Houston College of Education Information and Career Counselling

About the SAT

The SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. It is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test administered by the College Board.

The purpose of the SAT is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. College admissions officers will review standardized test scores alongside your high school GPA, the classes you took in high school, letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors, extracurricular activities, admissions interviews, and personal essays. How important SAT scores are in the college application process varies from school to school.

Overall, the higher you score on the SAT and/or ACT, the more options for attending and paying for college will be available to you.

SAT Basics

SAT Length

3 hours (plus 50 minutes if taking optional Essay)

SAT Sections


Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

Essay (optional)

Highest SAT Score


Average SAT Score



5 years

SAT Sections

There are two main SAT Sections:

  • 1

  • 2

    Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

SAT Exam Format

  • Reading
  • Writing and Language
  • Maths
  • Essay (Optional)

Reading ( 65 minutes )

52 multiple–choice questions

Passages or pairs of passages (literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences)

Writing ( 35 minutes )

44 multiple–choice questions

Passages or pairs of passages (literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences)

Who can benefit:

  • Students planning to study at a higher education institution
  • English-language learning program admissions and exit
  • Scholarship and certification candidates
  • English-language learners who want to track their progress
  • Students and workers applying for visa

Task 1 : 58 multiple–choice questions (broken up into a 20-question No-Calculator section and a 38-question Calculator-allowed section)

Task 2 : 80 minutes (25 minutes for the No-Calculator section; 55 minutes for the Calculator-allowed section)

Algebra I and II, geometry, and some trigonometry

Essay ( 50 minutes )

Task 1 : one essay 
Task 2 : Read a passage and explain how author builds a persuasive argument.

The SAT also includes an optional Essay section. SAT Essay scores are reported separately from overall test scores. Some colleges may require that you complete the SAT Essay.

Registering for the SAT

SAT registration deadlines fall approximately five weeks before each test date. Register online on the College Board website. The College Board may require SAT registration by mail under special circumstances.