Is The SAT Hard? | 6 Factors To Consider

Is the SAT hard? Is it as bad as everyone makes it seem? Let’s look at some factors that can make it difficult, as well as reasons to not worry so much.

Thankfully, there are other SAT score improvement hacks you can use during your test prep journey to help calm your nerves.


Factors That Can Make The SAT Harder

Timing Stress

The SAT is rigidly timed; those time constraints often make students think the overall test is harder.

The biggest problem with timing stress is it allows careless mistakes to happen. You can have every section’s content and concepts down. You know the kinds of questions coming up in each one.

But there’s only so much time to answer each one for points. For example, in the Reading section, you have 52 questions to answer within 65 minutes.

That breaks down to 75 seconds per question, and that’s if you were answering questions alone. The time required for actually reading the passages themselves cuts the average down further.

The Writing section is even tighter; the time per answer breakdown comes to 48 seconds per question. To overcome this natural stress, you have two major strategies to use:

  • Thoroughly Timed Practice Tests (to develop your pace)
  • Skip Questions and Return Later

Don’t spend too much time on any one particularly frustrating question. It’s better to move onto the remaining, easily answerable questions and then return before time runs out.

Difficult Math Concepts

The SAT isn’t afraid to throw advanced topics at you.

SAT test content focuses on what you’ve already learned in high school math classes. Because it’s designed to cover your entire high school career, it’s possible that some concepts have either been forgotten.

Another possibility is that others like trigonometry may be more advanced than you’re comfortable handling quickly. Again, because time is a factor, if complex Math questions come up on topic areas you haven’t practiced, you’ll panic.

The best thing is to go over those concepts, formulas, and other problem areas you know are troublesome. Drill into them and work on answering related questions correctly at speed.

High-Level Reading Passages

SAT reading passages aren’t for the timid.

All passages are excerpts from actual published texts, including one historical source at a minimum. They are theoretical exercises designed for the test.

As such, the writing in these passages is usually high-level, in terms of vocabulary and argument. A couple of ways to avoid stressing over them is:

  • Working on vocabulary lists
  • Reading articles, short stories, and speeches across different time periods

You’ll get agile at adjusting to different writing styles.

Naturally High-Stress Levels

It’s easy to work yourself up before taking the test.

The biggest reason students think the SAT is hard is that they force themselves into thinking so. It’s easy to understand why.

Colleges place a high value on SAT scores to evaluate thousands of applicants. The pressure of thinking you have to get it right immediately will psych you out.

Understand that you can take the test multiple times to submit additional scores and work on test practice strategies. Preparation will build confidence, which, in turn, builds relaxation.

The SAT will be only as hard as you allow it to be on your mind.

Factors That Make the SAT Easier

No Need For Memorization

You don’t have to memorize tons of information to succeed.

The SAT isn’t about spitting back facts you learned four years ago. It exists to assess your skills and critical thinking.

As a result, you don’t have to practice memorizing facts or concepts for hours on end. What you do need to do is practice concepts.

Work on your grammar rules and application. Work on correctly using Math formulas to answer related questions.

It’s not about showing off what tools you have; it’s about showing off how well you can use them when under pressure. Keep that in mind when working on SAT test prep.

No Guessing Penalty

Don’t worry about losing points for wrong answers.

The current SAT does not penalize you for answering incorrectly. If you get a question wrong, then you don’t receive any points. That’s it.

You don’t lose any of the points you’ve already accumulated. The major benefit here is that you can guess when it’s absolutely necessary. Better than leaving a question you can’t crack empty, take a chance and guess.

You have a chance of still picking up points that only help your final score. Even if you get one out of four of those hard questions right, that’s 25% more in points earned than nothing.


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