SAT Study Guide


SAT Study Guide

Pages:10 (3247 words)


Topic:Study Guide

Document Type:Study Guide



Before applying to any college, it is important to understand what the SAT is. It is also important to understand how it will impact one’s application and determine if the application is accepted or not. SAT is an abbreviation that stands for Scholastic Assessment Test. It is one of the two university admission tests that are accepted in the United States. The other one is the ACT (American College Testing) test.

The SAT is administered by an organization known as the College Board. The College Board is a not-for-profit organization that also administers the AP (Advanced Placement) program and other programs. Usually, about two million students appear for the SAT admission test every year. Before the test, examinees are usually supplied with the official SAT Study Guide to ensure they know what to expect on the day of the test. In the study guide, there are sample questions, study tips, practice tips, and test-taking tips to help examinees get fully prepared.

SAT test

Study Guides

SAT Study Guide

The SAT study guide is the official study guide for the SAT examination. It has the most accurate or reliable details about the types of questions to be expected on the day of the examination. The various types of questions in the study guide will reveal to the examinee what to expect from the test and how best to ace it. There are often four full tests in the guide, which can be very useful for practicing for the examination.

Barron’s New SAT

This book is regarded as one of the best SAT study guides because it brilliantly replicates exactly how the SAT is structured. It also brilliantly explains the test’s core concepts. What is perhaps even more exceptional about the book is the fact that it has got a great number of strategies for tackling the mathematics as well as language questions appearing in the SAT.

This SAT study guide also comes with flashcards. However, what critics do not like about it is that, in the verbal section, it includes many word definitions, rather than concrete strategies and advice.

SAT Prep Black Book

This book has not yet been revised to reflect the new structure of the SAT examination. Nonetheless, it is still quite important for those who are preparing for the exam. This is because it has crucial details to put one on the right track for acing the examination.

For example, it explains how basic concepts are often twisted to check the understanding of those being examined and to eliminate candidates who do not think creatively. It also explains how one can save time by eliminating the wrong answers methodically.

However, critics of this book claim that although it provides strategic advice, it does not cover the test content and correct candidates on some of the concepts it teaches. This means it cannot be used as a standalone guide.

Kaplan SAT Strategies

The best thing about this book is that it focuses on Mathematics. It teaches the basic strategies and skills to deal with mathematical questions in any SAT exam. That said, this book does not have a very strong verbal section. Moreover, critics of this book argue that apart from its Mathematics section, the other sections are not very thorough and should be ignored.

SAT Sections

The SAT examination has four sections.

  • Mathematics (two subsections)
  • Writing and Language
  • Reading
  • Essay (Optional)

As mentioned earlier, the examination is organized and marked by the College Board. According to the Board, each of the four sections of the examination test both. Firstly, what was learned at the high school level; and second, what is needed for success at the university level. In other words, the SAT exam is designed to ensure the candidate being tested has the mathematical, reading, and writing skills that are important for success in college. Each of the sections appears once in a single SAT exam and has got a specific allocated time and instructions.


The SAT Reading Test has got very varied passages. They are as varied as the passages one would typically find in an English Class text. Some of the passages are informational, while others are literary. Some of the passages serve to narrate a story, while others try to convince, explain a concept or process, or share important information. Passages in the SAT Reading Test can cover just about any topic. While some of the passages are on easy topics, others are on challenging ones. In some instances, passages are twinned with other passages, while in other instances, they have got informational graphics.

The test questions in the Reading Test usually fall into one of three categories: the Information and Ideas category, the Rhetoric category, and the Synthesis category.

However, it is important to note that each of the questions will not be marked to guide examinees as to what category of questions they are answering. It is up to the examinees themselves to understand the different categories of questions and to answer them appropriately.

Below is a short explanation of the categories to help examinees understand them and the differences between them. This will also provide examinees with an understanding of the knowledge and skills that will be tested and how best to get ready for the SAT.

Sample Questions

Sample 1: Social Studies/ History Passage of Lower Text Complexity

The social studies passage below is about commuting. It is straightforward, but there are some sections of the passage that are somewhat more challenging to interpret than others. This passage comes with a graphic for a better understanding.

Questions 1 to 3 are based on this passage and the accompanying supplementary material.

This work is adapted from The Great Reset by Richard Florida.

Although today’s economy is idea-driven, what mostly matters is time, as time is what is needed to innovate and to work on ideas. However, time is also taken to commute to work. Thousands of hours are wasted commuting every year. Thus, to become more productive and efficient, companies are finding ways to have their employees spend less time sitting in traffic and more time working and thinking.

In most metropolises and huge cities, it seems that car-dependent transportation is becoming more and more unfavorable. First of all, it has been revealed through detailed research that getting to work by car is not very efficient, according to Daniel Kahneman, who is a celebrated Nobel economist. It has also been established that commuting by car is not very enjoyable. Even though one would have expected the World Financial Crisis of 2007 to have resulted in fewer cars on the roads and reduced traffic, however, the opposite is true. More and more people are now driving cars on the roads, and traffic has become worse.  

