Is the SAT Hard? Is the SAT Worth It?

The SAT may seem like an impossible task: a four-hour-long test, strict time limits, lots of passages to read with problems to solve, not to mention the little traps throughout designed to trip up students! 😱 Below the surface, though, the SAT is not so bad at all 😁 With proper preparation and some self-confidence, EVERY STUDENT can be successful on this test!

Is the SAT Worth It?

If you are a high school student planning to go to college, the SAT (or other standardized tests) are definitely worth it. The overwhelming majority of US and International colleges and universities require the exam for admission; however, there are few schools that do not require standardized testing. For the 2020-2021 college application season, most schools have gone test-optional in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Because the SAT is such an integral part of college admissions (based on the fact it is a requirement), we generally recommend that it is valuable to take the test.

This being said, the SAT is not the only standardized test that will fulfill the requirements of colleges and universities. For US students, the ACT is an equally viable option. The SAT is generally better suited to those who are stronger in the humanities, whereas the ACT is geared towards more math and science-savvy students. However, we encourage that you try out both tests to find which one best suits your test-taking style! ✍️

Benefits of a Good SAT Score🎖

Each school has its own SAT score range that reflects its average standards for test scores. An SAT score that falls within the range of your school is one possible way to demonstrate your ability to meet that school's academic standards. Just always keep in mind that:


Furthermore, they most certainly will not make or break your application because there are plenty of ways to show academic excellence beyond the SAT.

Aside from college admissions, a high SAT score can be helpful when applying to scholarships 💰 Many scholarships value test scores/GPA in their consideration processes. Scholarships can potentially be more strict about test scores because the added aspect of money leads to more competition. Often times, colleges/universities will award academic scholarships to students with adequate test scores as well. In terms of scholarships, a high SAT score is always beneficial.

Additionally, some higher institutions offer honors programs that require high standardized test scores for admission. The perks of being admitted into an honors college may include scholarship money, special housing, extra enrichment, access to exclusive classes, and the opportunity to win special awards. Make sure to check out your prospective college's honor program 👍

Is the SAT For Me?

Here is a list of factors to consider when deciding if your academic style fits the SAT:

  1. Speed🏃🏼‍♀️
  2. If speed is a struggle for you on standardized tests, the SAT is probably your best bet. In comparison to the ACT, the SAT is a bit more relaxed in terms of pacing ⏲️
  3. Skills📕🧪
  4. Are you a humanities person or a math & science person? If you tend to be stronger in the humanities, you may prefer the SAT. The SAT does not have a science section and you are given more time to work through the math sections than on the ACT 🔬
  5. Future Plans👨🏼‍🎓
  6. If you do not plan to go to college, taking the SAT may not be worth it. Other educational institutions such as trade schools do not require applicants to submit standardized test scores. However, if there is any chance you may pursue a college degree, taking the SAT (or standardized test) is recommended 📜

If you're worried that your SAT score might hurt your chances at college admissions, there is some good news! A lot of school are going test-optional to make college admissions more equitable. Even so, it doesn't hurt to try the exam anyway.

📝 Read: Test Optional - Should you go test-optional or take the SAT?

Is the SAT Hard?

Test Overview📝

The SAT is broken up into four main sections: Writing (Grammar), Reading, Math (no calculator), and Math (with a calculator). The essay portion is optional, but it is required by some colleges. If you are taking the SAT for college-readiness purposes, it is a good idea to see if any schools you are interested in would like to see an essay score.

The SAT covers topics learned in the first two/three years of high school. If you take the test junior year like most students, it is unlikely you will see anything unfamiliar. Since the SAT is a standardized test, the College Board cannot test information that the average high school student has not learned. Instead, they ask strangely worded and, at times, confusing questions that relate to fundamental skills.

The key to success on the SAT is understanding the weird ways the College Board asks questions and becoming comfortable deconstructing them to find their true intent/meaning. The absolute best way to ace the SAT is through practice! Check out [link to how to study, best resources, and how to get an 800] for study tips, strategies, and the best practice resources!

'How Hard Is It?' By the Numbers🔢

According to the College Board's most recent SAT score data released:

  • 7% of students scored in the 1400-1600 range
  • 19% scored between 1200-1390
  • 33% scored between 1000-1190
  • 30% scored between 800-990
  • 11% scored between 600-790
  • 5,447 students scored below 590

The average score from this SAT data set was a 1059 with a standard deviation of 210.

Final Verdict👩🏼‍⚖️

There is not a definitive answer to the question "Is the SAT hard?" Every student has different strengths and weaknesses that shape their judgment of the difficulty of the SAT. Some students think it is a breeze while others struggle (which is totally okay!). Regardless of your perception of the SAT or your current level of understanding, one thing is certain: as long as you know the test structure and understand the questions, SAT success is well within your reach! For more college entrance exam advice and college tips, read through these top 15 Twitter threads!


Now that you have learned about the skills required for the SAT, the exam logistics, and the benefits of taking the test, so Is the SAT Worth it for You? Our answer: absolutely! You got this!

Check out Fiveable's SAT Exam Review 🎉

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