your way into the harder second module, Levin said.

Students should be especially careful about making calculation errors or other mistakes in Module 1 of math, Burton said. Due to the test’s adaptive nature, the highest scores depend on how difficult the second module is, so students should play it safe by checking their work in the first module.

What if the second module seems easy?

If that second module feels too easy, students should not fixate on it out of a fear that they’re botching the test, said Meaghan Ozaydin of Aspen Tutoring. “Focus on what you know. Don’t get in your head about something being too hard or too easy. That’s a huge problem for kids. They get stressed out and it becomes paralyzing,” she said.

Can I skip around on the digital SAT?

Test takers can now move back and forth between questions within a module. They can preview later questions and review earlier questions, if time permits.

Can I bring a calculator to take the digital SAT?

Calculators are permitted throughout the test, but not required. The digital SAT has a built-in calculator for the math section.

How long is the English section of the new SAT?

English has just two sections, called Reading and Writing. Students have 64 minutes to answer 54 questions. The questions and time are split evenly between the two modules.

How about the math section?

The math section has a total of 44 questions that need to be answered in 70 minutes. Here, too, questions and time are split evenly between modules.

Do I still need to bring a pencil?

Yes, but it doesn’t have to be a No. 2 for filling in answer bubbles. A pen or pencil can be used for scratch work. Also, bring snacks and drinks to be kept under your desk during testing, and a Wi-Fi-enabled device that has enough charge to last three hours on which to take the test.

What if I don't have a mobile device for the test?

Schools usually supply devices if students don't have their own.

Students  who need to borrow a device from the College Board  will need to register and request their device earlier than the registration deadline — at least 30 days before test day.

Should I practice for the digital SAT if I already took the paper version?

Yes, because the digital test has tools and widgets, including a calculator that students must familiarize themselves with, said Levin, of Bespoke Education. Download the Bluebook app from bluebook.app.collegeboard.org and use the SAT Test Preview.

The preview familiarizes students with digital testing tools needed during the test to cross out answers, display or hide a countdown timer and do other tasks.

“It’s important to get used to the various tools that they have available on the Bluebook app," Ozaydin said. "That's really helpful if you want to learn how to cross out options and flag questions and learn how to most efficiently navigate the test.”

The app also has four sample tests students can use to practice. That’s “a decent amount of material,” Burton said, but less than what tutors are used to. “We normally have so much material to work with, and now we have four tests,” she said.

Do I still have time to sign up for the March SAT?

Yes, registration is open for the spring 2024 digital SAT. You can check dates and deadlines satsuite.collegeboard.org/sat/dates-deadlines  and find a test center close to you at  satsuite.collegeboard.org/sat/test-center-search .

The deadline to register for the March 9, 2024, sitting of the digital SAT is Feb. 23. The deadline for the May 4 session is April 19, and the deadline for the June 1 exam is May 16.

Is the digital SAT less stressful than the paper version?

With teen mental health and stress related to college admissions a growing problem in schools and among youth, it isn't clear whether the digital SAT will be any less stressful overall, despite its shorter length and digital format.

Burton said Aspen Tutoring tries to mitigate student stress by “taking the temperature of the room” during classes and putting the SAT’s importance in perspective — as one piece of a larger puzzle, be it college or life.

“I do think it’s a less intimidating test than the old one, and I think for kids this will be a benefit,” Burton said.

Is SAT scaling changing for the digital version?

"In general, what the College Board has said is that scaling is not going to change, so 1400 on the paper test is the same as 1400 on the digital," Levin said.

Students who took the test last year in Europe, where Bespoke has an office, are “doing at least as well on the digital SAT if not better,” Levin said. It's “intuitive,” and kids are finding it easier to take once they’ve practiced, he said.

Is the SAT coming back as a college application requirement?

The pandemic saw many colleges and universities switch their admissions policy to go test-optional, but the consensus among experts is that highly competitive schools still consider the SAT and the ACT.

And the SAT is still a top predictor of eventual college success.

So SAT scores could be returning as an admissions requirement. “This is the wave of the future. SAT scores are an important data point,” Levin said.

Why did Dartmouth just reinstate the SAT as a requirement?

Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution, has reinstated SAT scores as an admissions requirement beginning with undergraduate applicants for the Class of 2029, after doing away with it for four years.

Dartmouth found that low-income students who did not submit scores that they thought were too low were likely passed over for admission to the school in the test-optional system.

A “misperception” about high and low scores can harm students, the university said. “A score that falls below our class mean [or average] but several hundred points above the mean at the student's school is 'high' ... it has value as one factor among many in our holistic assessment,” it said in a statement.

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Forbest Academy

Sat english: essay sample (6).

As you read the passage below, consider how Bobby Braun uses

▉  evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

▉  reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.

▉  stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

Adapted from Bobby Braun, “Space Technology: A Critical Investment for Our Nation’s Future.” ©2014 by Capitol Hill Publishing Corp. Originally published in the Hill, October 27, 2011.

▉ Aerospace remains a strong component of our national fabric and is the largest positive contributor to our nation’s trade balance. However, this technological leadership position is not a given. To remain the leader in aerospace technology, we must continue to perform research and invest in the people who will create the breakthroughs of tomorrow, preserving a critical component of our nation’s economic competitiveness for future generations.

▉ For NASA 1 , past cutting-edge technology investments led to design and flight of the Apollo missions, the space shuttle, the International Space Station and a myriad of robotic explorers that allowed us to reach destinations across our solar system and peer across the universe. NASA remains one of the nation’s premier research and development agencies, pursuing breakthrough technologies that will expand the frontiers of aeronautics and space.

