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The SAT: Format, Structure and Question Types

The SAT is a college entrance exam that many colleges and universities in the United States use as part of the college admissions process. Looking for basic information about the SAT test format? We've got it!

SAT Basics

The SAT is a standardized test that measures a student's skills in three core areas: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. Students in grades 11 and 12 take the SAT so that they can submit their scores to colleges as part of the college application process.

SAT Format

The SAT is composed of three main sections — Math, Evidence-Based Reading, and Writing. There is an optional 50-minute essay*, and total testing time with the essay is 3 hours and 50 minutes. The breakdown of each remaining section can be found in the table below.

Section Sub-Section Total Testing Time & Breakdown Number of Questions & Types Content/Skills Covered
Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Reading 65 Minutes 52 reading and vocabulary in context
Writing 35 Minutes 44 grammar and usage
Math 80 minutes; 1 55-minute calculator-optional section and 1 25-minute no-calculator section 58 heart of algebra, problem solving & data analysis, passport to advanced math, additional topics (geometry, trigonometry and pre-calculus)

*In January 2021, the College Board announced that they will be discountinuing the optional SAT essay section after the June 2021 administration. 

Related Topics

  • For more specific information about the SAT Critical Reading sections, visit our SAT Critical Reading page.
  • For more specific information about the SAT Math sections, visit our SAT Math page.
  • For more specific information about the SAT Writing sections, visit our SAT Writing page.
  • For information about how the SAT is scored, visit our SAT Scoring page.
  • For information about upcoming SAT test dates, visit our SAT Test Dates page.

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