Understanding the Format

The format of the SAT test contains three primary sections–critical reading, mathematics, and writing. These three primary sections are further split into a total of ten subsections, including three multiple-choice critical reading sections, two multiple-choice mathematics sections, a multiple-choice and “grid-in” mathematics section, three multiple-choice writing sections, and one essay section.

The essay section of the exam is always administered as the first part of the exam. However, the other nine sections of the exam can appear in any order, and the order in which they appear varies depending on the specific form of the exam that the individual has received. In addition, one of the multiple-choice and/or grid-in sections of the exam is an experimental section that will not be scored.

SAT - Understanding the FormatEach individual has 10-25 minutes to complete each subsection of the exam. The individual is given different amounts of time for each section. The exam can appear in a variety of different forms and there will be several different forms at each testing center. However, the test sessions are organized so that everyone will complete a 25-minute section, a 20-minute section, or a 10-minute section at the same time, making it easy to enforce time limits for each. On average, an individual will spend approximately five hours in the testing center. Each exam-taker will have a total of three hours and 45 minutes to complete the exam. There is additional time for breaks, registration check-in, and other similar activities.

The questions included in each multiple-choice section, with the exception of the reading-comprehension questions, are structured according to level of difficulty. The easiest questions appear first and the questions become more difficult as the exam-taker progresses through the section. The reading-comprehension questions included on the exam are not organized based on the difficulty of each question, but are instead organized in chronological order based on which section of the paragraph the question is related to. For example, a question related to the second sentence of a specific paragraph will appear before a question related to the fifth sentence of that particular paragraph.

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