▉ Unfortunately, the pioneering spirit embodied by this storied agency is endangered as a result of chronic underinvestment in basic and applied research. In a recent report on the state of NASA’s technology plans, the National Research Council offered a stark assessment: “Success in executing future NASA space missions will depend on advanced technology developments that should already be underway. However, it has been years since NASA has had a vigorous, broad-based program in advanced space technology. NASA’s technology base is largely depleted. Currently, available technology is insufficient to accomplish many intended space missions. Future U.S. leadership in space requires a foundation of sustained technology advances.”

▉  America is beginning an exciting new chapter in human space exploration. This chapter centers on full use of the International Space Station, maturation of multiple American vehicles for delivering astronauts and cargo to low-Earth orbit, development of a crew vehicle and an evolvable heavy-lift rocket—two critical building blocks for our nation’s deep-space exploration future—and advancement of a suite of new in-space technologies that will allow us to send explorers safely into deep space for the first time.

▉ By investing in the high payoff, transformative technology that the aerospace industry cannot tackle today, NASA will mature the systems required for its future missions while proving the capabilities and lowering the cost of other government agency and commercial space activities. Developing these solutions will create high-tech jobs.

▉ NASA's technology investments continue to make a difference in the world around us. Knowledge provided by weather and navigational spacecraft, efficiency improvements in both ground and air transportation, supercomputers, solar- and wind-generated energy, the cameras found in many of today’s cellphones, improved biomedical applications including advanced medical imaging and more nutritious infant formula, and the protective gear that keeps our military, firefighters, and police safe, have all benefitted from our nation’s investments in aerospace technology.

▉ For many of the tens of thousands of engineering and science students in our nation’s universities today, the space program provides the opportunity to invent technologies today that will form the foundation for humanity’s next great leap across the solar system. For this new generation of engineers and scientists, and for those working across NASA at this moment, the future starts today. Modest, sustained federal investment in space technology, at a funding level approaching 5 percent of NASA’s budget (well below the R&D2 budget of many corporations), is the key ingredient to their success. A NASA that is reaching for grand challenges and operating at the cutting-edge is critical not only for our country’s future in space but also for America’s technological leadership position in the world.

▉ Nearly 50 years ago, a young president gave NASA a grand challenge—one chosen not for its simplicity, but for its audacity, not for its ultimate goal or destination, but to “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” In accomplishing that goal, NASA not only defined what we now call “rocket science,” but also made a lasting imprint on the economic, national security and geopolitical landscape of the time.

▉ NASA can do the same today. This is the task for which this agency was built. This is the task this agency can complete. America expects no less.

1 National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Write an essay in which you explain how Bobby Braun builds an argument to persuade his audience that the US government must continue to invest in NASA. In your essay, analyze how Braun uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Braun’s claims, but rather explain how Braun builds an argument to persuade his audience.


The issue of budget allocation has always been a controversial one, and America is no exception. In an article titled “Space Technology: A Critical Investment for Our Nation’s Future.”, Bobby Braun has written a   persuasive essay to convince his readers that investment for Nasa’s space technology needs to take precedence. In so doing, he refers to tangible evidence and examples,   uses sound reasoning, and employs a smart word choice to present his argument more compelling.  

Firstly, Braun views space technology as a building block of national identity and trade balance. He uses pompous language to magnify Aerospace role for creating prospective breakthroughs. He further claims that the industry has contributed a lot to the US economic advantage just to reason that research and investment are the integral parts for the preservation of US sovereignty in this field.  He refers to several real cutting-edge projects such as Apollo, space shuttle, and robot explorers to show how the US has pushed the limitations of frontiers in space and aeronautics.

In fact, Braun enumerates several space technology advancements and their contribution to the elevation of the US just to keep readers engaged and make them believe that the money spent on space projects is actually an investment which has borne fruit.

After justifying the necessity of space projects, Braun poses a grappling concern. He asserts that basic space research has been recently underfunded, and advanced space technology is currently suffering from a sound basis. This would compromise the US leadership in the space field. Space   leadership “needs a foundation of sustained technology advances.” He further mentions that America has commenced a new chapter in space field which dwells on the dispatch of explorers and facilities for more discovery and understanding, and these feats necessitate high-tech jobs.

Braun, in fact, tries to involve Americans in ambitious dreams to push them to champion the idea of fund allocation for space projects.   

Finally, Braun takes a global view. He claims that Nasa’s technological investments have made a significant difference in the world. He mentions how numerous fields such as weather, navigation,   ground and air transportation, supercomputers, clean energy, medicine, and nutrition are indebted to developments in space field. He also mentions how space developments can help future engineers and science students. He further suggests that a modest sustained federal investment can do the job to keep a   plan of national and international significance running. Finally, he alludes to one of American president’s quotes to remind us that our today’s knowledge of rocket science, and America’s current prosperity in economy, national security, and geopolitics is all a reflection of advanced space technology! He concludes his argument that the consummation of such a lofty ambition is what every American would expect!

In fact, Braun tries to furnish his readers with a realistic picture about the significance of space technology which is already feeding multifarious fields. He further tries to sell Americans the idea that the realization of a prosperous and powerful America is more at the mercy of advanced space developments.

To recap, Braun employs pompous language, evidence and examples, and sound, realistic reasoning to justify the investment of money on Nasa’s space projects.

