SAT Exam Syllabus and How to Prepare for it

SAT syllabus and pattern

The Scholastic Assessment Test or SAT is a standardized test used by most US universities for their admissions process. The SAT evaluates an applicant based on their skills in mathematics, evidence-based reading, and writing. One must have a clear understanding of the SAT exam pattern and the SAT exam syllabus before preparing for the test.

Around 2.9 million students take the SAT every year with hopes of gaining admission into universities in the US. Aspiring students need to gather all they can from the official SAT websites and gather details like the SAT test syllabus, SAT question paper formats, and SAT test subjects. You will have an edge if you start early, observe your strengths work on your weak areas and set a timeline for yourself. Taking the full-length practice tests online will help you analyze your performance and assess the effort required to attain your target score.

Read More: Guide to SAT Exam Pattern

Understanding the SAT exam pattern

The structure of the SAT Exam breaks into two broad categories of evidence-based reading & writing and mathematics. Besides, there is also an optional essay writing section which is required by some universities in their application process. Should you choose to appear for the optional section, the test allows you four hours and five minutes to finish, including breaks. 

You will have a better understanding of the SAT exam pattern from the following table:


Questions  Duration 

Score range

SAT Reading 

52 multiple-choice questions 65 minutes Evidence Based Reading and Writing Score:



10 minutes

SAT Writing and Language

44 multiple-choice questions

35 minutes

No Calculator Math

15 multiple-choice and 5 Grid in questions

25 minutes

Math Score:



5 minutes

Math with Calculator 

30 multiple-choice and 8 Grid in questions 55 minutes


2 minutes

SAT Essay (Optional)

1 prompt

50 minutes

Reading 2-8

Analyzing 2-8

Writing 2-8

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Type of SAT exams

It is of two types, the SAT General Exam, and the SAT Subject Exam. The first one is standard for those seeking admission at an American university. However, some universities require students to take the SAT Subject Test.

1. The SAT General Test measures the general readiness of a student to apply to a college and their ability to solve basic problems in language and mathematics.

2. The SAT Subject Test aims to assess students based on their skills in specific subjects that they choose as their specialization. This test judges the takers’ proficiency in individual subjects in the streams of science, mathematics, and languages.

A comprehensive explanation of each of the SAT Test Syllabus  

1. Evidence-based Reading and Writing

This is where your proficiency in English is tested, and you are scored between 200 and 800. You must have command over the standard usage of the language and be able to express complex ideas. You will be required to read and interpret the concepts provided to you, establish the intentions of the author, and offer meaningful insights. 

a) The Reading part of this section is 65 minutes long and has 52 multiple-choice questions based on five passages. The passages may be individual or paired with infographics such as tables or charts. They are drawn from literature, social studies, history, or science. Focus on developing a clear understanding of the passages. The questions will be of three types: factual, rhetoric, or synthetic. The factual questions will have a direct or indirect reference from the main concept of the passage, rhetoric questions will require you to debate the tone and meaning, and the synthetic questions will need you to establish relationships between the ideas in the passage or draw conclusions from the additional graphics and information.

b) The Writing part is for 35 minutes. It has 44 multiple-choice questions which have to be answered based on four passages. This section will test your ability to analyze the body of the passage and rectify errors. This means that you need to have superior knowledge of grammar, spelling, and general construction of sentences. You will also have to identify misinterpreted graphical data, back it up with supporting details, and add relevant matter to sharpen the argument. The passages you will find in this section will be of four kinds: narrative, argumentative, informative, and explanatory.

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2. SAT Mathematics section

This 80-minute-long section, comprising 58 questions to evaluate your mathematical reasoning. The score range is between 200 to 800 and has 80% of the questions in a multiple-choice format. The remainder is in grid-in questions where you will have to answer by circling appropriate numbers after solving the problems. The SAT Math section can be further broken into a ‘no calculator’ and a ‘calculator’ segment, where there are 15 multiple-choices plus 5 grid-ins and 30 multiple-choices plus 8 grid-ins respectively. You will also have access to formulas before you begin to answer this section for reference. 

This section of the SAT is divided into four primary categories:

a) Heart of Algebra asking you to create and solve algebraic equations.

b) Problem Solving and Data Analysis requiring you to answer questions with ratios, proportional reasoning, and data interpretation.

c) Passport to Advanced Math challenging you to solve complicated equations and functions of mathematics.

d) Additional Topics including questions about geometry, trigonometry, and area & volume.

3. Essay (optional) 

The New SAT has a 50-minute-long optional essay writing section. Although optional, it makes your SAT appear more complete and helps universities judge you better. You will be presented with a body of text and asked to analyze the intention of the author in terms of the techniques used by them. You will be expected to support your comprehension with relevant evidence and examples.

Difference between SAT Mathematics Level 1 and Level 2

Mathematics level 1 is structured for students who had two years of algebra along with a year of geometry, whereas mathematics Level 2 targets students who have covered precalculus and trigonometry in their senior secondary education.

The exposure and the quality of teaching in the US are considered among the best in the world. The SAT is your first step in that direction and a good score will increase your chances of admission at an American university. You should invest a good amount of time to prepare. Use the internet to your advantage and learn about all the tricks and tips. You will find a great deal about these tests from the experiences of the students who have appeared for them in the past. You need to have a good grasp of the SAT exam subjects and the SAT question paper pattern before you commit your time and resources to take the test. You will find a wide range of information about your quest to study abroad on upGrad.

Read More: Study Abroad from India with great affordability and efficiency


Q1. What is the eligibility for the SAT exam?

Overall, there are no specific criteria for taking the SAT. While there are no age restrictions for taking the test, it is advised for students in their 11th and 12th standards. A valid passport is mandatory for the exam.

Q2. What is a good SAT score?

Depending on the competitive pool of applicants in a particular year, universities have their specific acceptance scores. Hence, you should strive for at least a 75 percentile or a score of 1200 which puts you ahead of most applicants.

Q3. How to prepare for SAT at home?

Starting early, establishing a study plan, taking full-length practice tests, and following the official SAT websites can help you prepare for the test at home.

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