After the financial crisis, the average time of commuting to work rose to 25.5 minutes. This was the first rise after many years of the commute to work minutes reducing, due to people catching subway trains or buses to work. This data was supplied by the United States Census Bureau, which is required to collect such figures. And it should be noted that the 25.5 minutes are approximate figures. Commutes take more time in bigger East Coast cities such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and bigger West Coast cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. In many such cities, traffic has become a huge problem, not just during rush hour but throughout the day.

The cost associated with gridlocks in the country is very surprising. For example, the City of Los Angeles alone loses more than 485 million hours every year due to traffic. This translates to about two weeks or seventy hours lost per person every year. In the Capital, D.C., congestion takes away about 62 hours per worker every year, while in New York, it is 44 hours. On average, workers lose about 51 hours every year in traffic in America’s thirteen biggest cities. The total time wasted across the nation is an astounding 4.2 billion work hours every year. This is about one full week of work lost. The cost of traffic in wasted fuel and lost productivity amounts to ninety billion dollars every year. At some of the most prestigious research institutions, including the Martin Prosperity Institute, it has been estimated that every minute saved from commute has a value of about 19.5 billion dollars to the U.S. economy. This equates to 97.7 billion dollars for every five minutes saved, 195 billion dollars every ten minutes, and, lastly, 292 billion dollars for every fifteen minutes saved from commute time.

What is ironic is that many people think that traffic gridlocks can be solved by constructing more highways and roads in cities. Of course, this only makes the traffic situation worse, as new roads usually have the effect of inviting people to drive rather than to use mass transit to work. This is why, eventually, the new roads usually end up clogged rather than improving traffic flow in the long term.

The next ten years will probably result in even less efficiency and productivity in bigger cities that do not innovate to cut commute times and to get more people using mass transit. However, while other cities are struggling, many congested U.S. cities are planning to solve their traffic problem.

Figure 1. By Adam Werbach. Adapted from, “The American Commuter Spends 38 Hours a Year Stuck in Traffic.” ©2013 by The Atlantic.

1. Which assumption does this passage suggest the Martin Property Institute researchers have?

  1. That home working staff are more important than staff who commute.
  2. That when commute time is shortened, it results in staff doing more productive work.
  3. That staff can work during commutes, e.g., by writing memos and joining videoconference calls.
  4. That staff who take long commutes usually make better money than those who do not.

Category: Rhetoric

Key: B

Objective: To find the assumption made by the Institute in the passage and its implication.

2. What is the meaning of the term “intense” as used in line 52?

  1. Determined.
  2. Concentrated.
  3. Emotional.
  4. Brilliant.

Category: Information and Ideas

Key: B

Objective:  The objective here is to find the meaning of the word from the passage.

3. Which of the following claims regarding traffic gridlocks has evidence in the informational graph?

  1. Commuters in New York spend fewer hours annually in traffic compared to the average hours for other big cities.
  2. Commuters in Los Angeles are usually more delayed by traffic compared to those in Washington.
  3. Washington commuters face greater time in traffic compared to New York City commuters.
  4. Detroit commuters spend greater time in traffic compared to Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston commuters.

Category: Synthesis

Key: C

Objective: The objective here is to look at data and to interpret it as asked. For this question, the best answer is C. The reasoning is that the high bars on the graph represent greater commuter delays due to traffic congestion than the lower bars. Moreover, as can be seen in the graph, as one moves from left to right (in the graph), commuter delays decrease. And with the bar for the city of Washington being higher and to the left of the New York City bar, it means that Washington commuters spend more time in traffic delays than their New York City counterparts.

Writing and Language

SAT passages in the Writing and Language SAT usually differ in complexity, subject, and purpose. Some of the passages also include graphics. These graphics charts, graphs, and tables that students should take into account when answering questions. Below is a sample Writing and Language Passage and some sample questions.

Sample Questions

Humanities Passage:

This work is adapted from Dong Kingman: Painter of Cities

A documentary filmed in 1954 about famous artist Dong Kingman shows him in Mott Street in the Chinatown district of New York, painting as a crowd of people looks on admiringly. With just a small number of primary colors, Kingman uses his brush and skills to transform his canvases into beautiful paintings. The street scene with which this documentary opens is in line with Kingman’s focus on urban landscapes.

Dong Kingman started landscape painting very early. By the time he completed School in Hong Kong, his interest in painting had been noted by his teachers, and he had even been nicknamed Dong “Kingman”; “King” means “scenery,” while “man” means “scenery.” As Dong Kingman grew as a painter, his works began to be compared to those of older Chinese artists. However, Kingman’s painting style was different from that of older Chinese artists in several ways, including the fact that he focused on cities and cityscapes instead of rivers and mountains.