(526 Words)

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The Morning

A top college reinstates the sat.

Why other schools may follow Dartmouth’s lead.

A portrait of Sian Beilock, the president of Dartmouth College, standing by a window in an olive-green blazer.

By David Leonhardt

Dartmouth College announced this morning that it would again require applicants to submit standardized test scores, starting next year. It’s a significant development because other selective colleges are now deciding whether to do so. In today’s newsletter, I’ll tell you the story behind Dartmouth’s decision.

Training future leaders

Last summer, Sian Beilock — a cognitive scientist who had previously run Barnard College in New York — became the president of Dartmouth . After arriving, she asked a few Dartmouth professors to do an internal study on standardized tests. Like many other colleges during the Covid pandemic, Dartmouth dropped its requirement that applicants submit an SAT or ACT score. With the pandemic over and students again able to take the tests, Dartmouth’s admissions team was thinking about reinstating the requirement. Beilock wanted to know what the evidence showed.

“Our business is looking at data and research and understanding the implications it has,” she told me.

Three Dartmouth economists and a sociologist then dug into the numbers. One of their main findings did not surprise them: Test scores were a better predictor than high school grades — or student essays and teacher recommendations — of how well students would fare at Dartmouth. The evidence of this relationship is large and growing, as I explained in a recent Times article .

A second finding was more surprising. During the pandemic, Dartmouth switched to a test-optional policy, in which applicants could choose whether to submit their SAT and ACT scores. And this policy was harming lower-income applicants in a specific way.

The researchers were able to analyze the test scores even of students who had not submitted them to Dartmouth. (Colleges can see the scores after the admissions process is finished.) Many lower-income students, it turned out, had made a strategic mistake.

They withheld test scores that would have helped them get into Dartmouth. They wrongly believed that their scores were too low, when in truth the admissions office would have judged the scores to be a sign that students had overcome a difficult environment and could thrive at Dartmouth.

As the four professors — Elizabeth Cascio, Bruce Sacerdote, Doug Staiger and Michele Tine — wrote in a memo, referring to the SAT’s 1,600-point scale, “There are hundreds of less-advantaged applicants with scores in the 1,400 range who should be submitting scores to identify themselves to admissions, but do not under test-optional policies.” Some of these applicants were rejected because the admissions office could not be confident about their academic qualifications. The students would have probably been accepted had they submitted their test scores, Lee Coffin, Dartmouth’s dean of admissions, told me.

That finding, as much as any other, led to Dartmouth’s announcement this morning. “Our goal at Dartmouth is academic excellence in the service of training the broadest swath of future leaders,” Beilock told me. “I’m convinced by the data that this will help us do that.”

It’s worth acknowledging a crucial part of this story. Dartmouth admits disadvantaged students who have scores that are lower on average than those of privileged students. The college doesn’t apologize for that. Students from poor neighborhoods or troubled high schools have effectively been running with wind in their face. They are not competing fairly with affluent teenagers.

Share of students admitted to Dartmouth, by test scores and student advantage

sat english essay

25% of students admitted


Disadvantaged students

with lower test scores are

more likely to be admitted

than advantaged students

with the same scores.

sat english essay

“We’re looking for the kids who are excelling in their environment. We know society is unequal,” Beilock said. “Kids that are excelling in their environment, we think, are a good bet to excel at Dartmouth and out in the world.” The admissions office will judge an applicant’s environment partly by comparing his or her test score with the score distribution at the applicant’s high schools, Coffin said. In some cases, even an SAT score well below 1,400 can help an application.

Questions and answers

In our conversations, I asked Beilock and her colleagues about several common criticisms of standardized tests, and they said that they did not find the criticisms persuasive.

For instance, many critics on the political left argue the tests are racially or economically biased, but Beilock said the evidence didn’t support those claims. “The research suggests this tool is helpful in finding students we might otherwise miss,” she said.

I also asked whether she was worried that conservative critics of affirmative action might use test scores to accuse Dartmouth of violating the recent Supreme Court ruling barring race-conscious admissions. She was not. Dartmouth can legally admit a diverse class while using test scores as one part of its holistic admissions process, she said. I’ve heard similar sentiments from leaders at other colleges that have reinstated the test requirement, including Georgetown and M.I.T.

And I asked Beilock and her colleagues whether fewer students might now apply to Dartmouth. Coffin, the admissions dean, replied that such an outcome might be OK. He noted that the test-optional policy since 2020 had not led to a more diverse pool of applicants and that Dartmouth already received more than enough applications — 31,000 this year, for 1,200 first-year slots. “I don’t think volume is the holy grail,” he said.

Finally, I asked Beilock whether she was satisfied with Dartmouth’s level of economic diversity, which is slightly below that of most similarly elite colleges. She said no. “We have aspirations to bring it up,” she said. Reinstating the test requirement, she believes, can help Dartmouth do so.

For more: Compare economic diversity at hundreds of colleges through our College Access Index .


California Weather

Intense rain and wind is lashing California, and hundreds of thousands of people are without power. Read our updates .

Drivers were stranded in floodwaters in Los Angeles , mudslides covered a stretch of highway in Ventura County, and flights were grounded at Santa Barbara Airport.

The storm is expected to linger over the Los Angeles area until tomorrow morning. Track it here .

Middle East

Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, will visit the region today to continue talks on a possible Gaza cease-fire deal. Hamas is still considering a proposal to halt fighting.

After days of military strikes, President Biden has ordered further retaliatio n over the killings of U.S. soldiers, officials say.

