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SAT Exam Pattern - Sections, Duration, and Score

Updated on 17 April, 2024

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

sat exam pattern

Understanding the SAT exam pattern is of paramount importance for all those who want to study undergraduate courses from universities or colleges abroad. SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized examination conducted by the College Board. Before being renamed in 1990, the SAT exam was earlier called the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The SAT exam structure is designed to assess aspirants' verbal, written, and mathematical abilities to check their readiness for entering college. Aspirants wishing to pursue undergraduate studies in the US and Canada have to clear the SAT examination. Subject tests are available in disciplines like Literature, Foreign Languages, Mathematics, History, and Sciences.

The SAT exam format depends on the type of examination for which a candidate is appearing. SAT Reasoning Test is for those applying for admission to undergraduate institutions. This general examination tests students' mathematical, verbal, and written capabilities. SAT Subject Test is a subject-based examination opted for by those who wish to study a subject in detail. It tests students seeking admission into a particular course/field of study. In the usual scenario, students appear for the SAT exam after high school to get into universities in the US. The examination spans 3 hours without the essay. If you select the essay, then the exam duration will be 3 hours and 50 minutes. Scoring is a vital component of the SAT exam structure. Every section of the examination is evaluated on a scale of 200-800. The total score is the sum of all section scores. A separate score is provided if an aspirant takes the SAT exam with the essay. 

You can also read: SAT-accepting colleges in Australia | SAT Reading TipsSAT Writing |

SAT Exam Pattern - Duration, Sections, Score, & More

Here is a closer look at the SAT exam format for a better understanding.

Structure of the SAT examination

Section of ExaminationQuestion Count & DetailsDuration or Time LimitScore Scale or Range
SAT Reading52 multiple-choice questions65 minutes

Evidence-based Reading & Writing score

200 to 800

Break 10 minutes
SAT Writing & Language44 multiple-choice questions35 minutes
No Calculator – Math20 (15 multiple-choice and 5 Grid in questions)25 minutes

Math score

200 to 800

Break 5 minutes
Yes Calculator – Math38 (30 multiple-choice and 8 Grid in questions)55 minutes
Break 2 minutes 
SAT Essay (Optional)1 prompt50 minutes

Reading 2 to 8

Analysis 2 to 8

Writing 2 to 8

Total155 questions (with the essay), 154 questions (without the essay)230 minutes (with the essay), 180 minutes (without the essay)1600 (without the essay)

Recommended Reads:

SAT EligibilitySAT Scholarship for Indian StudentsSAT Exam Centres
SAT Exam Dates 2022SAT SyllabusSAT Scores & SAT Results

SAT Registration


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Evidence-Based SAT Reading and Writing Section Pattern

SAT Reading Test Pattern & Format

  • SAT Reading is the first and longest section of the SAT comprising 52 questions that need to be completed in 65 minutes.
  • 5 passages are given which is accompanied by a series of MCQs.
  • Some passages may include a graph or a chart based on the passage content.
  • The passages are diverse and based on world literature, history/social studies, and Science.
  • The reading test evaluates a student’s capacity to comprehend  words in context and find and analyze evidence

SAT Writing and Language Test Pattern & Format

  • SAT Writing and Language Test is the second in sequence and comprises 44 questions to be completed in 35 minutes.
  • There are four passages and each passage is accompanied by 11 MCQs.
  • Graphs and charts form the part of the writing section with some passages having pictorial representation.
  • The questions asked are based on grammar usage, rhetoric, and style of the English language. 

SAT Mathematics Section Pattern & Format

  • This section has 58 questions to be answered in 80 minutes and is divided into two segments – Math No-Calculator and Math Yes-Calculator.
  • The math section score is calculated from the above-mentioned two tests, and the score ranges from 200 to 800.
  • Most of the questions in this section are MCQs, and there is a Grid provided in some of the questions where students need to enter their answers.
  • The areas that are tested are Algebra, Advanced Math, Problem Solving, Data Analysis, and other miscellaneous topics.
  • Miscellaneous topics include Complex Numbers, Trigonometry, and Geometry.


  • Math No-Calculator Section:
    • The student cannot use a calculator in this 25-minute duration section comprising 20 questions.
    • There are 15  MCQs and 5 Grid-based questions.
    • This section contains questions from all the four main areas excluding problem-solving and data analysis.
  • Math with Calculator Section:
    • The student is allowed to use a calculator to answer the 38 questions in the span of  55 minutes.
    • Out of the 38 questions, 30 questions are MCQ-based and the remaining 8 are Grid-based questions.
    • The student needs to bring their own calculator. Scientific calculators and graphing calculators are allowed but mobile is not allowed as a calculator.

SAT Essay Section

  • SAT essay section is optional and students need to write the essay in the duration of  50 minutes. 
  • The task requires the student to read and comprehend a speech and assess the language, reasoning, and rhetoric used by the author in the context.
  • The given text needs to be evaluated analytically as part of the response.
  • The score is calculated in three areas which are Reading, Writing, and Analysis, each ranging from 2 to 8.

FAQs : SAT Exam Pattern

Apart from the US and Canada, which all countries accept SAT scores?

Other countries that accept SAT scores are Australia and the United Kingdom.

What is the fee for the SAT exam in India?

It is $104 (INR 7,727) without the essay and $117 (INR 8,699) with the essay for Indian students.

How many times can a student take the SAT exam?

SAT is conducted five times a year in India, and the students can take the test as many times as they want.

Should we take the SAT or ACT exam to secure admission into an American university?

SAT and ACT (American College Testing) are standardized exams for students who wish to pursue undergraduate studies in the US. To understand which test one should take, it is advised to check the college website for the eligibility criteria and take the test mandated by the college.

What is the pattern of SAT exams?

SAT exam pattern is enlisted in the table given below:

SAT Reading52 MCQs65 minutes
SAT Writing & Language44 MCQs35 minutes
No-Calculator – Math20 (15 MCQs and 5 Grid in questions)25 minutes
Yes Calculator – Math38 (30 MCQs and 8 Grid in questions)55 minutes
SAT Essay (Optional)1 prompt50 minutes


What are the full marks for SAT Exam?

The SAT exam is assessed out of 1600.

Is there a negative mark on SAT Exam?

There is no negative marking in SAT exam.

How many MCQs are there in SAT Exam?

There are 154 MCQs in SAT exam.

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Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

Mrinal Mandal is a study abroad expert with a passion for guiding students towards their international education goals. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, earned in 2018. Since 2021, Mrinal has been working with upGrad Abroad, where he assists aspiring students in realizing their dreams of studying abroad. With his expertise and dedication, he empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of international education, making their aspirations a reality.

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