Kingman’s fine painting skills typically captured street-level activities brilliantly. He could clearly illustrate almost everything on the street. His paintings were like photographs when he finished them. His fine brush strokes could depict even a pigeon trying to find crumbs, while his broader brush strokes could create beautiful skylines with skyscrapers in the background and bridges connecting cityscapes. Sometimes, he painted relatively tiny creatures so clearly that many who saw him do it were amazed. Those who have seen Dong Kingman’s paintings can admit that his works truly represent a new form of painting that depicts urban modernism.

In the course of his painting career, Kingman exhibited his paintings internationally on several occasions. He was loved by both fans and critics alike. Many of his exhibits were solo exhibits, including one which critics described as having some of the most satisfying watercolors.

15. To improve this passage, where should sentence 2 be positioned?

  1. It should remain where it is.
  2. It should be after sentence 3.
  3. It should be before sentence 1.
  4. It should start the second paragraph of the passage.

Category: Organization

Key: A

Objective: The goal here is to read the entire paragraph and ensure it has flow and cohesion.

16. What most accurately describes the most significant topic of this passage?

  1. Kingman was a pioneer of the California painting style.
  2. Even though Kingman focused on cityscapes, he also loved painting natural landscapes.
  3. Kingman loved painting urban landscapes and accurately captured their vibrancy.
  4. Kingman moved to California in 1929 and went to Fox Art School.

Category: Development

Key: C

Objective: The objective here is to find what sentence best describes the passage, and that is C.

17. If the writer of the passage wanted to use another example to describe Kingman’s urban landscapes, what choice below could he best use?

  1. Leave the description as it is.
  2. Describe the storefront and lettered street signs.
  3. Write about other details that define the painter’s landscapes.
  4. Talk about enormous ships getting into the city’s busy ports.

Category: Development

Key: D

Objective: The goal here is to find the answer that best fits what is asked in the question.

19. The writer of the passage would like to conclude it with a sentence that best captures the legacy of the painter’s work. Which of the following sentences would help him achieve this objective?

  1. Even though Kingman’s paintings were not as popular as those of other watercolor artists such as Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe, he is well-regarded by critics.
  2. Since his demise in 2000, various museums in both China and the United States have displayed Kingman’s works and maintained them to make sure his beautiful urban landscapes continue to be available for the public to enjoy.
  3. Kingman’s urban landscapes show why he was given his nickname when he was but a boy.
  4. Kingman’s painting style is a continuation of Chinese painting traditions and styles but with a fresh new twist.

Category: Organization

Key: B

Objective: The goal here is to provide an ending that befits the legacy of the artist.


To prepare for the Math section of the SAT paper, you do no need to focus on every math topic out there. This is because the Math test only has questions on topics one will need to have good knowledge to succeed in college. The focus areas for the SAT Math test include:

  • Passport to Advanced Math
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Heart of Algebra

Sample Questions

1. What is the answer to the following equation (14 − 2i)(7 + 12i)? (Please note: _ i = √−1)

  1. 74
  2. 74 + 154i
  3. 122
  4. 122 + 154i

Category: Additional Topics in Math

Key: D

Objective: The goal in this question is the application of the distributive property of two binomials, followed by simplifying the result.

2. This graph y = (2x − 4)(x − 4) is a parabola in the xy-plane. What equivalent equations do both the y and x coordinates of the parabola vertex appear as coefficients or constants?

  1. y = 2x(x − 6) + 16
  2. y = 2x 2 − 12x + 16
  3. y = 2(x − 3)2 + (−2)
  4. y = (x − 2)(2x − 8)

Category: Passport to Advanced Math

Key: C

Objective: To see the graph in equations and to form a new expression that reveals the property asked for.

3. x2 + y2 − 6x + 8y = 144

Above is the equation of a circle that is in the XY-plane. What is its diameter?

sat 2

Category: Additional Topics in Math

Key: 26

Objective: The objective here is to determine the diameter of the circle from the given equation.


The Essay part of the SAT exam is like a college essay. It involves reading and analyzing a text, followed by writing. Therefore, normally, one would typically start by reading a passage, and then analyzing it and explaining how the author of the passage builds their case or argument and supports their writing with evidence from the analyzed passage.

The new SAT essay is optional for some schools and mandatory for other schools. The essay has a time limit of 50 minutes. So, if one has a problem with writing quickly and on time, they should probably consider skipping the essay if the college they are applying to does not require it. One of the best things about the new SAT essay rules is that there are no questions about agreeing or disagreeing with topics, or about writing about personal experiences.

Essay Tips and Strategies

The purpose of the SAT essay is to reveal how well you understand and interpret passages and organize your thoughts. Two people will score the essay one writes and will give either one or four points for the following categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

An essay that garners maximum points is one that shows a complete understanding of the passage and of how the author of the passage builds their argument, and is well-organized and precisely written with the right style and tone.


This SAT study guide provides you with the information you need to prepare for SAT tests adequately. Remember, the SAT examination is just a test like any other and only requires adequate and proper preparation to pass. There is no need to try to revise each topic ever learned. This will cause confusion. One should instead focus on understanding SAT questions and how to answer them, as this will be more beneficial.

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