See the dignified transfer of one soldier, returning home in a coffin.

The Houthi attacks on commercial ships are driving up freight costs. Read how business leaders are responding .

2024 Election

During an event in Las Vegas, Biden tried to energize voters in a key swing state.

Nikki Haley’s husband, Maj. Michael Haley, is a National Guardsman deployed in Africa. He still has a presence on her campaign.

Donald Trump pushed immigration conspiracy theories and mass deportations in an interview.

War in Ukraine

Senate Republicans and Democrats released a compromise border deal to unlock Ukraine aid , but it faces an uphill path to enactment.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, hinted at a government shake-up . He said “a reset” was needed to revive the war effort.

Boeing found a new problem with 737 Max fuselages. Badly drilled holes will require work on 50 jets and could delay deliveries , The Wall Street Journal reports.

X, formerly Twitter, is investing in original video content — paying celebrities and influencers to try to revive the platform.

Samsung’s top executive was acquitted of stock price manipulation and accounting fraud.

Other Big Stories

Wildfires in Chile killed 112, and hundreds more are missing . See photos of the fires .

Big companies vowed to fix Mississippi cities’ water issues and save them millions. But a Times investigation found that they left many worse off than before.

Remnants of a nuclear missile were found in a garage in Washington State .

Pamela Paul writes about people who thought they were trans as kids — but no longer do .

Wolf repopulation efforts used to be unpopular . But as policymakers focused on building trust, public opinion shifted, Erica Berry writes.

Misinformation and fearmongering about drug use in Oregon are threatening to bring back the old-school drug war, Maia Szalavitz writes.

Choosing a woman as his vice president could help Trump win. But a V.P. pick should be someone who can win and govern, Kellyanne Conway writes.

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss the 2024 election and Taylor Swift’s potential endorsement.


India: Bezwada Wilson was born into a caste assigned to remove dried human waste from latrines by hand. Read about his life’s work to eradicate the practice.

“Dalifornia”: In a mountain town in China, young people can escape the competition of the country’s megacities.

Grieving the loss of a pet? These groups want to help .

Medical meditation and clinical yoga: Alternative therapies are becoming mainstream in the U.S.

Metropolitan Diary: They lived about 10 blocks away .

Lives Lived: Michael Watford helped birth a subgenre of club music known as gospel house. He died at 64 .

N.B.A.: The Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid will undergo corrective surgery on his left knee.

N.F.L.: Kliff Kingsbury is the new offensive coordinator for the Washington Commanders, a splashy hire .

Soccer: MetLife Stadium, outside New York, will host the 2026 World Cup final, FIFA announced . Dallas will field the most matches.


Women win: It was a big night for women at the Grammys. Taylor Swift won her fourth album of the year award, breaking the record for the category. Billie Eilish won song of the year, Miley Cyrus won record of the year and Victoria Monét was named best new artist. Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell performed. Here’s what else happened:

Celine Dion, coping with neurological disorder , presented the Grammy to Swift.

Swift announced a new album , coming out in April. Elle reports that fans online are scouring her relationship history to explain the title: “The Tortured Poets Department.”

Jay-Z, speaking with his daughter onstage, implied the Recording Academy had snubbed Beyoncé , CNN reports. “She has more Grammys than anyone, and never won album of the year,” he said.

See the most over-the-top outfits . (The Cut covered the worst and wackiest .)

Read more takeaways from the show and a complete list of winners .


Caramelize onions for French onion soup , a labor of love.

Watch “ Mr. & Mrs. Smith, ” an Amazon series based on the 2005 blockbuster film of the same name.

Get silk pillowcases for Valentine’s Day .

Make perfect stovetop rice .

Take our news quiz .

Here is today’s Spelling Bee . Yesterday’s pangram was tenacity .

And here are today’s Mini Crossword , Wordle , Sudoku and Connections .

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox . Reach our team at [email protected] .

David Leonhardt runs The Morning , The Times’s flagship daily newsletter. Since joining The Times in 1999, he has been an economics columnist, opinion columnist, head of the Washington bureau and founding editor of the Upshot section, among other roles. More about David Leonhardt


Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 4 sat sections: what they test and how to do well.

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SAT General Info


Whether you're actively preparing for the SAT or simply want to learn more about the ubiquitous college entrance exam, it’s important you start with the basics: how many sections are on the SAT? W hat are the names of the SAT sections? And what kinds of skills does each section measure?

In this article, we answer all of your burning questions about the SAT sections . We'll begin by discussing how many sections are on the SAT as well as how these sections differ from one another. Then, we’ll go over the different skills on which you'll be tested, giving you our expert tips for combating each of the SAT test sections with confidence. Finally, we'll take a look at whether certain sections of the SAT are more important than others and what this means for you and your college applications.

UPDATE: SAT Essay No Longer Offered

In January 2021, the College Board announced that after June 2021, it would no longer offer the Essay portion of the SAT (except at schools who opt in during School Day Testing). It is now no longer possible to take the SAT Essay, unless your school is one of the small number who choose to offer it during SAT School Day Testing.

What does the end of the SAT Essay mean for your college applications? Check out our article on the College Board's SAT Essay decision for everything you need to know.

What Are the SAT Sections?

The SAT (which was redesigned in 2016 ) consists of  four sections: 

  • Writing and Language
  • Math (which consists of two subsections, No Calculator and Calculator)
  • Essay (only offered during select SAT School Days)

As  the College Board  (the creator of the SAT) puts it, all sections of the SAT  work together to test “what you learn in high school” and “what you need to succeed in college.” In other words, the goal of the SAT is to ensure you possess the appropriate reading, writing, and math skills deemed necessary for success as a college student.

