In the U.S., the SAT is offered seven times throughout the year, in January, March (or April), May, June, October, November, and December. Internationally, the SAT is typically offered six times, including all the aforementioned dates with the exception of March. The redesigned SAT, commonly referred to as the new SAT, will be first administered in March of 2016. Students testing internationally will first encounter the new SAT in May of 2016.
Note: this article is a series in the PrepScholar 2016 Students' Encyclopedia, a free students' and parents' SAT / ACT guide that provides encyclopedic knowledge. Read all the articles here!
Most SAT administrations begin at 8:30 AM on Saturdays. Students whose religious beliefs prevent them from testing on Saturday may request an alternative date at the time of registration, though their requests are subject to denial. Students with documented disabilities may request accommodations, the most common of which is extra time.
Typically the full test is strictly timed at 3 hours and 45 minutes, while the actual testing time is approximately 4.5 hours to include the proctor's instructions and three 5 minute breaks. Students may not revisit any sections once time has been called, nor may they discuss test material during break time.
Proctors are expected to report any suspicious behavior, such as flipping through sections in the test booklet or using prohibited materials, and they have the authority to dismiss students from the testing room. College Board also has the right to withhold, audit, or cancel individual test scores, often as a result of a warning from a proctor or unexplained score fluctuations among sections.
Students may speak to their test proctors or contact College Board directly with concerns about their testing centers, including issues with timing, noise, instructions, or possible cheating. The June 6, 2015 administration of the SAT, for instance, had timing issues due to a misprint in the test booklets. To resolve this issue, College Board decided to leave the affected sections unscored, saying they were still "able to provide students with valid and reliable scores."
Apart from strict regulations in timing, the SAT also has clearly stated rules about acceptable materials within the testing room. Students may only use Number 2 pencils to write on the answer sheet and essay section. Most graphing calculators and all scientific and four-function calculators are allowed during the math sections. Snacks and drinks may be consumed during breaks outside of the testing room. All other materials, especially technology with communication capabilities, like cell phones and recording devices, are strictly prohibited.
The SAT costs $54.50, with an additional regional fee of $30 to $40 for students testing outside of the U.S. Fee waivers are available for eligible students and include registration for up to two SATs, two SAT Subject Test dates (on which students can take as many as three Subject Tests, with some exceptions), and an additional four score reports to colleges. The typical requirement for fee waiver eligibility is a student's inclusion on his/her school's federal Free or Reduced Lunch program.
Students register for the SAT through their College Board account. It is also possible, and required for students under the age of 13, to register by mail. When creating a College Board account, students will be prompted to input autobiographical information, their high school code (U.S.-based homeschoolers use code 970000), and a clear, recent photograph to be used for identification purposes on test day.
During registration, students can choose their test date and testing center, usually their local high school. If their preferred testing center is full, students can select another nearby center or choose to be placed on a standby list. The deadline to register is typically about one month before the test date. Additional fees apply for late registration, changes to test date or location, and standby testing.
During registration or for up to 9 days after, students may choose as many as four colleges to be score report recipients free of charge. Any additional score reports cost $11.25 each. Scores are usually available about three weeks after testing. Official SAT score reports must be sent to colleges, even if students also self-report their scores on the Common Application or college-specific application forms.
As of 2009, College Board offers SAT Score Choice, giving students choice over which SAT score reports are sent to colleges. Students who wish to view their SAT scores before sending them to colleges may choose to forego the four free score reports at the time of registration.
Some colleges prohibit the use of Score Choice, requiring students to send all available SAT scores from all dates they took the test. Schools that expect students to send the results from their entire testing history include Duke University, Rice University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and all schools in the University of California system. The majority of colleges allow the use of Score Choice and may consider a student's highest section scores across all dates or highest sitting on one test date.
More than half of all test-takers choose to take the SAT more than once. Studies have shown that students are statistically likely to improve their scores upon retesting. Preparation has also been shown to significantly improve SAT scores. Most students take the SAT in their junior and senior year of high school. Others take the test earlier to ensure a greater number of available test dates for retesting. Important considerations in choosing test dates include college application deadlines, colleges' policies towards SAT scores and Score Choice, preparation time, and skill readiness.
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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.