How SATs Work

What Kinds of Questions Can I Expect on the SAT?

According to the College Board, there are three types of verbal questions used on the SAT I:

  • Analogies (19 questions) -- These questions measure your knowledge of the meanings of words and your ability to see a relationship between a pair of words and to recognize a similar or parallel relationship.
  • Sentence completions (19 questions) -- These measure your knowledge of the meanings of words and your ability to understand how the parts of a sentence logically fit together.
  • Critical reading (40 questions) -- These measure your ability to read and think carefully about a single passage or pair of related passages.

There are also three types of math questions on the SAT I:


  • Five-choice multiple-choice (35 questions)
  • Four-choice multiple-choice (15 questions that focus on the concepts of equalities, inequalities and estimation)
  • Student-produced response (10 questions that have no answer choices provided)

You can find examples of these kinds of questions in the College Board's SAT Question of the Day section, in practice test books you can buy (or find in your school's counseling office) and at the offices of testing services like Kaplan and Princeton Review. These won't be the actual questions you'll find on your SAT, but they will be good practice and get you in the rhythm of answering multiple choice questions while being timed. (As of fall 1999, the College Board's SAT Learning Center makes past SAT test questions available online.)

Who Comes Up with These Questions and Why Do Some of Them Seem Like Trick Questions?

The Educational Testing Service produces the questions on the SAT. But they go through several channels before the questions make it onto your test. Once the questions are developed, a test committee, made up of high school teachers and college faculty and administrators, reviews them and makes recommendations for improving them. Some test questions are even submitted randomly by high school and college teachers.

About those "trick" questions: The College Board says the SAT isn't out to trick you. However, they admit that there are some difficult questions that require concentration and good thinking. Here's a tip: Many have incorrect answers that look good at first or that will seem correct if you aren't paying attention.

Why Is the SAT I Limited to Three Hours?

Studies have been done to learn whether most students have enough time to try to answer all the questions in each section of the test. These have shown that time limits are appropriate if all students taking the test answer 75 percent of the questions in each section and if 80 percent reach the last question in the study. Under these criteria, three hours is enough time for most students to complete the SAT I. However, students testing under the SAT Program for Students with Disabilities may request extended time for taking the test.

How Much Does It Cost to Take the SAT?

The $23.50 fee for the SAT I includes a basic registration/reporting fee of $13. This $13 will cover sending score reports to up to four colleges and scholarship programs. These fees are non-refundable.

Additional services and fees include the following:

  • Pre-registration by phone, $10
  • Surcharge on test fees in the State of New York, $1
  • International processing fee (for students outside the United States, U.S. territories and Puerto Rico), $15
  • Fax registration fee (for students testing in non-U.S. countries), $5
  • Security surcharge to test in India, $15
  • Late registration fee, $15

Score reporting service fees include:

  • Each additional score report to a college or program (beyond the four requested on your registration or correction form), $6.50
  • Rush (telephone) reporting of scores, $20 (plus $6.50 for each report to a school or scholarship program)
  • Additional (telephone) reports, $10 (plus $6.50 for each report)
  • Scores by phone, $10

Fees for SAT II tests vary, so the $13 basic fee (including reports to four specified schools or programs) is added to the total for all subjects taken. The writing test costs an additional $11 and language tests with listening, another $8. All other subject tests are $6. The registration and reporting service fees we mentioned earlier are also applicable here. (Check this Test and Service Fees listing for details.)