Each of the SAT test sections appears  only once on the exam and varies in the number of questions it contains as well as in how much time it allocates. The following table showcases some of the major features of the SAT test sections:

According to this table, the longest section (in terms of both time and number of questions) is the Math section . This is because the Math section is composed of two subsections: a No Calculator section (which always comes first) and a Calculator section. While the No Calculator section is fairly brief at only 25 minutes and 20 questions long, the Calculator section lasts for 55 minutes and contains a total of 38 questions.

You may also notice a few key similarities between the Reading and Writing and Language sections. These two sections were specifically designed to test a couple of the same skills — namely Command of Evidence and Words in Context — in different ways. The  two sections also combine for an overall Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) score out of 800 points, so they clearly have a lot in common with each other!

Lastly, the above table highlights how all sections of the SAT (excluding the Essay) are predominantly multiple choice . Most questions on the SAT contain four answer choices from which you must select one answer. On the Math section, however, you will also face a handful of  grid-in questions  for which you must come up with your own answers and bubble them in using the numbers provided.

Now that we've covered all of the fundamentals, let’s take a closer look at each of the four sections of the SAT.


The SAT Reading Section

The Reading section focuses on  reading comprehension and understanding vocabulary in context . Each of the 52 questions in this section will be based on a passage. You'll be given five passages in total:

  • 1 passage on U.S. or world literature
  • 2 passages on history/social studies
  • 2 passages on science (which may include graphs and/or charts)

On some areas of the Reading section, you may be given a pair of related passages instead of a single passage. You may also encounter graphs, charts, or other forms of data representation. (Note that you will not have to use any math for these questions, though you will be expected to know how to interpret the data provided.)

As illuminated in the table above, the Reading section test two primary skills:

  • Command of Evidence:  your ability to find concrete evidence within the passage to support the author’s claims or answers to specific questions
  • Words in Context: your ability to decipher the meanings of vocabulary words within the context of the passage, and your ability to understand how word choice influences the style and tone of a text

Big Picture

Little Picture/Function

  • Vocabulary in Context
  • Author Technique
  • Evidence Support
  • Data Interpretation

Below, I describe each of these question types and then provide you with our best tips for doing well on the SAT Reading section.

SAT Reading Question Types

Here are the different types of questions you'll encounter on the SAT Reading section.

#1: Big Picture and Little Picture / Function

These two Reading question types are opposites: Big Picture questions focus on the main point of a passage , whereas Little Picture (or Function) questions focus on the function of specific lines or sentences within a passage . Your job, then, is to use contextual evidence to decipher either the author’s overall message or the function of a selected area of the text.


#2: Inference

For this Reading question type, you must correctly  interpret the meaning of a sentence, a group of sentences, or the entire passage.


#3: Vocabulary in Context

These Reading questions ask you about the meaning of a specific word or phrase within the passage . These words and phrases may not always appear to be difficult but will usually take on lesser-known alternative meanings.


#4: Author Technique

This type of Reading question requires you to  analyze the author’s stylistic choices in regards to tone, voice, perspective, etc.


#5: Evidence Support

For Evidence Support questions, you must  locate contextual evidence for an answer to a previous question . (In other words, these questions are directly related to the questions that precede them.) To answer these questions, you must identify a particular line or group of lines from which you found the answer to a question.


#6: Data Interpretation

A Data Interpretation question requires you to interpret data (usually in the form of a table, chart, or graph) and understand how it relates to the passage.


Top 3 SAT Reading Tips

Once you've familiarized yourself with all of the Reading question types, it's time for you to employ our top three tips for the SAT Reading section!

#1: Practice Reading Passages

Because the Reading section revolves solely around passages, it's critical you dedicate the bulk of your SAT Reading prep to working with SAT-esque passages.

The best resources for passages similar to those you’ll encounter on the SAT are  official SAT practice tests . These mock SAT tests created by the College Board offer a plethora of realistic Reading passages that closely mimic the style and form of the passages you'll be given on test day.

In addition to official practice tests, you can also use unofficial SAT Reading materials — as long as they contain  high-quality Reading passages  similar to those on the SAT.

Finally, it's a smart idea to read real-life texts, such as The New York Times , The Atlantic , and Psychology Today ,   from which SAT passages are often borrowed. This way you can familiarize yourself with the type of materials you'll see on test day.


#2: Use Process of Elimination

Process of elimination is an excellent strategy (and even one recommended by a perfect scorer !) that will aid you significantly on the Reading section.

As we already know, each Reading question offers four possible answer choices of which just one is correct. This means that the other three choices must contain clear signs indicating they’re incorrect .  Some of the most common reasons answer choices are eliminated are that they're:

  • Too specific
  • Too loosely connected to the overall purpose or message of the passage

Remember, even a single word in an answer choice can make it incorrect , so look closely for any reason to eliminate a choice before deciding on the correct one. Be sure you avoid getting  caught up in answer choices that sort of sound correct — if a choice doesn’t 100-percent answer the question or is ambiguous in any way, chances are it's wrong!

#3: Study Vocabulary Sparingly

Unlike the old (pre-2016) SAT, which often tested obscure vocabulary words in complete isolation, the new SAT only tests vocabulary knowledge within the context of passages . Additionally,  current SAT vocabulary is only about medium difficulty , meaning many of the words tested are ones you've likely seen and may have even used before. (Woo hoo!)

