What subjects are included in the SAT I (Scholastic Aptitude Test)?

The SAT I is an aptitude test, not an achievement test (like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Stanford Achievement Test). It is taken during the second semester of the junior year or during the first semester of the senior year. It measures a student’s potential success in college; it does not necessarily measure his information acquisition and assimilation skills.

It most certainly is not an intelligence test! And it has absolutely nothing at all to do with a student’s worth or esteem in God's eyes. A student’s worth as a person is not measured by a high or low SAT score. On the contrary, we are of priceless value to Him (see Psalm 139). But that is not to lessen the SAT’s importance. For home schoolers in particular - who do not have diplomas from an accredited school - the SAT is extremely important. While most students can get into college even with low SAT scores, financial aid will be more available for those students with higher SAT scores. So, while the SAT is admittedly a flawed exam, it is still the most frequent resource colleges - both secular and Christian - utilize to offer admission and financial aid.

The SAT is comprised of two thirty-minute sections, plus one 15-minute section on the Verbal portion in 2001. There is a strong emphasis on critical reading and vocabulary. Virtually all the questions are related to cognitive developmental thinking (based on Blooms Taxonomy); I counted 71 out of 78 questions as reasoning questions. (After all the SAT I is a called a Reasoning Test.)

Most of the vocabulary is based on context, so reading a lot, learning vocabulary, and thinking well are obviously the key. The Verbal portion has three types of questions: critical reading (majority), analogies, and sentence completion. The Mathematic section includes two thirty-minute sections, plus one 15-minute section. The emphasis is on data interpretation and applied math questions. Ten questions require students to produce their own answers. What is interesting, though, is that all of the questions are based on critical thinking! So, I think it would be safe to argue that the SAT is a reasoning, thinking test.

The SAT lasts 150 minutes or 2.5 hours. It takes about three or three-and-a-half hours if one includes the registration time. This would mean it starts around 8 o'clock and goes to a little after 12 o'clock.

In summary, the two sections - Math and Verbal - are scored separately on a scale of 200 to 800. Currently the nation's three hundred most selective colleges seek a combined score of higher than 1200. Fewer than 10 percent of students score above 1300. Most Christian colleges will accept a score that is around 1000, but financial aid is awarded to students with 1100-1150. I don't know about you, but for my children admission to college without financial aid is an oxymoron!

How does the SAT differ from the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the SAT II?

The PSAT is much shorter, and in my opinion, more difficult. I am not persuaded that it is good practice for the SAT I. I think a better idea is to take real SAT practice tests. Personally, I think The PSAT is a bit of marketing genius. Millions of American students take this test every October thinking it will help them on their SAT. It does not, in my opinion. Low test scores on the PSAT can hurt feelings and thereby jeapordize students' chances of performing up to their potential on the SAT.

But isn't the National Merit Scholarship Program based on the PSAT?  If a person does well on the PSAT, and very few do, he/she has a chance to qualify for the NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) competition. But let me tell you my concern as a father of four teenagers: I do not want to damage my children's self-esteem and their chances to do well on the SAT, just in the interest of doing something that "everyone else is doing." You can find out if your student is  a bonafide National Merit contender by taking an SAT practice test and obtaining a score well above 1300.  Thousands of students who do poorly on the PSAT do well on the SAT and obtain all sorts of scholarships.

The SAT II exam is given on selected Saturday afternoons after the SAT I. SAT II Subject Tests measure the student's knowledge and skills in a particular subject and his ability to apply that knowledge. All subject tests, except the writing test, are one hour, multiple-choice exams. The writing test has a 20-minute writing sample and a 40-minute multiple-choice section. Many competitive colleges require the SAT II - especially from home schoolers. Like the PSAT, the SAT II is scored from 20 to 80.

How do I obtain information on the SAT I & II?

Go to your local high school, phone 1-609-771-7600, or write SAT Program, PO Box 6200, Princeton, NJ 08541-4444. You can visit their Web site at www.collegeboard.com.