Any student who knows that he or she is going to be applying to college is likely very well aware that he or she will eventually have to face the SAT. The SAT is often called the SAT I by the College Board who uses these tests to assess student knowledge. The I is used to differentiate between the SAT General Knowledge test and the SAT II which is a specific subject test.

What Is the SAT I?

The SAT or SAT I as it is known within the standardized testing and academic world is a general knowledge test that assesses students' mastery of the math and verbal skills and abilities that they have learned throughout their tenure in high school. It has two mandatory sections: a Quantitative Reasoning section and a Verbal section. It also contains an optional essay writing section.

The SAT is most often taken by students who are finishing their junior year, although many seniors take the test during their first semester. The tests are almost always completed before the late fall because students need to be able to apply to schools by the deadline, and the scores are a critical piece of information that needs to be submitted. Not all colleges require the SAT I, but most of them do, and if you aren't positive what schools you are going to be applying to, taking the test is an excellent idea.

The math section of the SAT I covers algebra, problem-solving and data analysis, some geometry and advanced mathematics and some pre-calculus work. The verbal section is focused on vocabulary words, reading comprehension, identifying themes and ideas and other matters pertaining to grammar and syntax.

Why Take the SAT I?

The College Board has developed the SAT I to be a comprehensive examination of all of the material and all of the information that a student should have mastered by the time they graduate from high school. While far from the only criteria that colleges look at when they make their admissions decisions, the SAT I serves a critical role in helping evaluators see your high school experience and your aptitude in certain subject areas.

There are tiers to the SAT scoring, with 1,600 as the highest possible score, indicating perfect scoring on both the math and verbal sections. While certain colleges are more flexible about the SAT scores that their admitted students have, other colleges are exceptionally rigid. Among them are the Ivy League schools, many of the liberal arts colleges in the northeast and schools like Northwestern, Stanford, Berkeley and Georgetown, to name a few. Schools with this level of competition rarely even entertain applications from students that have a score below 1,520.

Colleges, especially highly competitive and prestigious ones, have very rigorous admissions processes. Generally, these admissions processes mean that dozens of students with a similar GPA, similar extracurricular activities, equally strong recommendation letters and great essays are competing against one another for the same spots in the new class. It is at times like these that schools examine the standardized test scores to see how students compare.

How to Prep for the SAT I

There are many ways to prep for the SAT I. The College Board has its own preparatory guide, and the internet is rife with links for course material and even online prep courses that students can sign up for to make sure that they get the best score possible. There are also courses students can take in person.

Beyond an online class, students may choose to buy a prep book or other prep materials to take with them to school and look at during their free time. The SAT I also has practice tests that students can and should take to assess where they are and to help them pinpoint the practice they might need.

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