The challenging part of SAT vocabulary, however, is being able to identify  lesser-known tertiary meanings of common words . What this means is, while you no longer need to dedicate hours upon hours to memorizing thousands of vocabulary words,   you do need to familiarize yourself with some of the rarer meanings of common words. Likewise, you should also know how to decipher a vocabulary word's meaning based on how it's being used in a passage. 

These days, many SAT vocabulary words are similar to those on the ACT; thus, we recommend studying vocabulary with either our ACT list of 150 medium-level vocabulary words or Scholastic’s 100-word list for the SAT/ACT .


The SAT Writing and Language Section

The Writing and Language section (often referred to as simply the “Writing section”) may look similar to the Reading section, but instead of measuring your reading comprehension skills, this section measures your ability to identify and correct grammatical errors and stylistic weaknesses within passages . In other words, the Writing section is all about your proofreading and editing skills!

Like the Reading section, the Writing section revolves entirely around passages . These passages cover a wide array of topics, including careers, history/social studies, science, and the humanities. Unlike Reading passages, however, all Writing passages are nonfiction , taking the   form of narratives, arguments, and explanatory texts.

Your primary mission on the Writing section is to correct (or leave as is, if no errors are present) words and sentences within these passages. For science-based passages containing charts or graphs, you may be asked to replace an incorrect sentence with a new sentence that more accurately reflects the data provided.

The Writing and Language section measures the following skills:

  • Command of Evidence
  • Words in Context
  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions

Below, I discuss each of these four question types and what they measure on the SAT Writing section. I then provide you with our top three tips for getting a great score on SAT Writing.

SAT Writing and Language Question Types

In this section, we examine the SAT Writing question types and look at examples of how they'll appear on the SAT.

#1: Command of Evidence

These types of Writing questions focus primarily on the big picture of a passage and usually ask you to provide evidence for why you are making a particular change .


#2: Words in Context

For these questions, you must  replace a word or phrase with a more logical choice , or select “NO CHANGE” if the highlighted area is appropriate as is.


#3: Expression of Ideas

These questions require you to think about the various ways ideas can be expressed in words. More specifically, you must  rearrange, add, combine, or delete sentences to improve the overall flow of a passage.


#4: Standard English Conventions

For Standard English Conventions questions, you must correct incorrect words or phrases, so that they adhere to the basic  rules of English grammar, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization . If the highlighted word or phrase is grammatically sound, select “NO CHANGE.”


Top 3 SAT Writing and Language Tips

Here are our top tips for getting the score you want on the SAT Writing section!

#1: Master Common SAT Grammar and Punctuation Rules

Nearly half of all SAT Writing questions focus on standard English conventions, so naturally you can’t expect to do well on SAT Writing if you haven’t mastered the basic rules of English grammar and usage!

This doesn't mean you must review every single grammar rule in existence — just the ones most commonly tested on the SAT . For more details on what these rules are and how you can master them, check out our in-depth guides to  SAT grammar and SAT punctuation .


#2: Read Articles and Essays

Because none of the Writing section's passages are works of fiction, your best bet is to read real-life newspaper and magazine articles, persuasive texts, and essays . As you study, you'll use these texts to hone your editorial eye, identifying transitional words and connections in thought.

You'll also want to examine how the author builds his or her argument or main point throughout the text . What evidence does he or she provide? Is it ultimately effective? Why or why not?

There will be a wide array of topics for Writing passages, so feel free to dig into a variety of texts. I recommend starting with major publications such as The New Yorker , The New York Times , The Atlantic , Wired , and  Psychology Today .

#3: Hone Your Writing Skills

To be a sharp editor, you must understand how to write well. And to write well, you must  learn from the feedback on your own writing .

Begin by noting any red marks on essays you turn in at school, making yourself aware of any errors you continuously make on your writing. If you’re confused about a mistake you've made, ask your teacher to explain the mistake and give you tips on how you can avoid making it again.

As you write essays for school, make sure you're also  paying attention to the structure of your arguments . Consider the simple "hamburger" structure of essays: you've got your introduction (top bun), your evidence and supporting details (lettuce, tomato, and meat), and your conclusion (bottom bun). Knowing how to effectively structure your own essays should over time allow you to develop a keener understanding of how SAT passages are organized.


The SAT Math Section

Onto the world of numbers! Unlike the English-centered Reading and Writing sections, the SAT Math section consists of  practical, real-world math and measures the problem-solving abilities most useful for college-level coursework and future employment.

The Math section comprises two subsections:

  • Math No Calculator , for which you are not permitted to use a calculator
  • Math Calculator , for which you may (but aren't required to) use a calculator

The Math section is the only section on the SAT (excluding the Essay) to contain a non-multiple-choice question format called the grid-in . 22 percent of Math questions are grid-ins , so although it’s not the main question format on SAT Math, it’s crucial you understand how it works.

The Math section tests you on the following concepts:

  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math
  • Additional Topics in Math

Below, I describe each of these Math question types and give you expert tips for securing an excellent SAT Math score.

SAT Math Question Types

Here are the four types of Math questions you'll see on the SAT.

#1:  Heart of Algebra

This content area constitutes the  largest focus of the SAT Math section , accounting for approximately one-third of all Math questions. Heart of Algebra questions focus on (you guessed it!) algebra — primarily linear equations, systems of equations, inequalities, and absolute values.


