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SAT Overview


The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test of students’ knowledge of reading, writing, and math. It is taken by millions of students every year and is accepted by most colleges and universities as part of admission and course placement decisions.

The SAT is designed to assess students’ readiness for college, and the combination of high school grades and SAT scores is a strong predictor of academic success. The SAT also provides students the opportunity to connect to scholarship opportunities and place out of certain college courses. With this academic head start, families can save time and money.

Changes to the SAT in March 2016

Beginning March 2016, students will take a new version of the SAT college admission test. The College Board redesigned the SAT to more accurately predict student readiness for college-level work, to reflect the knowledge and skills that are essential for college success, and to align with the rigorous instruction taught in the best high school courses.

More information about the new SAT is available on The College Board website.

The new SAT reflects a number of changes, which are based on evidence regarding essential prerequisites for student success in post-secondary education.

  • Students will be expected to support the answers that they choose based on evidence found in a variety of sources.
  • The essay will require students to analyze a variety of sources, a skill that is expected in many college writing assignments.
  • The math section will better align with current research and college preparatory standards.
  • Language throughout the test will be modernized and students will be expected to master relevant vocabulary based on context.
  • Students will engage in questions that are better grounded in real-world contexts.
  • Students will apply their reading, writing, language and math skills to answer questions in science, history and social studies contexts across all components of the exam.
  • Every test taker will encounter an excerpt from one of the founding documents (e.g., Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Federalist Papers) pertaining to ongoing matters of global importance like freedom, justice and human dignity.
  • In the scoring formula, there will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers.

While the SAT is changing, these things remain true:

  • Almost all U.S. colleges accept it.
  • Juniors typically take it in the spring and seniors in the fall.
  • SAT scores and high school GPA are used together to predict potential college success.

The College Board is also expanding their PSAT options to include PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9, and ensuring that the PSAT continues to align with the new SAT. They will continue to offer fee waivers to those who qualify and leverage the Khan Academy to offer adaptive and personalized study resources. Khan Academy is a free online learning service that enables self-directed and self-paced learning through practice exercises and instructional videos.

The first chance to take the new SAT is March 5. Current seniors will most likely take the SAT before March 2016; so will be taking the “old” SAT exam.

HCPSS staff is collaborating with the College Board and the Maryland State Department of Education to develop a comprehensive set of resources designed to effectively prepare students, teachers and parents for a successful transition.


The SAT is offered several times a year. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school.

The SAT is made up of 10 sections:

  • A 25-minute essay
  • Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading, and writing)
  • Two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading, and writing)
  • A 10-minute multiple-choice writing section

Total test time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

As of March 2016, the SAT will include the following components:

  • Four parts: reading, writing and language, math, and the optional SAT essay
  • 400–1600 score scale
  • 3 hours and 50 minutes with the SAT essay, or 3 hours without it
  • Four answer choices
  • Four college application fee waivers for every student who uses an SAT fee waiver

On test day, students must have their admission ticket, two No. 2 pencils and a soft eraser, acceptable photo ID and an acceptable calculator (graphing calculator, scientific calculator, four-function calculators).

Data Results

For the third consecutive year, the average SAT score for the county exceeded 1650, which is the HCPSS college readiness benchmark. Among graduating HCPSS seniors, 82.3 percent took the SAT.

The mean SAT composite score for the HCPSS Class of 2015 was 1656. Among SAT subtests, the HCPSS average score was 548 for Reading, 565 for Mathematics, and 543 for Writing. These scores significantly outpace the Maryland averages of 491 in Reading, 493 in Mathematics, and 478 in Writing, as well as the national averages of 495, 511, and 484 respectively.

SAT scores can serve as a good indicator of college readiness. Over 63 percent of 2015 HCPSS graduates earned composite scores above 1550, the College Board’s college and career readiness benchmark.

The HCPSS class of 2015 SAT test data can be found here.

An overview of nationwide SAT results for the class of 2015, including participation rates and college and career readiness benchmarking, is available in the 2the 2015 College Board Program Results.