If you’re about to enter your final years of high school, you’re probably anticipating all of the fun things you get to do but also the very important things that help define your future, like the SAT. Though taking the SAT as you near the completion of high school can be nerve racking, it doesn’t have to be. With enough preparation and belief in your abilities, the SAT is just one more important milestone you will conquer on your way to receiving your high school diploma.

What Is the SAT?

The SAT is a standardized examination that tests the knowledge that students have incurred throughout their elementary, middle and high school career. The SAT blends learning from reading, writing and math.

The SAT is also an important indicator for colleges and universities, and its purpose is to help determine if students are the best fit for the college based on their score. While a final admissions decision isn’t entirely based on how a student performs on the SAT, it is an important decision-making factor, especially at highly competitive colleges and universities.

Who Takes the SAT?

The SAT is taken by high school students in their junior year of high school. The test is offered many times during the school year, and students must decide when they feel most comfortable taking the test. Once a decision is made, they simply need to register to take the SAT.

How to Prepare for the SAT

While the SAT will be composed of topics with which most high school students should already be familiar by the time they reach their junior year, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare as best as you can for the exam. There are many ways for you to prepare, and resources vary. What’s most important to remember is that the techniques that work for some don’t always work for all. Seek out the resources that fit both your study needs and your financial needs.

Because the road to college is such an expensive journey, the most affordable study resources can be found online for free through Khan Academy, the Princeton Review and the College Board. By visiting these websites, you can expect to find everything you need to prepare. These sites will share practice tests and sample questions so students can have an accurate idea of what the test will feel like and look like.

If the free online resources aren’t for you, you may choose to purchase assistance either in person or online. Students can choose face-to-face prep courses with instructors who are trained to help students study for the SAT. Similar services can also be found online for a fee and can be accessed anytime that is best for the student. Students may also consider working with a tutor either online or in person to help them prepare for the SAT.

How to Register for the SAT

In order to register for the SAT, you must have access to a computer, the internet and a credit card for payment. Registration can only take place by visiting the College Board website. Once at the site, you must create an account. This account will hold personal student information as well as allow you to access information regarding your scores. You can ask your parent or guardian for support as you register if you have questions. A school guidance counselor could offer assistance as well.

You can register through the mail if necessary under certain circumstances that could include the inability to upload your photo for identification purposes, if you need a testing day of Sunday, if you want to test closer to your home or if you can only pay your registration fee by check or money order.

Before registering for the SAT, decide when and where would be the best time to take the test. The SAT is administered multiple times a year at different testing locations. Once you’ve decided, be prepared to pay the registration fee of $47.50 or $64.50 if you add the essay portion to your SAT test. Any changes to your registration after you have registered can accrue fees that begin at $29.

Do I Have to Pay to Take the SAT?

Yes, you do have to pay to take the SAT. However, if you meet specific qualifications, you could be eligible to receive a fee waiver. Simply visit your guidance counselor at your high school to see if you qualify.

In order to qualify for the SAT fee waiver, you only need to meet one requirement. Requirements include being an orphan, participating in the free lunch program at school, currently receiving aid from the government or if your family is currently receiving federal assistance.

Should you qualify for a fee waiver, you will be provided with a code to enter when registering online for the SAT. The SAT fee waiver allows each student two opportunities to take the SAT with or without the essay portion and six SAT Subject Tests. There is also no limit to the amount of colleges and universities to which your SAT scores can be sent during the admissions process.

Do I Have to Pay for Anything Else?

If you’ve already registered and paid for the SAT with your own funds or with a fee waiver, then you’re all set. However, if you need to make adjustments such as needing to reschedule the date or location of where you will take the SAT, then you will have additional charges.

Fees you may encounter start as low as $12 but can quickly grow to more than $50. So, make sure that when you’re planning to take the SAT, you register as soon as you’re sure and pick the best date that you know will not be an issue.

While a fee waiver will allow you to take the SAT twice and six SAT Subject Tests, that is not the case for regular fee-paying students. Fee waivers also allow unlimited reporting to the colleges and universities of your choice. With a regular payment, if you require more than four score reports (the amount available with your registration), you will need to pay more.

What to Bring to the SAT

On the day of the test, you’ll need to bring your admissions ticket, which you will need to print from your College Board account. You’ll also need to bring photo identification, sharpened pencils and an approved calculator for the math portion of the SAT. Other than that, you may bring items such as snacks and drinks, which will be stowed away until the allotted break time. Otherwise, it’s best to leave everything else at home.

If you’re caught with a cell phone or any other electronics during the entire process of the day, you will be removed from the testing site, and your scores will be canceled. Your electronics may also be confiscated for review. The College Board, the company that administers the test, wants to keep the SAT fair for everyone, as the purpose of the SAT is to show your best abilities.

What to Expect From the SAT

First off, it’s important to remember that the purpose of the SAT is simply another way to judge what you’ve learned throughout your educational journey. So, as you’re taking the test, remember that. This will help you to better understand that you may not know or recognize all of the material on the exam, and that’s OK. Simply do your best.

Because every SAT is given at the same time of 8:00 a.m., you need to report to your SAT testing site by 7:45 a.m. Once the doors are closed and the SAT begins, you will not be permitted inside. Testing will then officially begin at 8:30 a.m., and breaks will be given at specific times.

Unlike tests taken in school, the SAT differs because each subject is tested during specific times for an allotted amount of time. You may not skip around and test on the sections when you prefer or how you would like. You must take the exam in the sequence given by the test administrator, and once the time is up, you must stop taking the test.

How Much Time Will I Spend?

All in all, expect to spend five hours taking the SAT test. Students are normally dismissed at 1:00 p.m. Of course, if you’re taking the SAT with the essay, add an additional 50 minutes to your day

What to Expect When Taking the SAT With an SAT Subject Test

Taking the SAT with the SAT Subject Test is very similar to taking the SAT, just with an additional section on which you will be tested. Students who take SAT Subject Tests do so to show colleges and admissions teams how highly they excel in a particular subject. This can help a student to stand out in a highly competitive field or program.

The same test-taking rules will still apply, however. Depending on which SAT Subject Test you are taking, you may need to bring headphones for the listening portion of the SAT Subject Test. Plan to add an additional hour to your day if you are taking an SAT Subject Test.

Scoring on the SAT

Final SAT scores are based on the total amount of questions answered. When answering questions, if you’re unsure of the correct answer, it is always best to guess. You are not penalized for guessing. A guess could be a correct answer and could only improve your score. Do your best to answer every question.

Also, when answering questions, make sure you’re filling in the answer bubble completely so that the electronic scanning of your test is recorded correctly. If you erase an answered bubble, erase it as best as you can to make sure it is not mistaken for another answer.

Your SAT scores are based on means, averages and benchmarks. This is a good way to score because it highlights your weaknesses and strengths with the material. It will help you as a student to understand where you measure against your peers and possibly some areas on which you should work.

When You’re Not Happy

It does happen – maybe you don’t feel as though you were prepared to take the SAT, or shortly after completing the exam, you don’t believe your scores will showcase your best work. If that’s the case, you do have options. You may fill out a form at the testing center during the exam that will allow you to cancel your scores. You also have this option once you leave the site as well. You simply have to submit the form by the first Thursday after you’ve taken the test.

Once your scores have been canceled, they cannot be retrieved and shared with you or the colleges and universities you identified to receive your scores.

The good news is that the SAT is simply only one way – and not the only way – to measure how you are as a student. You may take the SAT as many times as you like to work toward the score that makes you most confident.

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