#2:  Problem Solving and Data Analysis

There are 17 Problem Solving and Data Analysis questions on the SAT. All of these questions are on the Math Calculator subsection (meaning you'll see none of these on the No Calculator subsection). These questions focus on data interpretation (i.e., how to read charts, graphs, tables, etc.) as well as rates, ratios, percentages, linear and exponential relationships, and probability.


#3:  Passport to Advanced Math

There are 16 Passport to Advanced Math questions on the SAT. These advanced questions test your understanding of the structure of equations and expressions , including your ability to   rearrange and rewrite them. For these questions, you may be asked to solve a quadratic equation, create an exponential function, or manipulate polynomials.


#4: Additional Topics in Math

While 90 percent of the Math section deals with the three topics listed above, the last 10 percent targets what the College Board calls "Additional Topics in Math." This question type is basically a catch-all for any math concept that doesn’t fit neatly into the other three categories. Such topics predominantly deal with  geometry , trigonometry , and complex numbers.


Top 3 SAT Math Tips

Use our top tips below to get your best score ever on SAT Math!

#1: Review Basic Math Concepts

You can’t expect to score highly on the Math section if you’re not familiar with most or all of the basic math concepts being tested on the SAT.

To get started, take a look at our  giant stockpile of SAT Math resources you can use (for free!). This guide contains links to several Math guides offering a solid overview of critical math concepts you should know for the SAT, including algebra, numbers, coordinate geometry, and plane and solid geometry.

You can also check out our guide to the best SAT Math prep books  and browse your options for high-quality Math content review and practice.


#2: Memorize Common Formulas

Another tip is to memorize all  critical SAT Math formulas you’ll need for test day. Doing this will allow you to solve many math problems that you can't solve without knowledge of a particular formula.

But what about the reference diagram on the test? Do you really need to memorize formulas if you'll be given a list of them on the SAT? Although you may think memorizing these formulas is a waste of time, in reality  memorizing them will actually  save you time on test day . Here are the formulas exactly as you'll see them on the SAT:


By memorizing the formulas above, you won't need to constantly flip back to the diagram and will therefore be able to solve math problems more quickly. This will effectively give you  more time to put toward other math problems that are more challenging .

However, there is one caveat: the 12 formulas on this reference diagram deal specifically with geometry, a topic which makes up a significantly small portion of the new SAT. So while it’s crucial you memorize these formulas, it’ll be far more advantageous for you to prioritize other major laws and formulas that will not be given to you on test day and are more likely to come up on the SAT.

#3: Plug In Answers and Numbers

Our final tip for SAT Math is a popular test-taking strategy: plugging in answers and numbers . In this strategy, if you’re faced with a math problem you’re unsure how to solve, you can attempt to solve it by either plugging in random numbers or plugging in answer choices one by one. Doing this will reveal which answer choice yields the correct result.

Use the plug-in answer strategy for multiple-choice math questions that ask you to solve for a specific value. Always start with answer choice B or C , so you can determine whether to work your way up or down to get a higher or lower answer.

For multiple-choice and grid-in questions you don’t understand, try plugging in your own numbers (or sets of numbers) to see whether equations and inequalities hold true  for various values.

Note that these strategies, though helpful, should generally only be used if you’re unsure how to solve a math problem using other methods, such as simplification and algebra. Ultimately, though, the SAT doesn’t care how you get an answer — just that it’s the correct one! So if you don't know what to do, get in there and plug away.


The SAT Essay (Optional)

NOTE: As we mentioned above, now that the Essay is only offered during select SAT School Days , very few students will take it. Additionally, no colleges still require the Essay, so even if you do take it, your score will not impact your college applications.

The SAT Essay is an entirely writing-based section for which you must read a 650-750-word passage and then  write an essay analyzing how the author constructs his or her argument as well as how persuasive the argument is .

Note that you are not being asked whether you agree or disagree with the argument. You are also not expected to write about your personal experiences (like how test takers were prompted to do on the old SAT).

The Essay also uses a unique scoring system compared to those of the other SAT test sections. There are three components to the SAT Essay grade :

For each of these components, two graders will assign you a score on a scale of 1-4. These two scores are then added together to give you total scores for each component (on a scale of 2-8). Thus, a perfect SAT Essay grade would be 8|8|8 (4s from both graders for each of the three rubrics).

But what exactly do these three components measure? Below, I describe each of the SAT Essay grades and introduce to you our top three tips for ensuring a high Essay score on test day.

Skills Tested on the SAT Essay

The three components of the SAT Essay grading rubric each measure a different skill in regards to your writing ability.

The Reading score highlights your overall  understanding of the passage and how well you use appropriate textual evidence from the passage to construct your essay.

The Analysis score shows how well you understand the construction of the author's argument  in terms of reasoning, style, and evidence. It also measures your ability to choose the most effective evidence from the passage to support your evaluation.

The Writing score revolves entirely around your ability to write . You will be given a grade based on the strength of your thesis and on your essay's organization, focus, tone, style, and adherence to standard written English conventions.


Top 3 SAT Essay Tips

And now here are our expert SAT Essay tips to help you get the high score you deserve!

#1: Learn the Types of Examples to Look for in Passages

Before you take the exam, make sure you know all of the major types of examples you can look for in passages to use as support in your essay. The six types of evidence to be aware of are:

  • Facts and statistics
  • Counterarguments and counterclaims
  • Explanation of evidence
  • Vivid language
  • Direct appeals to the reader

For more information, check out our detailed guide on how to look for and use these pieces of evidence . As you write, be  sure you’re using the most relevant and effective support; you don’t need to use every example you find!

