SAT Test Structure In A Nutshell

How is the SAT put together? To get your head around what you’ll need to prepare for, here’s the SAT test structure at a glance.

Besides knowing how it’s structured, it’s good to have some tips to pull from your back pocket that’ll help both on your first SAT attempt, and any retakes you pursue.


SAT Test Structure Basics

The SAT is broken down into two major areas: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math.

The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing focus breaks down into two specific sections:

  • Reading
  • Writing & Language

Each one has its own timing constraints, number of questions, etc.

The second major area to consider is Math. Just like the first area, Math is broken down into two specific subsections:

  • No Calculator
  • Calculator Allowed

Unlike the ACT, where you can use a calculator the entire time, the SAT has a specific set of calculator-prohibited questions. The good news is the questions and calculations are designed to be done by hand without serious problems. However, for those 20 questions, you can’t touch a calculator.

The final section to consider is the optional Essay. Again, this is entirely optional. However, at Prep Expert, we normally advise to do it because it:

  • Looks impressive to college admissions officers,
  • Provides real-world practice for college-level writing

For easier viewing, look below for a simple section breakdown:

Section Content
  • 52 multiple-choice questions to answer
  • 65 minutes to complete
  • Passages or pairs of passages (literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences)
Writing & Language
  • 44 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes to complete
  • Grammar, vocabulary in context, and editing skills
Math (No Calculator)
  • 15 multiple-choice questions
  • 5 grid-in questions, 25 minutes to complete
  • Algebra I & II, Geometry
Math (Calculator Allowed)
  • 38 multiple-choice questions
  • 55 minutes to complete
  • Trigonometry, problem-solving questions, data analysis
  • 1 essay to write
  • 50 minutes to complete it
  • Read a given passage and explain how the author builds his/her argument with examples


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