If you’re thinking of applying to the US for your undergraduate studies and have been looking up the admission requirements, you may have come across the word SAT. This abbreviation stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test and is something you should become very familiar with if you plan to relocate from India to the US for your undergraduate studies. At SchoolApply we can help you understand what the SAT is, when you should take it, why it’s important and how to get started.


What exactly is the SAT?

The SAT is a test that measures your academic abilities based on your critical thinking skills. Rather than memorizing a large amount of information, you are asked to exercise your thinking abilities. For example, instead of being asked to define the quadratic formula, test-takers might be given a quadratic equation and asked to solve it.

The SAT is made up of four parts, however the Essay section is optional at some universities. The required three sections are reading, writing and language, and math. Why is the SAT important for Indian students interested in studying abroad? For one, college admissions professionals can gauge a potential student’s critical thinking and reasoning skills with a SAT score. Students who end up in the top of their classes in college typically do well on the SAT, and colleges are looking for students who will do well at their schools.

Each test is allotted a certain amount of time on test day. The Reading test is 65 minutes. Writing and Language 35 minutes. The Math test is 80 minutes, and the optional Essay test is 50 minutes.


What are SAT subject tests?

Some schools require additional tests called SAT subject tests. These tests focus on specific areas such as history, science or a foreign language. The institute you are applying to may let you know what specific tests are desired or required. 

How is the SAT scored?

The SAT has an overall score, as well as a variety of others which are meant to offer insight into a test taker’s readiness for college. 

Both the SAT reading test and the SAT writing and language test have a group score, however the SAT math test has a stand alone score. Both sections receive a score on a scale ranging from 200 to 800, based on how many questions were correct. For example, if a test-taker answered 300 questions correctly, his or her score would simply be 300. The sum of the two scores equals the total score of the SAT, which ranges from 400 to 1600. 

The test results also include a percentile rank for each of your scores. This gives you an idea of how you stack up against other people who took the test. 

It is important to note that in the SAT, there is no negative marking, which means that marks are not deducted if you get an answer wrong. Something to keep in mind about SAT scoring is you are only awarded points. None are deducted. If you’re unsure of an answer, do your best to solve the problems you are given and always mark an answer, you may just luck out and get it right. 

Upon finishing the exam, you can expect to wait anywhere from two to six weeks before receiving your official scores. You are able to view them on the College Board site, which is how you also register for the test to begin with. 

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What makes a good test score? 

According to SAT composite score data from 2018, 49% of people received a score of 1050 or below. If you received a score higher than that, your score would be considered above average, or pretty good. If you received lower than 1050, you would be below average. Results from 2018 also showed 87% of people who took the test scored 1300 or below, which is a very good score. Coming in with a score of 650 or below was only 1% of test takers. Keep in mind this changes each year based on the pool of test-takers, but 2018 results can give you a general idea.

SAT student

Do international students have to take the SAT?

The quick answer to this question is ‘no’. It is not an absolute requirement for international students, but there are a few things you should consider before deciding if you should take the SAT or not. If, as an Indian student, you plan to study in the US, having an SAT score could be one of your best strategies, as you may not know which colleges and universities require it, and you’ll want to be prepared. 

Though most colleges and universities do require it to level the playing field among applicants, there are some that do not. It’s important you stay in contact with your desired university so you understand these requirements and can plan accordingly. Contact SchoolApply to learn which universities absolutely require that you do the SAT so you can determine whether or not to take it. 

When to take the SAT?

The test dates for the new SAT are scheduled in advance, and are offered seven times each year. You can take the SAT in August, October, November, December, March, May and June. You can register through the College Board website, or you can mail in your registration. If you mail your registration, it must be received by the day of the deadline, which is approximately a month prior to the test, generally. 

There are several SAT exam locations in India, including Mumbai, Calcutta, New Delhi and Bangalore. Registering early helps to ensure the location you prefer isn’t full and gives you plenty of time for preparation.

Is a high CGPA or a high SAT score better?

A high CGPA and a high SAT score paired together are the perfect combination for someone hoping to get into college. Having a low SAT score and a high CGPA could mean you have a natural ability to do well in school but are a terrible test-taker; or that your CGPA is higher because the grading standard at your school was weak. Alternatively, having a low CGPA and a high SAT score could mean you didn’t apply yourself during school but do have the natural intellect it takes to do well on a test. 

In either situation there’s a negative and a positive, though doing well on the SAT could be a better indication of your skills and knowledge all together. While it’s best to just give everything your all and strive to do well in all areas academically, a high SAT score is better.

Can you retake the test?

The SAT test can be retaken if you are unhappy with your score or if you simply want to try to improve. One of the best ways to avoid having to retake the test is by preparing ahead of time. If you plan to do well on the test, you should plan to spend a significant amount of time studying for it.

You’ve got this!

The SAT may seem challenging, but it could be the ticket to you being able to study in the US. Just work hard and believe in yourself. Focus on your goal and you will surely get there.

Get in touch with SchoolApply today to see what options you have based on your CGPA and SAT scores!