#2: Read the Prompt First

Although you'll likely be tempted to get through the passage before attacking the prompt, reading the prompt first can lend you a big hand as it directly states what the author’s central claim is . Once you know what kind of argument you'll be dealing with, you can then read the entire passage, keeping an eye out for any evidence that supports this central claim and thinking of ways you can effectively incorporate these pieces of evidence into your essay.

As a reminder, your essay should focus on what techniques and evidence the authors uses to set up his or her argument  as well as how effective these techniques are.

#3: Write More Than 1 Page

Though not explicitly stated on the SAT Essay rubric, your essay must be of a reasonable length (1+ pages) in order to merit a high score . This means anything less than a page is bound to guarantee you a low essay score, as the essay will very likely lack sufficient detail, evidence, and analysis.

On test day, you’ll get four pages for writing (and one additional piece of scratch paper for planning and outlining your essay). Aim to use at least two pages for your essay.  Anything longer is perfectly fine; however, just remember it's ultimately better to produce a succinct and focused essay instead of a verbose or tangential one.

Ready to go beyond just reading about the SAT? Then you'll love the free five-day trial for our SAT Complete Prep program . Designed and written by PrepScholar SAT experts , our SAT program customizes to your skill level in over 40 subskills so that you can focus your studying on what will get you the biggest score gains.

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Are Certain SAT Sections More Important Than Others?

Because the SAT has several sections, you may be wondering which (if any) are the most important in regards to scores.

To start, the essay is, by far, the least important of all SAT sections . With the College Board no longer offering the essay during regular SAT administrations, nearly no students will now take it, and no colleges require essay scores. Basically, if you're one of the few people who do still take the essay (because your school required it for an SAT School Day), your score won't impact your college applications, although your high school might use the essay score for its own purposes.

But what about the SAT Reading, Writing, and Math sections? Which of these is the most important? Or are they all equally important?

Generally speaking, the SAT Reading, Writing, and Math sections are all of fairly equal importance . Most schools report SAT scores using the total score (a combination of the EBRW and Math scores), implying there is equal consideration of the Reading, Writing, and Math sections. Furthermore, any school requiring the SAT will always require scores from the Reading, Writing, and Math sections, so all three of these sections are evidently essential for college admission (unlike the optional Essay).

In spite of these trends,  there may be cases in which one of the two scores (EBRW or Math) will hold slightly more weight than the other . For example, if you are applying to an engineering school like MIT, admissions committees may pay a little extra attention to your SAT Math score — the more relevant score to your program — and less to your EBRW score.

In the end, it's best to think of both your EBRW and Math scores as being equally important, and your Essay score (if you took the essay) as being the least important.

Key Takeaways for the SAT Sections

The SAT is composed of four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math, and Essay (optional). These sections target an array of academic skills deemed necessary for college, from reading comprehension to proofreading to problem solving.

To ultimately do well on the SAT, you must understand what each of the SAT sections measures, what each sections tests you on, and what approaches you can use to get the scores you want.

Although the Essay isn’t a requirement for any colleges anymore, those requiring SAT scores will often prefer applicants who have a strong set of EBRW (Reading and Writing) and Math scores, so always try to aim for a high total score !

What’s Next?

Want to learn more about the SAT? Take a look at our complete guide to what the SAT is and get tips on when to start studying and what resources you can use to get the scores you need for college!

Thinking of taking the ACT, too? Start with our introduction to the ACT sections and then check out our guide to what a good ACT score is to learn how you can get a great ACT score.

Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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  20. SAT English: Essay Sample (6)

    Resources > SAT-English > SAT English: Essay Sample (6) QSNAs you read the passage below, consider how Bobby Braun uses evidence, such as facts or examples.

  21. SAT Essay Rubric: Full Analysis and Writing Strategies

    Reading The biggest change to the SAT essay (and the thing that really distinguishes it from the ACT essay) is that you are required to read and analyze a text, then write about your analysis of the author's argument in your essay.

  22. Opinion: The lose-lose decision on the SAT

    Elite colleges may bring back mandatory SAT or ACT scores, tests that reflect long-standing racial and economic inequalities, but getting rid of them may actually be worse for underprivileged ...

  23. What's on the SAT

    PSAT 10 PSAT 8/9 More Home SAT What's on the SAT What's on the SAT Here's what's on each section of the SAT and how it's structured. How the SAT Is Structured The Reading and Writing Section The Math Section The Math Section: Overview Types of Math Tested SAT Calculator Use Student-Produced Responses

  24. A Top College Reinstates the SAT

    Feb. 5, 2024. Dartmouth College announced this morning that it would again require applicants to submit standardized test scores, starting next year. It's a significant development because other ...

  25. The 4 SAT Sections: What They Test and How to Do Well

    In January 2021, the College Board announced that after June 2021, it would no longer offer the Essay portion of the SAT (except at schools who opt in during School Day Testing). It is now no longer possible to take the SAT Essay, unless your school is one of the small number who choose to offer it during SAT School Day Testing.

  26. PDF SAT Practice Test #1

    Akirawaswaitingintheentry.Hewasinhisearly twenties,slimandserious,wearingtheblack military-styleuniformofastudent.Ashe bowed—hishandshangingstraightdown,a blackcapinone,ayellowoil-paperumbrellainthe other—Chieglancedbeyondhim.Intheglistening surfaceofthecourtyard'srain-drenchedpaving stones,shesawhisreflectionlikeadarkdouble.